Tracking bottle with NFC: interview to Thinfilm

The news is just a few days ago, the launch of the CNECT Blockchain Service by Thinfilm, to tracking bottle and showing info about the wine into it. You can read the whole story here.

NFC technology is a good example how IoT can be used in the daily life and trade, and Thinfilm has a great experience about this.

Some days before to have their announcement in my email, I received the answers to an interview I asked them.

Bill Cummings, SVP Corporate Communications at Thinfilm, kindly answered me.

Wine Roland Thinfilm has a long track record in NFC technology. When did the company launch its first NFC solution? 

Bill Cummings Thinfilm got its start in NFC through the IP/assets acquisition of printed NFC leader, Kovio Inc., in early 2014. Kovio’s NFC Barcode hardware was enhanced substantially and rebranded to SpeedTap™ soon after, and Thinfilm launched its OpenSense™ technology in early 2015. Thinfilm began offering its end-to-end NFC mobile marketing solution in February of 2017 with the introduction of Thinfilm’s CNECT Cloud Platform.

WR Until now, the problem with NFC devices was their size—small, but not small enough. Would you say Thinfilm has a revolutionary technology for that?

BC Thinfilm has developed printed NFC tags that are about one square inch in size, and come in different shapes. Minimal size is driven by the antenna, which needs to be large enough to harvest an appropriate amount of energy from a mobile device to power the NFC chip.

So our technology is not necessarily revolutionary from a size standpoint. Our uniqueness comes from our manufacturing technology – printed, uniquely identifiable NFC (as opposed to conventional silicon) tags at ultra-scale via roll-to-roll production.  

Our end-to-end solution – that is, NFC tags, conversion/integration support, software platform, plus consulting services – is unique in the industry.  

WR NFC is the natural evolution of QR code labels. Do you also provide the software and tech support to go along with your solution?

BC Yes. As part of our complete NFC mobile marketing solution, we launched the CNECT Cloud Platform in early 2017.

CNECT is a multi-tenant, cloud-based platform that allows brands and agencies to manage tag IDs, create and launch unique, consumer-focused digital experiences via a mobile phone, and gain actionable insights via powerful analytics and reporting.

We just launched CNECT Cloud Platform 2.0 in late April and to date we have nearly 500 companies registered on the system.  

About Wine and NFC

WR You’ve worked with many wine, beer and spirit producers. What’s the extent of marketing support provided?

BC First, Thinfilm has built a large ecosystem of label conversion and packaging integration partners around the world.

Customers have access to this network to assist them in getting our NFC tags on their products in the most efficient and economical manner possible.

Second, given the experience we have with close to 30 in-market deployments and several case studies, we provide consulting services to customers – both brands and agencies – regarding tag integration, campaign types, calls-to-action, and analytics/reporting via the CNECT platform.   

WR How much does a NFC solution cost? For a wine producer looking at a shipment of 10,000 bottles of wine, can you share a cost estimate?

BC Cost ultimately depends on several factors, including tag type, form factor, unit volume, CNECT access, consulting services, etc.

Buyers can always purchase conventional, unencoded NFC tags from manufacturers at a relatively low unit cost. But from there they would need to find a separate software platform, figure out a way to get tags on their products, develop campaigns, etc.

We feel our full solution delivers value to brands and agencies that they can’t find elsewhere in the industry.     

WR How is the wine & spirits market different, in respect to other segments looking at NFC marketing solutions?

BC From a general marketing perspective, it’s actually very similar to other consumer-product verticals such as cosmetics, specialty foods, OTC pharma, beverages, tobacco, etc.

Brands and agencies are trying to figure out how to stand out from the competition, connect with consumers on their terms, deliver unique experiences, enhance loyalty, and sell more products. There are a few differences that are unique to wine and spirits, however.

Authentication can certainly be an issue – depending on the product and the region – and Thinfilm helps address that with its laser-encoded unique IDs. The substrate Thinfilm uses for its chips is a very thin, flexible stainless steel, which prevents cracking and detachment from the antenna while traveling through high-speed production lines (conventional silicon is quite brittle).

Also, Thinfilm’s printed NFC tags have a read-speed that is considerably faster than other tags in the market, making it highly suitable for reading/testing as bottles move through high speed production lines.  

Designed solutions for wine industry

WR Kilchoman Distillery and Barbadillo are two of your customers. What kind of solutions have you designed for them?

BC Kilchoman uses our NFC solution to educate consumers on the range of products they offer, and are also using NFC to grow their loyalty program with customers.

And Barbadillo used our solution to launch a very successful “Tap & Win” campaign, through which consumers could win cash prizes and Barbadillo gear. They found that one in three shoppers who tapped a bottle of Barbadillo with a smartphone ended up purchasing the wine.

The beauty of the solution is that customers can modify existing campaigns and launch new ones at any time using the CNECT platform.

WR Does Thinfilm have any Italian customers or experience in Italy?

BC Thinfilm announced iOlive as a customer In Q4 of 2016. iOlive used NFC SpeedTap™ tags in the packaging of Italian olive oil brands in the Tuscany region to enable product authentication, enhance consumer engagement, and fuel online sales.

WR Is Thinfilm working in blockchain technology?

BC Thinfilm is currently  investigating the use of NFC as an enabling technology for blockchain applications both at the consumer and enterprise levels.    

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