The evolution of smart Packaging has progressed very quickly. Just a few years ago, smart packaging meant a label on a box with a tracking number, or even more advanced: a barcode readable by a laser scanner. In more recent years, the QR Code, short for Quick Response, became so popular that it was hard to find an advertisement without one. Scannable by a smartphone, a QR code would bring an interested user to a website, tutorial video, or social media account. They became almost fashionable. Websites spawned to generate and track QR codes for the purposes of trend following. It looked like the new wave in online marketing strategy.
And yet, today, if you were to Google ‘smart packaging’ QR codes would be the farthest from. While they are still an easy, worthwhile asset, smart or intelligent packaging has moved into an almost science-fiction-like state. Slim microchips that detect if food is rotting is included in packaging to help specify ‘sell by’ dates. One step further, nano-technology in packaging may actually inhibit mold and microbe growth.
Where once packaging was meant to be kept secular from the product inside, it’s now directly linked to it. That is an evolution in packaging in general. Boxes that are more than just a vessel of delivery, but actually sustain the contents. Support it and promote it.
So while the distinction is smart packaging is splintering–active packaging, intelligent packaging, etc–the rate at which innovation is being made is exponential across the board. Slim micro-screens and app interaction have teamed up to make “virtual mirrors” for cosmetic products. The eerie sounding “augmented human” trend could let consumers try on makeup at the store without ever putting anything on their skin.
In some ways, the future of packaging is in flux. There’s always a call for less wasteful packaging, but with the technologies listed above, paired with anti-theft measures, marketing tactics, and procedural instructions, one could argue packaging is more important than ever.
Image: Packaging Digest