Thinfilm tiny printed NFC labels enable brands to connect with consumers via smart packaging
Norwegian tech firm Thinfilm compute out a way to print tiny electronics chips on plastic surfaces by creating tiny smart labels to put on the Internet of Things or smart and connected everyday objects. Thinfilm is instead going wide: It is adding a little bit of intelligence to a lot of things, While others are making extremely powerful chips.
When I last caught up with Thinfilm whose name is Thin Film Electronics traded on the Norwegian Stock Exchange I would aware that its people were working on a different product. They had a super-thin and re-writable printed memory which was a storage product and was printed onto a flexible plastic surface. The company licensed this technology to Xerox, which began printing the memory devices in a factory in Rochester at New York. Then Thin Film Electronics rotate into new kinds of printed electronics.
Now the company prints near-field communications (NFC) chips onto plastic. It can be pasted onto something like a liquor bottle as a smart label. You can scan the label from your smartphone just by moving the phone close to the label. It initiates a radio signal, reading the data in NFC chip and transferring it to the internet connected cloud.
Davor Sutija, CEO of Thinfilm said that we saw that smartphones with NFC communication would be ubiquitous, It provides a way for consumers to share personal information and exchange it in payment systems and get information about products in an interview with transportation revolution ideas. Thinfilm has rotated from a widget company to a marketing technology company.
Thinfilm learned how to print circuits on top of flexible substrates. It was printing designs on a piece of paper rather than manufacture chips in a traditional silicon chip factory. Its can cost $3 billion to $5 billion to build. And it has done so for much cheaper, as it has only raised $105 million to date during all of its existence. it is the company’s hardware differentiator. Through the packaging it enables very interesting communication between brands and consumers.
Sutija said think about the challenges that brands face today. They have been removed by Facebook, Google, and Amazon. Those companies get a lot of profits from selling and advertising the brand merchandise. The value is not much in the brand. It’s in the Amazon Prime which delivers that branded product to you.
But Thinfilm gives a way for those brands to fight back and work. That’s because of the smart label. Thinfilm prints and puts on a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label scotch is a means to communicate with the consumer. The smart label support Diageo’s bottle showing it is not substitute. And using NFC, it also can make the consumer’s Smartphone go to a webpage with personalized promotions to the liquor company. That solution is now in the field of trials.
Tim Bajarin said that I think it is an important platform that allows companies of all types to innovate on in the Internet of everything. Everything will be connected to the Internet in the future. Thinfilm has one of the best platforms for delivering this solution I could see it being used to deliver many new and innovative NFC connected products and solutions in the future.
Sutija said our platform is an intermediary between the brand and consumers. We now have a complete marketing solution. Thinfilm puts a smart label on the beer bottle. The consumer taps an NFC Smartphone on the label and it run a video that describes the beer. The consumer can reorder more craft beer through that video or take advantage of promotions and company interact with a customer without spending a lot of money on ads.
The NFC chips are using better solution than older radio frequency identification chips. NFC is getting built into just about every Smartphone now and you do not need a special reader to read the data in the chip. There are more than a billion smart phones with NFC inside.
Thinfilm used many ways that connects companies with consumers. Very few consumers fill out a warranty registration and send it back to the manufacturer. The consumer can tap the label with a smartphone and automatically register if you put a smart label on the registration form which can give the consumer information on any updates on the product. Thinfilm has not only created the chips to make this possible but also has the cloud-based software portal to make it happen. In this way, Thinfilm provides a platform to disintermediate the social networks and online marketplaces.
Sutija asked a question that how can brands innovate if they don’t get good data back from the consumers? You have to create a digital as well as a physical identity for brands.
The real part of the technology is also a big deal. Millennials are likely to be ready to purchase an engagement ring using Smartphone authentication. Thinfilm to authenticate is used by Sarine a diamond company in its diamonds. You tap certificate on a smart label for diamond. Then you can go to a website that certifies,the packaged item is authentic and not supporting war.
Sutija said that this is the single biggest threat to blood diamonds this century it gives you the sense that what you bought is really worth it.
The company is in 10 different vertical markets. It includes pharmaceutical pill authentication to fashion verification and it wants to move into more. Thinfilm is publishing a book, NFC Mobile Marketing for Dummies in May.
Sutija said that the only thing that has been limiting Thinfilm to date is its manufacturing capacity. It has been building its chips on in a building in San Jose. But now it is shifting to a bigger building that has much higher manufacturing capacity.
While Intel is lucky to get 100 chips on a 12-inch silicon wafer, Thinfilm can pack many sheets of plastic. It can put 13,000 NFC chips on a single 12-inch by 12-inch sheet. As each chip has about 1,500 transistors. The company could make 1 million units per month in the older building but now companies are asking us to quote 60 million units.
Thinfilm will making its anti-counterfeiting tags first. In early third quarter of 2018 the company will start making transistors for the NFC tags so the company will go from 1 million chips a month to 100 million a month in about 15 months. In 2019, the company will be able to make 5 billion NFC chips and 1.5 billion anti-counterfeiting tags in a year. It can make so many because it is printing the circuits on plastic sheets that can be unrolled through an assembly line.
Sutija said that we increase our batch size by 600 times, our labor costs go away, our capital expenditures get amortized, and the die becomes very inexpensive.
Sutija said that we are going to scale from millions to billions.
You can also read blog about thin film electronics.Here