Your Can Can Talk to You, Thanks to the Internet of Things

Imagine a world where the soda can you just bought not only keeps your drink cold, but tells you how the soda was made and how many miles it logged before it got to you. Or imagine a world where a tin of cookies offers up virtual recipes.

That world is now a reality, courtesy of the Internet of Things (IoT), which connects everyday devices and consumer objects such as cars, washing machines and even metal consumer packages to the internet.

Big brands and companies are getting into the IoT game. Cisco Jasper’s IoT technology, for example, helps Coca-Cola wirelessly connect its vending machines so alerts can be sent out when they need refills. At the consumer level, Kroger has experimented with IoT tech to create “smart shelves” that display nutritional information at its grocery stores. Kroger eventually plans for these shelves to interface with customers’ phones, synchronizing with shopping lists and advising them on how to find what they need.

There is a huge, and growing, demand for this sort of technology with TechSi Research reporting that the global IoT services market will expand at a compound annual growth rate of over 24 percent from 2016-2021. This projected ramp-up is credited to increased smartphone and internet penetration, growing industrial IoT adoption and more smart city projects around the world.

And now, a new partnership is extending the IoT to include metal packaging products, such as food and beverage cans and specialty tins. The goal is to help consumers and brands learn more about one another, and bring the world of wireless technology to your local supermarket or convenience store. In simpler terms, now your can can talk to you.

Philadelphia-based metal-packaging supplier Crown Holdings and EVRYTHNG, a London- and New York-based software company, are partnering in the partnership to provide an IoT platform connecting consumer products to the web.

The Crown/EVRYTHNG venture’s goal is to embed digital intelligence into billions of food and beverage containers to help brands maximize the efficiency of their supply chain and generate lots of data. Brands get enhanced product traceability, while consumers get access to information including recipes, beauty tips and lifestyle-centric content based on their individual preferences.

Crown has printed serialized codes on food, beverage and aerosol cans, in addition to specialty tins. These codes can be scanned by smartphones and are integrated with EVRYTHNG’s IoT smart products platform, which gives each package its own software identity and cloud-based data profile. It’s a combination of smart packaging powered by smart software, making the packages more interactive, intelligent and trackable.

Daniel Abramowicz, chief technology officer at Crown, explained why the timing is right for this partnership. “Crown’s new CrownSmart and CrownSecure technologies offer the consumer new ways to provide content, security and product authentication. But to take full advantage of the possibilities they present, brand owners must assess their infrastructure and databases,” he said. “That is precisely where EVRYTHNG comes in, providing the software and database management to facilitate the practical use of these technologies.”

He added that this partnership brings new levels of information to consumers, too. “Today’s consumers are used to having information at their fingertips,” he said. “This technology enables packaging to be a conduit to that information … while (they’re) standing in a retail environment and making purchasing decisions.”

Brands benefit, Abramowicz said, because they get access to a wealth of additional data. They can learn when and where consumers use products and gain information to help them anticipate future trends and campaigns.

In an official statement, EVRYTHNG Chief Executive Officer Niall Murphy said the campaign will disrupt the metal packaging market, which produces 1 trillion products a year: “We are creating a standard where all brands across food, beverage, apparel, health and beauty, personal care and home care can exploit the real-time, connected intelligence built into their product packaging.”

Other product applications include:

  • Increased product information, such as nutrition, ingredients and the manufacturing process.
  • Enhanced loyalty rewards experiences, including personalized offers.
  • Better brand protection, as digital authentication counteracts counterfeits.

Given the internet-centric focus of this collaboration, it only makes sense there’s also a hashtag that goes with it: #BornDigital.