Yes, a label must look good on the shelf, but it can also be functional.
Avery Dennison, a materials supplier based in Mentor, OH, USA, has spent more than a decade developing smart technologies. “As the world’s largest RAIN UHF RFID partner, Avery Dennison is constantly keeping a pulse on the industry and innovating in the space to meet the needs of emerging segments,” explains Jay Wittmann, product manager, Intelligent Labels, Avery Dennison Label and Packaging Materials. “These platforms enable businesses to access valuable data through digital identification to improve efficiencies, increase sales and continue to delight consumers.”
Avery Dennison has seen increased adoption in a wide variety of markets. Retail apparel continues to be the largest adopter of the technology, but cosmetics, aviation, food and pharma continue to gain share. Recent inlay advances have helped accommodate the size and shape of many difficult cosmetics products like lipsticks and eyeliners. For airlines, a recent IATA report cited plans between airports and airlines to bring RFID to 80% of air travel baggage within the next three years.
In food and pharma, packaging plays a critical role in the consumer’s health. According to Wittmann, RFID can reduce food waste by up to 20% by accurately aligning inventory with variable demand, improving processes, optimizing production, increasing visibility of expiry dates and facilitating food donations.
He adds, “Healthcare is one of the fastest growing markets. We are expecting a 17% CAGR through 2024 in this space, as more hospitals use RFID to track consumables, such as bandages, gauze, surgical sponges, intravenous fluids and even patients and other personnel. We are also beginning to see end users looking into intelligent labels for consumer engagement.”
Avery Dennison has taken a number of strides to enhance its position in this market, including working with industry-leading partners, such as NXP and Impinj, to deliver versatile and high-performance RFID products. These partnerships have helped address applications that have traditionally been hard to serve, notes Wittmann, while also providing creative options for RFID.
Other ventures include the investment in Wiliot and a partnership with PragmatIC. Wiliot produces semiconductors that harness ambient nanowatts of electromagnetic energy from cellular, WiFi and Bluetooth networks to work without batteries or other traditional wired power sources. Meanwhile, Pragmatic boasts the ConnectIC family of flexible integrated circuits (FlexICs).
“The partnership with PragmatIC brings together the expertise from the two companies to deliver practical, high-volume packaging solutions,” states Wittmann. “This unique electronics platform delivers high frequency FlexICs, which are thinner than a human hair and can easily be embedded into multiple substrates.”
Avery Dennison also recently acquired Smartrac’s RFID inlay business. “We believe in a future where every physical item will have a unique identity and digital life,” he adds. “Upon closing, the combination of the two organizations enables us to leverage and build on our deep industry knowledge and know-how in technology and innovation, R&D, quality and service to access new markets and drive RFID and technology adoption across multiple industries.”
Avery Dennison has continued the development of on-metal tags, as well as metals and packages containing liquids. These are no longer a barrier to RFID adoption and they offer a comparable ROI to segments like beauty and food. The company has also developed the WaveSafe RFID tag, which is microwave safe.
“The first microwave-safe RFID tag, WaveSafe tags are specially designed for item-level tagging of chilled and frozen packaged foods,” says Wittmann. “WaveSafe tags eliminate the fire risk from microwaving RFID-labeled food packages while still delivering highly accurate read rates and item tracking. And they are TÜV-certified, so compliance is assured.”
Avery Dennison has gone to great lengths to promote these capabilities, as well. The company hosted its Intelligent Label Converter Academy in 2019 and engineered an i.Lab, which showcases the possibilities of smart labeling. In addition, Avery Dennison’s Miamisburg, OH facility conducts extensive research in this space. During 2019, more than 250 visitors toured the i.Lab, where they learned about everything from custom antenna design to RF testing chambers.
“The i.Lab was created to take visitors on a journey through the multiple industries we serve and explore how Avery Dennison’s intelligent labels are transforming manufacturing, commerce and more,” explains Wittmann. “Guests can take part in live demonstrations, meet our RFID experts, and get hands-on experience with the technology of tomorrow. Avery Dennison is investing in educating converters on RFID and how to get started in smart labeling through our demo centers and converter academy events and webinars. We continue to share resources with converters on trends and growing segments for them to bring back to brands.”