Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

European PING consortium aims for next generation smart, interactive printing to facilitate IoT

William Payne
March 19, 2015
In a move that could bring about more rapid and flexible factory-based M2M communications between both equipment and products and production infrastructure, six European companies have formed a consortium to productise laboratory developments in flexible electronics. Drawn from  four different European countries,  Cartamundi, Van Genechten Packaging, PragmatIC, SMARTRAC, Holst Centre/TNO and imec have launched PING (Printed Intelligent NFC Game cards and packaging).
The overall goal of the PING consortium is the creation of a platform that enables and facilitates the production of smart printed objects based on new technologies. According to the consortium, flexible thin-film electronics and printed materials, like cards, stickers and packaging, make a perfect combination to realise the Internet of Things. 
The collaboration has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and industrial innovation programme. Horizon 2020 is an €80 billion flagship EU programme to implement translational research – that is, taking research currently in the laboratory and facilitating a rapid transition to marketable products and industrial use. The first component of the Horizon 2020 programme is Factories of the Future.
The PING collaboration intends to establish, within three years, a standardized low cost and high volume manufacturing flow for embedding wireless identification and power transfer technology into printed objects, such as packaging, cards, stickers, and printable substrates such as paper, cardboard, and plastic. The process, based on innovative thin-film electronics, will enable the identification and interaction of printed objects through standard near field communications (NFC) and radio frequency identification (RFID) reading devices such as smartphones.
The project will also explore the integration of additional features such as sensors, displays and sound, ultimately paving the way to the realisation of the ‘Internet of Things’ and the ‘Internet of Games’.   Imec and TNO will focus on the development of a flexible thin-film technology and chip design. PragmatIC will work with imec and TNO to align developed designs with its own mass manufacturing processes, transferring future generation NFC chips into commercial production. SMARTRAC will contribute its expertise in antenna design and printing technologies with a special focus on the connection interface between the printed antenna and TFT electronics. Cartamundi and Van Genechten Packaging will perform the last step of the supply chain: embedding the electronics in printed products. 
Cartamundi, Holst Centre/TNO and imec already started working together to establish the knowledge platform for integrated circuit (IC) design in thin-film technologies, targeting NFC chip as a minimum viable product demonstrator. With this background and the help of the new consortium partners, the PING consortium claims that all its members will be able to bring these first realisations to the next level and to establish a complete and reliable supply chain for volume manufacturing.