Following the Electronic Trail Through Smart Labeling

By Joan Mantini

Located Amongst several other companies leading efforts in detecting and preventing counterfeiting, theft and product diversion while increasing consumer engagement with manufacturers is LocatorX. Headquartered in Atlanta, Ga., this company offers a secure platform and tracking devices for manufacturers, supply-chain managers, warehousing and retailers. The technology enables brands and consumers to access an item’s current location and audit trail from its origin using a smartphone.

The company is also developing the world’s first molecular-sized location tracking device. This device is based on the patented Solid-State Miniature Atomic Clock (SMAC) technology created by the nanomaterials lab at the University of Oxford, to which LocatorX has exclusive rights.

Scott Fletcher, president and CEO, and Pat Pickren vice president of product for LocatorX took some time out to answer questions on how smart labeling is evolving and gaining popularity.

How has labeling evolved to accommodate for the rise of eCommerce?

LocatorX: There was already scanning technology in place prior to eCommerce but because of the need for handling returns and fulfilling shipments, more data is being printed on the label. Labels are now being used to help navigate products through the supply chain and tackle reverse logistics when products make their way back to a retailer.

Additionally, consumer expectations are shifting around engagement – customers are coming to expect more information about their product on the product itself. This leads us to interactive QR codes which can provide a more robust consumer engagement experience. LocatorX’s Certified QR codes enable customers and retailers/manufacturers to interact through product information, promotions and rebates, loyalty programs, and the list goes on. Packaging has evolved and continues to evolve to use more technology in the label so it’s smarter and can become more interactive. We are now able to provide product security measures within the label itself. Labeling technology is expanding at a fast rate, and there is tremendous growth around the corner.

With so many new packaging options emerging that require their own labeling standards, how can brands continue to use next-gen tracking tech to optimize their supply chain?

LocatorX: Brands will be able to use next-gen tracking tech by utilizing developments that follow standards or protocols that are universally accepted. Advances such as QR codes have an ease of use globally, while Bluetooth tags and NFC tags are able to work with existing infrastructure. Fortunately, many new technologies are being developed around existing QR codes, NFC tags and Bluetooth tags, which enable companies to optimize their supply chain without worry of a huge cost of implementation.

What new technologies are being used in smart labels and how are companies utilizing these?

LocatorX:  New security features are being added to labels such as holograms or invisible ink which are difficult to forge. In addition to print technology, microchips such as Near Field Communication (NFC) and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) are being included in labels or tags which use low power, provide greater security, and a user-friendly experience. The inclusion of NFC and BLE add greater intelligence to the labels with the ability to transmit data to a beacon or smart phone to track, monitor, and interact with the asset.

How is smart labeling benefiting consumers directly beyond their track and trace capabilities?

LocatorX:  Smart labeling benefits customers through enhanced consumer engagement. Consumers are coming to expect more from their product packaging, and advances in product labeling will enable that. LocatorX’s Certified QR Codes provide manufacturers/retailers with an opportunity to engage directly with consumers more easily than ever before. With a simple scan of a product, consumers can access product information, loyalty programs, rebates and much more.

How are smart labels being used to reduce counterfeiting and eliminate theft?

LocatorX:  At LocatorX, our labelling technology provides a reduction in counterfeiting and theft through the use of product authentication and secure track and trace technology. Our certified event log provides the secure architecture to enable companies to monitor their product every step of the way, without worry of their information getting into the wrong hands.

What role are smart labels playing in sustainability?

LocatorX: Smart labels play an important role in sustainability through reduction of waste, spoilage, ability to route faster and more efficiently, and smarter inventory management. Smart labels can provide a reduction in spoilage by closely monitoring environmental sensors and ensuring that products stay within a safe temperature or climate during storage and transit. By enabling more accurate inventory and route updates, smart labels contribute to a more sustainable supply chain.

With the advancements in technology, what do you predict we will see in smart labeling capabilities in the future?

LocatorX: Smart labeling capabilities are experiencing rapid growth through advancements in technology. At LocatorX, we are bringing to market a terrestrial-based location system that does not require a satellite line of sight. This will enable companies to more accurately and affordably track and monitor items through product label technology. Additionally, the environmental sensors that will be available through LocatorX’s product suite will be able to provide more accurate information on a product-level. Advances in nanotechnology are enabling LocatorX to provide these solution sets at a more affordable and easier to implement scale than ever before.