For testing purposes, members of the Consorzio del Parmigiano Reggiano equip some products with a chipped label that allows each product to be traced individually – and digitally. (Image: CFPR)
Digitisation you can print
As consumers, it seems we only really handle labels when it comes to peeling off, tearing off or covering up prices on items we intend to give as gifts. But these labelling strips also play a key role both in logistics and consumer information. Now, some manufacturers are taking this tried and tested method to the digital age.
One of them is Austrian label manufacturer Securikett, which recently launched a labelling solution with an integrated QR code that allows consumers to access additional information on the product quickly and easily via their smartphones; codes are created by Securikett directly. In addition to adding digital value, the labels can also be used as seals, thus increasing visible product protection for purchasers.
A collage shows rolls of labels on the left and an image of the labels once they have been attached on the right. (Image: Securikett)
These labels with unique, integrated, item level codes are named PaperVoid and can be customised to meet the customer’s corporate design requirements. And when it comes to product properties such as sustainability, origin, authenticity and ethics, digital Securikett technology enables this information to be linked directly to the product itself.
QR codes and blockchain technology united in one label
The Italian Consorzio del Parmigiano Reggiano (CFPR) has taken things one step further. CFPR is an association of manufacturers of the hard cheese made according to traditional production methods in the Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna and Mantua regions that is protected by EU law. And the protection of the name is precisely what this consortium has focussed on in its cooperation with Dutch cheese labeller Kaasmerk Matec and US electronics expert p-Chip,a cooperation that has resulted in a QR code with an integrated chip. Since as early as 2002, the consortium’s loaves have been equipped with food-safe casein labels bearing a sequential alphanumeric code that enable each one to be traced. Now, tracing has become even more secure thanks to the new digital labels developed within the cooperation.
Besides the printed, scannable code, these new labels contain a transponder chip the size of the head of a pin that creates its own, unique, digital “twin”. This digital twin is in turn integrated into a blockchain, making it forgery-proof.
Labels generate added value
Over the past two years, CFPR tested the new labels exhaustively and approved the technical use of the label to authenticate Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and ensure it can be traced digitally. The new food labels will be attached to 100,000 of the consortium’s cheese loaves in the second quarter of 2022. This is the final phase of a large-scale test, after which CFPR will review the option of extending this technology to its entire Parmigiano Reggiano production.
As we can see, our good old labels can still be of use in these times of digitisation, adding true value for companies as well as consumers, all thanks to technologies like blockchain and QR codes. Incidentally, these black-and-white squares were developed in Japan in 1994 – to optimise logistics at Toyota.