Apr 20, 2016—
Avery Dennison Retail Branding and Information Solutions (RBIS) is launching a cloud-based Internet of Things platform, known as the Janela Smart Products Platform, that will enable consumers to scan labels fitted with either EPC Gen 2 or Near Field Communication (NFC) RFID tags, or printed with QR codes, in order to receive information about the products to which they are attached. The system will use labels provided by Avery Dennison, in conjunction with software developed by EVRYTHNG. The software will link the unique identifier of each label used by the brand manufacturing a particular product with content that could include the date and location of manufacture, as well as any information about the product or brand that the company would want consumers to access.
Avery Dennison's goal is to have 10 billion products uniquely identified in the Janela system with a variety of relevant information during the next three years.
"We're launching the Janela platform for two reasons," says Deon Stander, Avery Dennison RBIS' VP and general manager. One reason, he says, is that his firm predicts that the Internet of Things will "provide a significant opportunity for businesses to connect consumers to their products." Just as technology such as RFID enables the unique identification of a product, consumers are increasingly using their smartphones or tablets to learn more about goods before or after purchasing them. The second reason, he says, is that "Avery Dennison is uniquely positioned, as the leader of packaging," as well as of tags and labels for apparel and consumer products, to mobilize IoT technology for its customers—the apparel brands.
EVRYTHNG, a software company with offices in London, New York and Zurich, was launched in 2012. Niall Murphy, EVRYTHNG's CEO and cofounder, says his firm was created to provide software that would enable "smart products" for the Internet of Things, and that it has since provided the management of unique identifiers and related content for such products. EVRYTHNG's software will collect and manage the product labels' unique identifiers and link that data with a variety of content and information about those products that could then be accessed by consumers, as well as by retailers, brand owners and logistics providers. In that way, he explains, the Janela system can allow consumers to engage with their products, either before or after they make a purchase, while also providing inventory and supply chain visibility for those moving or selling the goods.
While Avery Dennison is providing access to the Janela platform, in addition to making the necessary labels and packaging for brands, EVRYTHNG's focus is on "managing billions of identities," Murphy states.
There are several different technologies that could enable such a system, Stander notes, including EPC Gen 2 passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID inlays, high-frequency (HF) 13.56 MHz passive NFC RFID tags and printed QR codes. "We're effectively trigger-agnostic," he says, since brands are likely to use a variety of technologies to identify their products.
Smartphones can read NFC tags; however, few brands are actually using NFC labels on their products at present. EPC Gen 2 UHF tags are becoming common for tracking inventory, but smartphones and tablets are not yet equipped with UHF RFID readers, so it would be difficult for consumers to interrogate such tags. QR codes could be printed on labels, and consumers could scan them using their phones, though QR codes can be slower to scan and view data than NFC or EPC Gen 2 tags.
Stander says he expects that 10 billion products on the Janela system could use any of the three technologies. However, he cannot predict what percentage would consist of EPC Gen 2 or NFC RFID tags.
Avery Dennison will work with its customers to create the necessary labels or packaging, including the QR codes, or NFC or EPC Gen 2 RFID tags, to uniquely identify each item. That unique identifier would be stored in the Janela cloud-based server, and it would then be up to each brand to identify what data would be collected related to a particular product's ID. For instance, a tag could be read or scanned as an item was first tagged and linked to manufacturing data. It could again be scanned or interrogated as the product moved through the supply chain to a store, and the brand's employees, or logistics providers, could utilize the collected data to track a product in transit.
Retailers could also access the Janela system and view product data, and consumers could use the Janela IDs to access information about those goods, or about other brand-based content. That could include washing and care instructions, information about the manufacturing conditions, or the type of fabric. Some consumer-facing applications could also include offers or extra services provided by the brand owner, an option for reordering a product, proof of authenticity or other recommended products that might go well with one being held by a customer.
Avery Dennison is now working with select apparel brand owners that are planning to begin identifying their products via EPC UHF tags, NFCRFID tags or QR code labels. Stander declines to name these companies, however, or to describe what initial objectives.
"Our aim is to make sure we can enable 10 billion products [as part of the Janela system] in three years," Stander reports. "RFID will play a part in that," he adds, but says he cannot predict how much. While Avery Dennison RBIS is initially working with apparel companies, the Janela system could be used with other types of products as well, Stander says, particularly high-value items that could benefit from authentication.
Stander expects multiple brands to have pilots underway soon, and more applications to then be developed. "I'm excited that this will be a kickstart for the intelligent link between brands and their customers," he states.