NFC Technology Brings Paper 'Alive'
I have to admit I felt light years behind on a visit to Seattle last year. Just about everyone in line at the Starbucks counter simply waved their phone and marched on while I, peasant that I am, had to use my Starbucks card.
Today the technology that made this possible—Near Field Communications (NFC)—is rapidly making its way to every cash register in the nation. But what is equally cool—at least for the print minded among us—is the ability to use NFC in printed materials.
While this once was reserved for cutting-edge companies, the recent release of Arjowiggins’ PowerCoat Alive paper is making this technology and its applications available to us all.
Near Field What?
NFC uses small radio frequency tags that are affixed to a printed piece. Once an NFC-enabled device (such as a smartphone) is tapped or waved within 1" of the print product, an interaction is automatically initiated. It can send you to a Website, play an audio or video clip, bring up a list of stats—anything. No downloading an app or scanning a QR code, no typing in a complicated URL—the multimedia experience is encoded in the tag itself.
Why Should You Care?
Advertising media, interactive displays, product labeling and packaging, security—all are perfect playgrounds for NFC technology.
Yes, some of the marketing applications are similar to QR codes, but without the ugly square that has been driving design-minded folks crazy for years. And while QR codes are a one-stop and one-way process, this technology can do so much more.
Of course there is the always popular coupon option: "tap here to receive a coupon for a free cup of coffee," for instance.
But as I said, this technology can do so much more. Brand loyalty is a great application that comes to mind. To ensure that a high-ticket item is the real thing, the customer can quickly tap his/her phone against the item’s tag to get confirmation that this is indeed the real deal. And once purchased, the product can be automatically registered. The purchaser can then receive loyalty coupons and special offers toward his next purchase.
So What Makes PowerCoat Alive Paper So Special?
It comes "preloaded," so to speak. Each 46-x-36 cm (18.1"x14.17") sheet can be ordered with either two or 25 NFC tags integrated into it. A box containing four sheets with 25 tags apiece, or 30 sheets with two NFC tags will set you back €90 (around $100).
"These sheets are the perfect way to test a customer’s application and ideas before going into a larger production," explained Michael Carlisle, business development manager North America at Arjowiggins Creative Papers. "Actually, more than 80 percent of our production for the PowerCoat line is bespoke."
So test away. The paper can be imprinted by itself or better yet, laminated to another sheet to provide a more sturdy surface, and is compatible with common printing techniques from offset to flexo and even digital.
And while the sheets currently still have to be shipped from Europe, Carlisle assures me that they will be readily available on our shores before the end of the year.
The big question of course is: Can you see yourself using NFC? Or offering this service to your clients? Please let me know in the comments below.
Sabine Lenz is the founder of PaperSpecs.com, the first online paper database and community specifically designed for paper specifiers.
Growing up in Germany, Sabine started her design career in Frankfurt, before moving to Australia and then the United States. She has worked on design projects ranging from corporate identities to major road shows and product launches. From start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, her list of clients included Oracle, Sun Microsystems, Deutsche Bank, IBM and KPMG.
Seeing designers struggle worldwide to stay current with new papers and paper trends inspired Sabine to create PaperSpecs, an independent and comprehensive Web-based paper database and weekly e-newsletter. She is also a speaker on paper issues and the paper industry. Some refer to her lovingly as the "paper queen" who combines her passion for this wonderful substrate called paper with a hands-on approach to sharing her knowledge.