October 26, 2020

The role of smart packaging in the modern era

Like many other industries, packaging is undergoing an evolution in the modern era. The last decade has seen significant growth in smart technology, with better access and integration of the internet to mobile and other devices. In conjunction, the role of packaging is evolving from simply protecting products and looking good on the shelf to providing added information and insights for companies.

Consumers are developing ‘smart’ skills and raising their expectations when it comes to the connectivity of their purchases and so, packaging suppliers need to be aware of these changes. Intelligent packaging can be that which is able to communicate with smart devices for various purposes, or simply packaging that uses technology to improve a consumer experience with the product or brand.

There are two main types of smart packaging – active and intelligent. Active packaging is that which interacts with the contents to improve shelf life or the quality of the product during storage. Intelligent packaging is that which is able to communicate with smart devices for various purposes.

Where can smart packaging be used?

The following are areas of interest when considering the application of smart technology for packaging:

  1. Supply chain logistics – Smart packaging optimises supply chain processes and offers more agility in logistics planning. This leads to better inventory management as brand owners track the journey of their products and packaging through each stage of the supply chain, including production, shipment and final delivery.
  2. Product security – Packaging has an important role to play when it comes to product security. With smart packaging, this function can be significantly enhanced. Products can be traced through digital apps and GPS technology. Tamper-proof sensors can be used effectively to ensure the integrity of the products is protected. Additionally, diagnostic sensors and indicators can monitor product information like tightness, storage time and temperature, and send alerts if any key indicators are compromised.
  3. Consumer experience – Smart packaging bolsters the interaction between consumer and product. The use of QR codes and other technology, such as audio or video, can be used to instruct and inform consumers about the products contained within. Augmented (AR) and virtual reality (VR) experiences are a fast-growing segment in the consumer experience, which further enhance this process.
  4. Marketing – Digital platforms bring consumers closer to brands and encourage interaction on social media platforms. Products are more user-friendly and, as a result, better customer feedback enables improved understanding and brand insight into the usage behaviour of their target audience.

The smart technology

There is an ever-increasing choice of technologies that enable the benefits of intelligent packs described above. A growing array of indicators and sensors is being developed to complement already widely-used QR codes, near-field communication (NFC) devices and GPS solutions. Smartphone applications are being developed daily and VR solutions are becoming increasingly cost-effective and useful.

Whether technology is simply used as part of a pack’s visual appeal and messaging, or whether more added value insights are needed, it is an exciting time to consider the possibilities that smart packaging can offer. The benefits of technology, when used correctly, have made all our lives simpler, easier and more effective.

Notwithstanding the tremendous benefits smart packaging can offer, one must be aware of recycling issues that the use of technology can present. Careful planning and instructions may be used to circumvent these concerns, but these are certainly issues that packaging designers need to consider upfront.

The role of packaging has evolved thanks to smart technologies. Not only does packaging function as a protective material and brand differentiator, it now serves to improve several processes of the supply chain and the end-use of a product. 


IPL Packaging is a global luxury packaging supplier with offices in the USA, Europe, Mexico, Asia and Africa. Approved manufacturing is available in several Asian countries, as well as sites in Eastern Europe. We create bespoke, tailored and exclusive packaging for any premium or luxury brand and manage the entire process, from conceptualisation and design to production and delivery.

For more information on packaging solutions or to get an insight into our latest packaging trends, follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube or Pinterest. Keep an eye on our News section for insightful articles and innovative ideas around packaging materials, product development and design.

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