Pharma & Medical

Designing packages with a healing touch

Posted: February 15, 2012 by
Linda Casey

It’s not every day that you hear a packaging idea that could save lives. But that’s exactly the gift that Ben Miyares, Packaging Management Institute managing director and Package Design editorial advisory board member, shared with me this January.

Inspired by a recent technology demonstration by packaging supplier Innovia Films and logic circuit manufacturer PragmatIC Printing of a successful integration of electronics onto a printed label made from a common type of polyester, Miyares suggested that the packaging concept could be developed for pharmaceutical compliance applications.

The reason I share Miyares’ excitement was that Innovia Films’ and PragmatIC Printing’s blinking bottle labels are a touch different from electronic labels we’ve seen in the past. The prototype’s variable display—a sequence of flashing lights—is activated when the bottle is held. It has an intuitive user interface.

A look at the consumer electronics world shows us how important an intuitive user interface can be. Most folks, whether they carry an Android, BlackBerry, or iOS device, acknowledge that Steve Jobs changed the mobile phone category forever when he unveiled the iPhone in 2007.
But the idea of phones that run applications wasn’t new. Long before 2007, Nokia fans were downloading apps for their Symbian OS phones.

And the idea of electronic pharmaceutical compliance packaging isn’t new, either. Today, there are fully commercialized blister card and carton systems that use electronics to encourage and track whether people are taking their medicine correctly and on time. But the complexity of these systems sometimes requires more effort than taking the medicine itself.

If the technology could be refined to respond to touch the way modern smartphones do, it could actually get patients to use their compliance packaging and take their medication—thus saving lives. And more than patients and pharmaceutical package designers could benefit from the technology. It could be adapted to create on-shelf, interactive marketing experiences that would make QR codes look primitive in comparison.

The key would be making interactive packaging not such a pill.