Internet of Things Impact on Smart Packaging

Consumers and brands both want to know more about each other. With our deep domain expertise in brand solutions and consumer behavior, WestRock saw the opportunity in the Internet of Things (IoT) to turbocharge that relationship with Big Data. The result is the market-leading launch of Connected Packaging Solutions, an innovation that brings data connectivity to billions of paper-based consumer packages as well as in-store displays. In collaboration with two leading technology partners, Digimarc and EVRYTHNG, WestRock is transforming packages into individual data beacons connected to the cloud, rich with real-time information for consumers, brands, suppliers and retailers far beyond what RFID or QR codes provide.

IoT has been a growing trend in consumer electronics, appliances and manufacturing. Now it’s here for smart packaging, with food, beverage, pharma and shipping as the first verticals that stand to be transformed. Combining Digimarc’s enabled barcode technology with EVRYTHNG’s IoT Smart Products Platform has wide ranging potential for efficiencies of information, of supply chain and of materials. Let’s look at some examples of those efficiencies.

Information: Consumers will be able to engage via their mobile devices with each package as an individual Internet device, meaning every digital asset and interactive tool that a brand can offer is open to the consumer, on an opt-in basis. The interaction can start in the store aisle and continue at home or work, with benefits on both sides. Shoppers will be able to learn about the provenance of food, see recipe videos, connect with a craft brewery or consult online prescription instructions. For the brand, a rich new stream of opt-in data will generate newly sharpened insights and offer far stickier new opportunities to engage and hold their consumer’s loyalty.

Lifecycle management: Each physical package will have a unique data profile in the cloud, triggered by invisible barcodes repeated across their entire surface and readable by handheld and point-of-sale scanners. The amount of trackable information available in real-time across the entire life cycle, from production to consumption, is orders of magnitude great than anything before. The resulting new opportunities impact brands and suppliers at the top and bottom line with holistic analytics that can extend shelf life, reduce stocking error, identify new market niches and prevent fraud, to name a few examples. Or consider the logistics implications: Delivery cartons with embedded IoT can replace return labels with programming via a mobile device.

Materials: That same delivery carton also unlocks the next step in materials reuse and recycling. A box can be reported back to the delivery company for pickup, with its exact dimensions and condition on record to help determine its next best use. Fleet-wide data on used packaging availability can inform recycling strategy based on the current scrap market. And consumers can access more precise data on recycling opportunities for a particular package with a swipe of their smart phone.

According to SmithersPira, the intelligent package market is expected to be worth over $2 billion by 2021, with expected growth to be at least 18% annually. WestRock is a first adopter of this technology because it powerfully extends the range of solutions for our customers. The combination of smart packaging with smart software in the cloud makes literally billions of packaged goods more intelligent, more interactive, more trackable and more valuable to CPG companies and their customers.