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Why Johnnie Walker joined the Internet of Things

Thor Olavsrud | May 27, 2015
With the help of printed electronics and an Internet of Things smart product platform, beverage giant Diageo is equipping its Johnnie Walker Blue Label whisky with smart bottles.

"We know the bottle opening event has occurred," he says. "Our communication can change from guiding the consumer on which bottle to buy to how to best enjoy this product."

Tracking the supply chain

Diageo is primarily focused on the marketing elements of the technology, but it also has application in the supply chain. Companies with products equipped with Thinfilm sensor tags can track those products across the supply chain, in-store and to the point of consumption, with the sensor tags remaining readable even when the factory seal has been broken. This provides an additional layer of security to protect the authenticity of the product.

Thinfilm's sensor tags consist of an antenna and an integrated circuit (IC) printed on a label, says Matthew Bright, director of Product & Technical Marketing at Thinfilm and chair of the Retail Working Group at the NFC Forum. They have an engineered weak point that is designed to break when the seal of the container is broken, changing the information transmitted by the circuit.

Each tag has a unique identifier encoded by Thinfilm and is 100 percent read-only, making them very difficult to clone. Bright notes that Thinfilm uses partially randomized non-sequential identifiers using very large numbers.

"We can identify a trillion products a year every year for a trillion years without duplication," he says.

The technology could help detect counterfeiting, he adds. For instance, counterfeiting in the cosmetics world is a known problem. The product in a cosmetics container could be replaced with something that's inferior or even dangerous, Bright says. With Thinfilm's OpenSense technology, companies can track their product through the supply chain and detect whether containers have been opened prior to sale. The technology can also help with diversion, where a product is intended for sale in one geography, but then diverted to another location where it can be sold for a higher price.

Smart labels can even be manufactured with temperature sensors that can detect if a product, like vaccines, goes beyond a set temperature range, Bright says.

But for Diageo, it's all about beverages, and the smart label is just the tip of a larger ice berg. Diageo has been working with EVRYTHNG, a software company which specializes in an Internet of Things (IoT) smart products platform intended to connect consumer products to the Web, helping manufacturers manage real-time data associated with those products to drive applications.

The Web of Things creates a network of data

EVRYTHNG helped Diageo build a strategic technology platform called +More that runs on EVRYTHNG's engine. +More allows digital interaction with retailers and other supply partners based on how products are made, sold and used. Diageo is using the platform for a range applications that allow it to track products in the supply chain and deliver interaction analytics.


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