Entrepreneurship

This Entrepreneur Calls NFC-Embedded Labels ‘The Future of Packaging’ When It Comes to Clarification About Cannabis Or Any Product

By January 17, 2020 No Comments

“The most important thing in the world is that people know what they’re putting into their body, onto their body, and this has never been done before with CBD or THC,” cannabis entrepreneur Danny Davis declares with passion.

“If there is any industry that needs more transparency, clarity, education and [the

ability to demonstrate] authenticity, it is cannabis and CBD,” continues Davis, who is founder and CEO of Origin Labs, Inc.

Last week, Origin put its money where its mouth is with its roll-out of its new brand PearlCBD, offering a sleekly packaged, hemp-derived lotion, cream, oil tincture and capsules. The roll-out would have been just one more CBD line entering an already-crowded market except for the NFC tags embedded in the brand’s label

NFC use is still a rarity in the industry — though TONIC, which makes hemp-derived CBD wellness products, announced in early December that it had teamed with tech company Blue Bite to embed interactive technology in its labels, too.

Davis, meanwhile, has moved to patent his technology, which enables users to access manufacturer database product information embedded into product labels.

NFC stands for “near-field communication” and describes technology that allows two devices, one usually a mobile phone, to communicate. It’s been used for “experiential shopping,” payment processing and airline boarding passes. But now a wide spectrum of companies are jumping in – Johnnie Walker just announced such a move last week.

More and more, NFC is standard equipment on mobile phones too: the iPhone, starting with the iPhone 7, and Androids, starting with the Galaxy 8, all have NFC capability.

According to Davis, who was interviewed from CES where he was promoting the licensing of his technology, the “PearlCBD experience” is threefold:  First, the customer taps the product’s label, which activates a phone message “Do you want to enable the PearlCBD experience?” A “yes” response prompts a verification that the product is indeed an Origin Labs product, and includes its batch number.

The second feature of the technology allows customers to view scientific test results, both in-house and third-party, for the product. Because the results are cloud-based, there is no app and nothing to download. “It shows you all the ingredients,” Davis says. “It shows you percentages, which is very important because if you’re over a certain percentage of THC, you’re not considered ‘hemp’ anymore; you’re not considered federally legal.”

The reason is that hemp-derived products over .3 percent are illegal. All PearlCBD products are hemp-derived and below .3 percent THC.

Third among the technology’s features is the customer’s ability to view related videos and FAQs (sample: “What is CBD?”). Considering that 56 percent of American adults don’t know the difference between THC and CBD, according to a BDS Analytics survey, such seemingly simple questions are important.

Then there’s the alarming potential for unscrupulous companies to produce cannabis products of dubious quality. Said Morgan Fox, media relations director for The National Cannabis Industry Association: “There is clearly a need to improve consumer confidence and education, and it is almost entirely a result of federal prohibition preventing sound regulations that will make people feel safe knowing that the products they are consuming have met certain standards and were produced in compliance with set rules.”

“[NFC-derived information] allows you to track and trace your product,” points out Davis, whose previous company Convectium, which he took public in 2018, introduced technology for filling and capping systems for vaping cartridges. “We were the first company to have heavy-metal testing done on our cartridges,” the CEO says. “We wanted people not to be putting bad stuff in their bodies.”

That’s a goal validated, Davis says, by the recent vaping crisis, in which young users were seriously injured or even died because some companies, the CEO says, were “cutting corners” on their processes.

“I said ‘no more,’ Davis says. [My thought was], “We are going to take our brand to another level, make it cutting edge…it will take a while but I promise you this is the future of package and the future of product delivery.”

He says that future is related not only to cannabis but to many other products whose ingredients need clarification (here Davis acknowledges that some industries – fine wines for example – base their marketing more on “stories” than on ingredients).

En route to inventing his NFC technology, Davis says he and his team rejected two technology alternatives for providing product information, and he cites aesthetics as a big reason why: “When we first started, we said we need a product that is cool and we need technology in it,” Davis recalls. “We wanted to make pharmaceutical products look good. The ugliest product in the world is a bottle of pills, right?”

No surprise then that the team thought first of Apple products – “sleek and cool and modern.” That’s how the central question became “How do we fuse pharma and tech together and make a cool-looking product, but also give intelligence?”

QR code was the first option rejected because, opines Davis, “It’s not very intelligent, it’s pretty dumb, it’s not dynamic; it’s got a static image; and the problem with QR code is it’s easily copy-able” – and that can lead to counterfeit products.

QR code also presents “a very ugly aesthetic on your phone,” Davis says.

The next option: RFID tags. “It’s very, very good for B-to-B tracking,” Davis allows of the technology. “But the problem with RFID is consumers don’t carry around RFID scanners.”

That led to the choice of NFC, because “people already have phones in their hands all day long, and [almost] all phones already have NFC readers built into them.

“The third thing is we’ve seen NFC be very successful in other countries,” Davis says. “We’re a little bit behind in the United States.” But NFC is actually increasingly popular because, Davis says, it allows consumers to authenticate a product, see test results and gather information.

And consumer information is what the largely unregulated cannabis industry needs most right now, believes Davis, who said he had appointments set up for this week with “a large hemp company in Texas” and “a large cannabis company in New York.

“This is the future of packaging, 100 percent,” Davis says. “I believe this is the future for packaging of all products, not just CBD and THC.”

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