A U.K.-based company said it has created the first shipping label embedded with a tracking device that’s connected to a 5G cellular network, enabling users to print tracking labels at scale from a standard thermal barcode printer.
The company, Reelables, was founded in 2018 to develop label-tracking technology for freight forwarders. It has now expanded into the parcel delivery market, a segment where tens of millions of labels are printed each day.
The technology, which is also available to retailers, will allow for shipment tracking without the need for manual intervention to scan barcodes as shipments move through the supply chain. This eliminates the risk of human error and results in precise tracking information at the piece level, Reelables said.
The technology is a breakthrough in the field of printed electronics by fabricating an active device with coated zinc batteries that share a common paper-thin wireless circuit, according to Reelables. The technology can be used where shipping labels are already being printed by changing existing label media to Reelables, the company said.
Reelables labels automatically collect actual location data from the cellular network data and trigger events the moment a shipment arrives or departs a warehouse or waypoint or an exception is detected, the company said.
Reelables said the underlying technology is a reel-to-reel, thin-film manufacturing process that enables it to make ultra-thin and extremely cost-efficient wireless circuits into smart labels.
A key part of the core technology is the integration of a coated zinc battery on the same base material shared with a wireless circuit. Reelables said this is a big differentiator from companies that are still using conventional lithium batteries in their tracking devices. Lithium is also classified as a dangerous good, which is problematic for high-volume applications and safe air transport.
Reelables said the 5G smart label solution is ideally suited for manufacturers or retailers that are shipping time-critical, high-value goods and don’t control the infrastructure along their logistics corridors.
“This is a major breakthrough when it comes to supply chain visibility and automation,” said Brian Krejcarek, CEO and co-founder of Reelables. “Achieving mass production and pervasive deployment of these thin film wireless smart labels will change how businesses track items, reduce theft and loss, and demonstrate accountability to their customers.”