The Future of Marking & Coding: The IoT and, the Metaverse
By Nathan Dube, Digital Marketing Specialist at Industrial Packaging
Marking and coding technology has been a significant part of the packaging industry’s rich history for many years now. But the technological advances that have yet to be seen as we enter into industry 4.0 will almost certainly be the most exciting evolution in these technologies thus far. As coding and marking have become more advanced through cutting-edge printers, labelling equipment, and newer devices such as laser engraving machinery, this ecosystem has moved beyond simple inkjet printing. However, the expansion of the ability to mark and code in new and exciting ways such as laser engraving a dynamic QR code directly onto a metal container is just the tip of the iceberg.
Until now, marking and coding machinery was operated by a machinery operator using a control panel or, more recently, an LCD screen. The machinery is run by an onboard computer run via the touch screen. But those days are coming to an end thanks to the IIoT.
What is IIoT?
Now, you may be wondering, what is the IIoT? Before we can answer that question, we must identify its precursor, the IoT. The IoT (Internet of Things) is the digitally connected network of smart objects (phones, computers, coffee makers, stoves, and other items connected to the internet).
Smart objects are any physical objects that feature processing capabilities, software, and other technologies that allow for the exchange of data with other smart devices, machinery, and digital systems over the internet via TCP/IP (IP standing for “Internet Protocol”).
The IIoT takes this concept a step further as the “Industrial Internet of Things.” The IIoT is the future of complete atomization through the implementation of smart packaging machinery such as collaborative robots and artificial intelligence.
When all the machinery in a warehouse is connected via the internet, it can be controlled remotely. The data they collect and produce will be stored via cloud computing, and devices (such as marking and coding equipment) can be run from anywhere with an internet connection.
The further evolution and implementation of advanced artificial intelligence will eventually allow smart packaging machinery to continually record, analyze, update, and improve upon key performance indicators resulting in an ever-improving supply chain. And this is good news considering the detrimental effects that the COVID-19 pandemic brought upon the global supply chain, which is still currently recovering from that unexpected black swan event.
With the looming shadow of the pandemic still lingering as numbers of variant cases continue to rise in various hot spots, the idea of automation for both progress and, more importantly, safety is becoming front and center for many packaging companies worldwide.
Here, we may glimpse at the next great leap in not only marking and coding equipment operation but all packaging machinery and robotics. I am, of course speaking about, the metaverse.
But, what exactly is the metaverse?
“The metaverse is a fully functional digital realm that exists beyond our own physical reality. The future culmination and integration of the fragmented virtual worlds will converge all digitally enhanced physical reality and physically persistent virtual or augmented spaces. Essentially, the metaverse is the future sum total of all virtual and augmented realities and the interconnections between those spaces and our physical world via the “internet of things,” according to a blog post on Indsutrialpackaging.com.
To simplify, the metaverse is the next great evolution of the internet. According to various corporations and futurists, people will shift from tablets, phones, and computers to virtual reality headsets and augmented reality goggles to access the internet.
When (and if) the metaverse comes to fruition, using the internet will be much more similar to playing a video game in which websites are three-dimensional virtual spaces, buildings, towns, and cities.
When it comes to running, updating, and improving the operation and key performance indicators of marking, coding, and essentially all fully automated packaging equipment, operators will be able to run or monitor these machines virtually over the internet from any location they desire.
This next remarkable evolution in internet technology will allow people to run their packaging lines from the comfort of their own home, an office, or perhaps, the beach!
When will the metaverse arrive, and more importantly, will it arrive? Many CEOs of major corporations such as Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, are betting on it and investing millions in developing this future virtual space. However, only time will tell if or when the metaverse will come to fruition.
Nathan Dube is a professional writer, blogger, and content manager specializing in text, audio, and video production as well as voice acting. He hosts the industrial packaging podcast and produces the animated web series Industrial Packaging, an edutainment cartoon helping people to learn about packaging machinery and materials.