Smart packaging promises the integration of electronic functionality into everyday products, enabling condition monitoring, asset tracking, consumer engagement, and more. IDTechEx’s report provides an in-depth technology and market evaluation of this emerging industry, drawing on over 20 interviews with industry players including fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) players. Based on impartial analysis, IDTechEx concludes that the global demand for electronic smart packaging will reach a value of US$2.6 billion in 2033 based on the value of the electronics hardware in packaging – much more if the infrastructure, software, and services are also included.
The large addressable market ensures continued commercial interest in smart packaging, but aside from RFID tags and QR codes adoption at scale has thus far largely proved challenging. Utilizing multiple case studies, this report explores how needs of end users can be met and how adoption barriers can be overcome.
Drivers and applications
There are several prominent drivers for smart packaging. Continuous growth in e-commerce over the last two decades has raised packaging demand and changing design priorities, with a greater emphasis on sustainability and delivery optimization. With stores increasingly serving fulfilment centre functions, the need for streamlined inventory management is driving the adoption of item-level smart labelling. Additionally, using printed digital watermarks to facilitate packaging separation for recycling is being explored.
COVID-19 accelerated the adoption of wireless ID including the use of QR codes for track and trace schemes and NFC for wireless payment. Adoption of these technologies by consumers has triggered many brand-owners to investigate these technologies. The result has been a significant drive towards the connected experience, with brands interacting with consumers on landing sites accessed by QR codes or NFC.
Smart packaging can also play a significant role in the healthcare sector, where improving patient experience without increasing costs is vital in catering to the needs of an ageing population. In case studies discussed in the IDTechEx report, poor medicine compliance can be addressed by using smart blister packaging that wirelessly communicates when medicines are taken.
Many current and emerging technologies are being developed for the smart packaging segment, often with very different purposes. These include:
- RFID for wireless item identification (usually invisible to the consumer), as well as other identification technologies including QR codes and capacitive ink approaches
- Electronic Articles Surveillance (EAS) for anti-theft (usually invisible to the consumer)
- QR codes for identification
- Data loggers for temperature, shock, vibration, and time/location monitoring
- Interactive smart packaging with functionalities including illumination and use-monitoring (e.g. smart blister packs)
- Chemical indicators, including temperature, frozen chemical visual indicators, and active packaging for produce and pharmaceutical monitoring
Electronic smart packaging employs a range of technologies to take packaging beyond its basic functions.