ChronoCode: Time Dependent Smart Labeling

Friday, 31 October 2014


ChronoCode technology is based on a plasma assisted printing process that provides an image or code that changes over time based on the environment  that the packaged product is exposed to during its life cycle. Hence, it can act as a quality indicator and can be provided with a pre-determined level of encryption, as required.The technology works by integrating the novel atomospheric plasma processing technology with standard printing techniques.


Problem Being Solved

In the packaging industry, degradation of perishable items and the increasing prevalence of counterfeit products are incredibly important considerations for all members of the value chain right through to the consumer, Each year in the UK alone, approximately 33% of all food produced is wasted along the chill chain or by the consumer based on missed best by/use by dates. This represents approximately £25 billion that is lost on food waster alone. In addtiiton, the global economic value of counterfeiting and piracy in terms of lost revenue to legitimate suppliers is estimated to amount to $650 billion annually. Counterfeited and pirated products account for $360 billion in losses in international trade and G20 governements and consumers lose $125 billion annually, including losses in tax revenue. In the US alone, domestic production and consumption of counterfeited and pirated products costs the economy $215 billion annually.



In response to the challenges and opportunities associated with reducing food waste and ensuring its quality and legitimacy, an intelligent form of time dependent labelling technology, entitled Chronocode, has been developed by scientists and engineers at Ulster University.

The underpinning technology is based on a plasma-assisted printing process that produces an image/code which is designed to display definable changes over time based on environmental exposure (quality) and/or to deliver a pre-determined level of encryption, as required. The Chronocodes labeling solution is currently being developed to a level where an industry ready demonstrator will be in place to attract suitable funding from appropriate partners to enable full commercialisation.  The project is currently focused on delivery of Chronocodes technology for packaging of food and drinks in relation to perishable items whilst at the same time scoping other opportunities in the labelling and packaging space.



ChronoCode technology can help everyone in the product delivery chain to save costs by reducing waste and helping to tailor service provision to specific need in a more efficient manner. Producers and packagers can be confident of quality, based on the enhanced traceability of the product within a given environment over time. Likewise wholesalers, retailers and consumers can trace product quality in real time avoiding unnecessary waste and cost. When integrated with barcode information and package messaging this makes it impossible to sell perishable products based on their actual status. In addition, it makes it easier to identify items that should not be consumed and to isolate those items close to perishing in an automated fashion. No intervention would be necessary in order to ensure the smooth running of the process if bar code scanners were suitably programmed. 



Opportunity/Partnership Sought

Fergus Begley

Technology Commercialisation Manager,

Research & Innovation,

Ulster University, 

Tel: +44 (0) 28 7167 5636