Innovation or Not – Smart Packaging

by Innovation or Not

Innovation or Not - Smart PackagingUsually when you here about a liquor bottle talking to someone (even a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue), you would tend think you’re about to here a tale of someone having a wee bit too much to drink.

But in this case, we are going to talk about a new smart bottle from Diageo (or a smart label to be more precise) that has the ability to talk to your smartphone using near field communications (aka NFC). The prototype Johnnie Walker Blue “smart bottle” enables the brand to, among other things, send targeted, personalized marketing messages to consumers.

The technology for the smart bottle’s label is called OpenSense and it involves printed sensor tags in the bottle’s label that will use the NFC built into newer smartphones like the iPhone 6 and the Samsung Galaxy S5 (and S6 for that matter).

The OpenSense technology created by Norwegian printed electronics company Thinfilm, in partnership with Diageo Technology Ventures, was introduced at Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress this week.

Whether a potential consumer has actually purchased a bottle, or is simply lingering near one in a store, the technology will enable the consumer to read the tags embedded in the label with any NFC-enabled smartphone to see promotional offers, cocktail recipes or branded content.

“Mobile technology is changing the way we live, and as a consumer brands company, we want to embrace its power to deliver amazing new consumer experiences in the future,” said Helen Michels, global innovation director, Futures Team at Diageo, who said the partnership with Thinfilm will allow Diageo to explore the potential of smart labels.

The technology, similar to RFID, also has the potential to enable Diageo to track the movement of bottles across their manufacturing and distribution nodes in addition to wherever it’s being consumed, while also being able to detect whether a bottle is still sealed or has been opened. This last potential feature of the technology could be particularly useful for identifying tampering, thwarting counterfeiting, and helping to gather data on black market spirits sales.

This prototype smart label on a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue is the first initiative to come out of Diageo Technology Ventures, a program launched in September 2014 to solve business problems and identify new growth opportunities by (as Diageo Technology Ventures states on their web site) “partnering with the most innovative technology companies and pioneering entrepreneurs around the world to deliver breakthrough innovation for both our business and our industry.”

This particular solution happens to intersect both of the program’s initial focus areas:

  1. Smart Packaging
  2. Anti-Counterfeit

For more on the initiative, check out the following from their web site (in italics):


Diageo Technology Ventures makes it easy for new companies to engage with Diageo for the opportunity to:

  • Prove their technology by working with some of our world-leading brands to deliver pilot projects
  • Work collaboratively with world-class marketers, brand leaders and mentors
  • Leverage the global reach and influence of Diageo to scale up solutions

How does it work?

Throughout the year Diageo Technology Ventures will develop and publish a number of innovation briefs on this page. Each brief will focus on a different challenge or opportunity for our business and comes with a committed pilot budget of $100,000 to support the project, as well as a Diageo team ready to work with the successful applicant.

Applicants submitting the best solutions will be invited to pitch their idea in person to the Diageo team leading the brief. If successful, we will work with you to develop your pilot plan, which will be submitted to Diageo Technology Ventures for final funding approval, before moving to pilot-testing.

Applicants are invited to respond to any of our briefs via the F6S portal. We will likely pilot a number of potential solutions for each brief.

Our ambition is that successful pilots might lead to longer term strategic partnerships.

Who should apply?

We are looking for applicants from innovative digital and technology companies of all shapes and sizes, from new start-ups to established technology businesses. Successful companies are likely to have already proven their technology and will be looking to deploy it at scale.

So, what do you think of this new smart packaging?

Is this new label an innovation or not?

Sources: MediaPost and Diageo Technology Ventures web site.


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Braden KelleyBraden Kelley is a popular innovation speaker, builds sustainable innovation cultures, and tools for creating successful change. He is the author of the five-star book Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire and the creator of a revolutionary new change planning toolkit coming soon. Follow him on Twitter (@innovate) and Linkedin.