Over the past few years, QR Codes have become pretty commonplace, turning up on everything from movie ads to beverage labels. But as with most technologies, eventually something even more advanced comes along. Now, some believe that’s a technology called Near Field Communication (NFC) which does away with the need for using a smartphone’s camera to read a code. Instead, all you need do is tap the NFC-capable phone to the NFC tag. “It’s a very interesting short-range two-way technology,” says Debbie Arnold, director of NFC Forum, which is the standards body for NFC. “You can set up a connection just by holding devices close to each other.”
Arnold says there are three uses for NFC. The first is card emulation: If the user’s credit card information is on one’s phone, all he or she does is tap the reader to pay. But because it’s a two-way technology, it can also be used to redeem coupons, update loyalty points all with the same touch. Wineries could use this in their tasting rooms, for example, to do some additional marketing. The second is peer-to-peer, where users touch two devices together to share videos, etc. And finally read/write, which could have the most potential for beverage packaging. This is where an NFC-capable phone is held close to a NFC tag that has been programmed to provide information.
“The real value I think of NFC in beverage,” says Arnold, “is for promotional purposes. Because embedding these tags on any kind of a label, you can put a lot of really interesting marketing material there. And it can either be links to websites or it can be direct information. So unlike a QR code, you don’t have to take a picture, go to a website, download the information. You can just touch and read. And that’s really attractive.”
One packaging company offering NFC to beverage brands is Tap4Mor, a Cellotape company based in Fremont, Calif. Says Michelle Le, the company’s marketing/business bevelopment coordinator: “Add this technology to your wine labels to give your customer the history of the wine, to show a video of how it was made, have it link to tasting notes, or give them something to walk away with on their mobile device.”
She adds, “We have seen this technology spread like wildfire. The retail industries have implemented this technology in their labels, point of sales, and point of purchase. Entertainment has adapted this technology from interactive key cards at theme parks, concert wristbands, and entry badges. NFC users find easier ways to create campaigns and smarter ways to reach their customers. We can bring anything to life.”
According to a recent study by Berg Insight, global sales of NFC-equipped smartphones grew 300 percent last year to reach 140 million units. And according to Garter, 50 percent of smartphones will have NFC capability by 2015.
One early beverage packaging application of note is by eProvenance, a company providing advanced technology to monitor fine wines as they travel from the wine producer to the customer. eProvenance says Burgundy producer Domaine Ponsot is adopting new eProvenance 2G (second generation) technology to create “intelligent cases,” which can be read by NFC smartphones and Google tablets to reveal the detailed provenance history of the case. “We’re already monitoring our shipments with eProvenance services to assure our wine reaches our consumers in excellent condition and are now moving forward with very exciting technology to put the provenance story directly in the hands of our consumers on their NFC smartphones,” says Laurent Ponsot, the proprietor of Domaine Ponsot.