Wireless startup uses NFC smart packaging to heat pre-packaged food and drinks

An induction pad heats a package containing baby food
SMART: NFC tags on packaging tell the induction pad how long to heat food items or drinks

A US startup has demonstrated a way to prepare packaged food items “without a distracting trip to the kitchen”, using an induction pad and products bearing NFC tags that tell the base unit how to heat them.

The system, from Michigan-based Inductive Intelligence, turns paper, plastic, glass, foil pouch and metal packaging into heatable IoT devices.

“Our method of heating creates a ‘set it and forget it’ heating process for the consumer that’s consistent, convenient and uses far less energy than a microwave,” CEO Greg Clark told Packaging Digest.

“The package requires two things to work, data and metal,” explains Clark. “The data comes in the form of a RFID or NFC tag which tells the device exactly how to heat the product. The package in turn is telling the device about the heating progress based on a temp sensor in the tag.”

“The data on the package is used first to authenticate the package and send the specific heating parameters to the base device,” says Clark.

The base unit authenticates the package and then wirelessly sends the appropriate amount of energy, tuned to the right frequency, to a metal receptor in the package to create the right heating experience for its contents. For metal packaging and foil pouches, the package itself receives the power. The device and package talk to each other throughout the heating process, explains the company, to ensure “a controlled and safe experience.”

Inductive Intelligence also sees value in providing data to retailers and manufacturers, as it captures who is consuming what, when and where “because the data we collect is associated via the device with the specific consumer.”

The company is set to go to market in Japan within a year, heating ready-to-drink coffee and tea for a large global company. In the meantime, Clark adds, Inductive Intelligence is “working hard to partner with venture capital firms and angel investors who have solid food and beverage experience, so we can use their experience to avoid some pitfalls along the way.”