Hi, and thank you for your interest in printed electronics! Our labels are non-toxic, but made of plastic adhesive and meant for disposable goods. This means that after use, the labels are discarded along with the packaging to which it is attached. We therefore have to follow normal recycling procedures as we would for any wrapping or packaging.
Printed electronics is just starting to take off and we are still in the development phase of how this industry will look. Environmental concerns will certainly need to be addressed. In the US alone, food waste is a rampant problem: for example last year, a Natural Resources Defense Council report showed that 40% of food in the US – or about $165 billion worth – goes unused each year. Food production accounts for about 80% of the nation's fresh water consumption; so with 40% of food wasted, 25% of our fresh water is wasted, too. Finally, many consumers discard food items based on "sell by" rather than "use by" dates. Printed electronic smart labels can help change at least part of the waste equation by telling us exactly when the milk goes sour.
Regarding the second point, our labels don´t actually need a unique IP address. The label "talks" to a reader and as of now it is not connected to the cloud. And with IPv6 adoption underway worldwide, there should be more than enough space for the whole Internet of Things, as more and more devices start to get connected in the years to come.
"A set of printed methods used to create electrical devices on various substrates, Printed Electronics uses common printing equipment, such as screen-printing, flexography, gravure, offset lithography, or ink jet printing."
Heidi, how this printed electronics are different from printed circuit boards. Normally components are mounted over this board for inter connectivity and placing.
Excellent point WK. Too little planning is put into a lot of these "dreams". Just think of the issue of defunct sattelites in orbit, there's so much trash up there now that sattelites are trashed by the debris, and now (finally) they are starting to add end of life strategies. This will end up being the same fiasco.
The wondeful smartlabels do represent one more product to put in our landfills, since it is quite unlikely that there will be any recycling done with them, both because it would be inconvenient and because recycling the used ones will cut into the profit to be made selling new ones. Another concern that those hoping to flood the universe with a huge cloud of connected things is the recycling of the unique addresses in that internet of things. Consider a factory producing a bottle of aspirin every second, and then consider that adds an additional 3600 unique identities every hour, 144,000 new identities every week. Now look at the display in your avarage pharmacy, Walgreens, for example, and conside the total number of identities being created for the IOT dream. Do we really want a world that must have 128 digit IP addresses? And how can they be reassigned until it can be verified that the previous holder is no longer in existance?
My point being that assigning identities is a very big deal and should probably be considered very carefully prior to starting up this monster. Or possibly start with every item having it's own unique 128 digit address. And decide who will take care of it and avoid duplications.
Thanks for the info, Heidi. Do you know of any environmental issues with these labels? What would a grocery store do with hundreds of these labels every day? Can they be returned to the issuer and reused? Do they just get thrown in the trash? Are there any chemicals that present environmental concern?
Thanks for such an informative article, Heidi. Thiscertainly sounds like a good IoT-enabling technology, sort of like an RFID for the IoT. The ability to store and transfer data via these smart labels will certainly provide a good basis for the type of device interconnectedness that will be necessary for the IoT.
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