Monday, 22 April 2019 22:56

Tasmanian distillery puts NFC to work

Old Kempton Distillery business manager and brand ambassador Robbie Gilligan Old Kempton Distillery business manager and brand ambassador Robbie Gilligan

Whisky and gin producer Old Kempton Distillery is applying NFC tags to bottles in order to make life difficult for counterfeiters and to improve communication with customers.

Old Kempton Distillery saw that NFC technology could not only help protect against the problems of counterfeiting and grey marketing, but also provide a way to communicate with customers after the initial sale.

“Old Kempton Distillery makes one of the world’s finest whiskies, and with counterfeiting in our industry becoming a global issue, we recognised the need to take proactive steps to protect our brand,” said Old Kempton Distillery business manager and brand ambassador Robbie Gilligan.

“We were seeking the best brand protection technology available and a solution that would also allow us to securely engage with our customers, long after a sale. We believe that HID Trusted Tag Services and the support provided through AusNFC provide just that.”

Customers can scan bottles prior to purchase in order to see which barrel the whisky came from, what type of barrel it was, how long it had been aged, along with the bottle number and other information that assures authenticity.

Whisky and gin currently appeal to a younger market than previously, with growing interest among women.

"Everybody's using phones these days," and with this system one tap is enough to get information about the bottle, Gilligan said

Android phones can read NFC tags natively. NFC is been supported in the iPhone 7 and later, but an app is required.

"No one else is doing it [NFC tagging] in our industry," Gilligan told iTWire, so this provides the company with an additional point of difference.

Bars and bottle shops like the technology, and are educating their customers about it.

"We got some really good feedback from customers," he added.

The tags have helped to build brand loyalty, as customers see OKD's investment as being in their interests, and have helped cement the distillery's reputation as a source of premium spirits.

The combination of HID Trusted Tag Services and AusNFC's Web application generates a unique code every time a tag is scanned (making false verification practically impossible), and reports the geographic location of the scan.

This allows the company to see where bottles are sold (especially useful for planning overseas distribution arrangements), and how long a bottle stays in use (if a bottle is in a bar and it is tapped an unusually high number of times, that could indicate that it is being refilled with a lesser product).

“HID’s IoT technology is enabling mass adoption of brand protection by major brands worldwide that are seeking to address more sophisticated attempts by fraudsters focused on imitating their products,” said HID Global director of business development and strategic innovation Mark Robinton.

“Manufacturers and consumers alike can rest assured that their product can be authenticated at every stage of its lifecycle, from production to the shopping bag.”

Another advantage of the system is that it allows OKD to update the information displayed in the digital label, providing a way of keeping in touch with customers and providing information such as the location of stockists.

The tags are also useful for tracking individual bottles within the distillery, for example to check whether excise has been paid on a particular bottle.

The use of NFC tags is claimed to have streamlined various internal processes, allowing the distillery to get more done with a disproportionately small increase in staff time.

Applying the tags and setting up the data is a simple process. The information is entered once for the batch, and then the first and last bottle are scanned so the data can be automatically applied to each bottle's record.

Although the tags cost around $1 each, that's a small fraction of the $200+ price of a bottle of OKD whisky, so "it was worth doing", Gilligan told iTWire. "It gives us [and our customers] more security."

As a small brand in a big market, OKD is concerned that counterfeiters may try to take advantage of its — and Tasmania's — reputation. "We saw the value in this early on", and now other Tasmanian producers are looking at the system.

"Aye, it's good," said Gilligan, noting that the company is excited to see additional ways of using the tags.

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Stephen Withers

Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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