Packaging that talks to your phone

James Lee, the Director of Technology and Innovation for Jones Packaging of London demonstrates a new prescription drug packaging that includes near-field communication (NFC) that will allow the user with a cell phone to read information about the drug on an cell phone app.

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A London packaging company is leaping into the future with new “smart” pharmaceutical packaging that will talk to your smartphone.

By next year Jones Packaging will be turning out a carton that will deter counterfeiting and product tampering and tell you everything you need to know about the medication through the Internet.

The company has partnered with Thin Film Electronics, a Norwegian company that has developed a flexible film printed with a circuit that can convey information similar to the silicon chip in your credit card used for “tap and go” payments.

Known as Near Field Communication (NFC), the technology is already installed in most smart phones.

James Lee, Jones Packaging technology director, said smart pharmaceutical packaging is part of the “Internet of things” trend sweeping through the manufacturing world

“The whole idea is taking a physical package and connecting it to the virtual world where we can have more information.”

For a London company that can trace its roots back to 1882, it means elevating a fairly simply product to a sophisticated level of new technology.

“We are going way beyond the original concept of what a package is all about,” said Christine Jones-Harris, the company’s principal for strategic initiatives.

The system can trace each individual package from the plant to the store shelf to deter counterfeiting and enable efficient recalls of the product if necessary.

Lee said counterfeit drugs are a serious problem not only in underdeveloped countries but here in North America as well.

“It’s less likely in a Canadian pharmacy than a roadside stand in India, but we do have counterfeit drugs here.”

For the consumer, the technology can detect whether the package has been opened prior to purchase and also deliver information on dosage, side-effects and expiry date through an Internet link. Unlike the leaflets now included in drug packaging, the information can be updated.

“Instead of unfolding a leaflet, wouldn’t it better to have a video of a doctor pop up and warn you not to take the medication with grapefruit juice?” Lee said.

Thin Film is already using the technology to deter counterfeiting of high-priced liquor and wine such as Johnny Walker Blue that sells for $300 a bottle.

Lee said Jones Packaging forged the partnership with Thin Film after company representatives met at a conference in Silicon Valley.

Jones Packaging is working with Thin Film to incorporate the new technology into its high-speed packaging line and hopes to make prototypes available to the company clients later this year.

The development is partly being supported through an international fund known as Eureka and delivered in Canada through the National Research Council.

Jones Packaging also is working with the research council on a separate project to produce blister packaging for prescription drugs that can report on whether doses have been missed.

Smart Packaging for Pharmaceuticals

a thin flexible film inside a package can be read through a smartphone or similar technology and deliver information through the Internet
Manufacturers can use a “track and trace” system for individual packages, deterring counterfeiting and tampering and expediting recalls
reading the package with a smartphone, consumers can detect whether the package has been opened and get web-based information on dosage, side-effects and expiry date.

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