A lot has written and spoken regarding the “Internet of Things” where individual devices and/or products are designed and produced with electronic logic that allows these devices to communicate with other devices.

An important indication of how soon we can anticipate these products came earlier this month when General Electric reaffirmed its significant commitment to “Industrial Internet” by announcing 14 individual products that will be designed and produced with Internet-linked sensors and software that allows these products to not only communicate but monitor their own service status. GE further announced strategic partnerships with Cisco, AT&T, and Intel to collectively deploy such capabilities.

When thinking about physical devices, another important area for manufacturing and supply chain teams is advances in item-level tracking and monitoring.  Our readers are well aware of the history of technologies such as basic electronic bar coding, 3D bar codes and RFID tagging for item-level tracking applications.

This week, a Norwegian based technology provider made an announcement that should capture the attention of teams dealing with item level tracking, especially temperature sensitive products such as pharmaceuticals and perishable food.

Thin Film Associates ASA announced that it has successfully demonstrated a fully functional, stand-alone, integrated printed electronic temperature tracking Smart Sensor Label. This label (photo provided from the firm’s web site) is described as being built from printed and organic electronics with low power Thin-Film-Electronics-ASA-Temperature-Sensor-Printed-Electronics-Display-Transistor-Memory-200x140demands.  The announcement points to the ability to track and monitor temperature and environment for pharmaceutical and the ability of retailers to have insight on both the temperature, shelf-life and food safety of perishable products.

In the announcement, the CEO of Thinfilm states that this platform will provide the basis for a variety of low-cost electronics in a label format.  The company itself indicates that it has plans to produce its first system products by the end of 2014 which is a rather long time window by today’s race in innovation.  

Regardless, the notion that the opportunity to have item tracking incorporated with a low-cost printable label that has application logic built-in is both fascinating and exciting to anticipate. Supply Chain Matters plans to dive deeper into this area in the months to come.