Are You Ready For A “Smart” Whiskey Bottle That Can Talk To Your iPhone? Johnnie Walker Is

By Nino Kilgore-Marchetti / February 25, 2015

Johnnie Walker smart whiskey bottle

Is the world ready for so called “smart” whiskey bottles? We may soon find out, courtesy of a prototype “connected” bottle tied to the popular Johnnie Walker Blue Label blended Scotch. This bottling, created by spirits giant Diageo and printed electronics and smart systems developer Thinfilm Electronics, will be unveiled early next month at a mobile technologies industry event.

The smart bottle makes use of attached printed sensor tags from Thinfilm that host technology to detect both the sealed and open state of the glass container. The “OpenSense” technology, as it is called, can also connect to a consumer smartphone’s “Near Field Communication (NFC) capabilities” to send personalized communications to those who read the tags through their mobile devices.

Now, if you are thinking this means subtle ads appearing from Diageo on your iPhone, your mind is at least partially right in this regard. According to those involved with this, the technology

will make it possible to send consumers targeted and timely marketing messages, whether at retail or after purchase, such as promotional offers, cocktail recipes and exclusive content.

Johnnie Walker smart whisky bottleDiageo and Thinfilm see this as a step up for bottle technology from traditional, static QR codes one might scan with their smartphone to get the same type of info. Cited examples of this evolution include moving away from it being “difficult to read” the older coding via the scanning through your phone’s camera method, as all one would have to do now is simply “tap” the NFC smartphone to the bottle to get the data.

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There are also some industry uses seen for this prototype technology outside of pushing you marketing messages. For example, Diageo would now be able to “track bottle movements across the supply chain, in-store and to the point of consumption, with the sensor tags remaining readable even when the factory seal has been broken, providing an additional layer of security in protecting the authenticity of the product.”

“We constantly experiment with the latest cutting edge technologies to enrich and enhance the experiences delivered by our iconic brands,” said Helen Michels, Global Innovation Director, Futures Team at Diageo, in a statement. “Our collaboration with Thinfilm allows us to explore all the amazing new possibilities enabled by smart-bottles for consumers, retailers and our own business, and it sets the bar for technology innovation in the drinks industry.”

Johnnie Walker NFC Tag

Close up of an OpenSense NFC tag. (image via Diageo/Thinfilm)

As a former technology journalist and now whiskey blogger, I have very mixed feelings on this movement towards “smart” bottles. There’s always the cool-ooo-ah feeling when something like this is announced, but in the same token do I really want my Johnnie Walker (or any other whiskey for that matter) to be “connected?” I also wonder about whether the overall cost of a bottle of printed sensor tag enabled Scotch might be higher to the end consumer versus one that is not tech enabled. These questions and concerns will remain to be seen I think until the first bottles of smart whiskey appear at retail, if ever.


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