NFC and blockchain technologies are allowing consumers to authenticate products.
Near field communication (NFC) technology, which works by allowing two devices to communicate when they are in close range, is generally associated with mobile payments such as Apple Pay and Android Pay. However, the countless other opportunities of NFC are still being explored. Brands are just starting to realize the value of this technology in authenticating products and reassuring consumers that they are protected from fakes.
This month, iOlive and Thin Film Electronics have partnered to fight widespread fraud in the olive oil sector using NFC technology. A small tag is integrated into a bottle’s label and users can scan the product with their smartphone to check whether the product is what it claims to be. Various brands including Buonamici, La Ranocchiaia, SPO and Il Cavallino have implemented the technology so far. Because olive oil fraud is expected to cost the industry $16 billion a year, the value of NFC for these brands is evident. This sort of authentication can benefit a range of industries that rely on quality and often face counterfeits, from wine to pharmaceuticals, from medical devices to luxury goods.
In 2015, Cognac brand Rémy Martin launched an NFC-enabled bottle in China in partnership with Selinko. By opening an accompanying app and tapping the top of the bottle with a smartphone, a user is told whether the bottle is sealed and genuine or whether it has been opened.
Earlier this year, Maria&Donato, a premium leather goods brand based in Spain, integrated NFC tags into one of their handbag collections to fight fraud in the luxury market. The technology was also used as an opportunity for consumers to learn more about their product and read through its brand story. Ferragamo and Moncler have similarly used RFID microchips in their products to reassure consumers about the authenticity of their apparel. Using NFC in a slightly different way, designer brand Rochambeau has integrated tags into one of its jackets to offer the wearer rewards and other consumer offers. Samsung have taken this one step further with their Smart Suit concept. The jacket features an NFC tag that can be programmed to carry out a task (such as silence notifications on a smartphone or share contact information) when a cell phone comes close to it.
Blockchain technology has shown similar promise in fashion and offers greater authentication possibilities. By creating a permanent digital record of transactions, it offers security and transparency for consumers and brands. At Shanghai Fashion Week, Babyghost worked with BitSE to create clothing for the runway that integrated blockchain technology and traced the history of the garment. As described in our Control Shift report, Provenance is one company that helps businesses harness blockchain technology and share the history of a product, promoting transparency and trust.
With approximately 1.9 billion smartphones expected to be NFC-enabled by 2018, there is great scope for these kinds of technologies. Not only does NFC allow consumers to know the legitimacy of a product, it allows consumers to make choices about what they purchase based on the product’s story and the values behind a product. This can dramatically improve the consumer experience. Moreover, it allows brands to take consumers on a journey, fight counterfeit products and demonstrate what they stand for.