European fashion house Paco Rabanne has launched a new fragrance for men in a connected bottle which has an embedded STMicroelectronics NFC (near-field communication) tag chip to gives its customers access to its online ‘Phanton Universe’ experience.
Access to Paco Rabanne’s Phantom Universe is enabled by ST’s chip, the ST25TV, which is encapsulated into the innovative Phantom-bottle cap. The cap meets the technical and aesthetic needs of Paco Rabanne’s Phantom fragrance, and was developed through close collaboration among ST, Paco Rabanne, tag inlay-specialist Paragon ID, and VPI (FaiveleyPlastBeauty), an expert in injection molding, decoration, and assembly.
Together, the partners worked out how to embed a general-purpose, NFC-certified Type 5 tag IC for maximum operating volume and range along with a custom small antenna into a space-constrained perfume bottle cap where the parasitic effects of the shiny chrome-metal finishing can wreak havoc on connectivity. Using NFC eliminates the need for a battery in the cap, as the tag gets powered by the contactless fields between the tag IC and the connecting device —typically a smartphone, or tablet.
Yvon Gourdou, EMEA application and marketing Director for microcontrollers and digital ICs at STMicroelectronics, explained the context, “Paco Rabanne challenged us to help them develop a pioneering use case: a connected, user-friendly, sustainable luxury bottle for a new fragrance. With our partners, we built a novel solution built on a standard product and a proven design methodology, now available for consumer and luxury brands globally. Phantom’s bottle brings together cutting-edge contemporary design, sustainability with a refill system, and user-friendly connected services enabled by the integration of our ST25TV NFC tag IC in a challenging environment.”
Fabien Leclercq, packaging development manager at Paco Rabanne, added, “Innovative in the approach and futuristic in the fragrance and bottle appearance, Phantom brings a new dimension to users and a pathway to the digital universe, allowing them to meet their new ‘Wingman’. Our own luxury craftmanship, combined with high-tech knowhow and expertise from STMicroelectronics brought our vision to reality.”
The ST25TV is part of ST’s NFC/RFID tag IC series, which offers specific modes to protect tag access, including kill and untraceable modes, 64-bit encrypted password with a failed attempt counter to protect read/write access to user memory, and a digital signature that can be used to prove the origin of the chip in cloning detection. A tamper detection option is also available. The ST25TV tag ICs also contain a configurable EEPROM with 60-year data retention and can be operated from a 13.56 MHz long-range RFID reader or an NFC phone.
The contactless interface on the ST25TV devices is compatible with the ISO/IEC 15693 standard and NFC Forum Type 5 tag. The ST25TV is NFC Forum certified, which ensures interoperability with all NFC-enabled smartphones.
What exactly is the connected bottle experience?
So Phantom is being called by the companies as the first connected fragrance in the world. But what exactly is this?
Well, the bottle houses an ST25TV02K NFC tag in its spray cap, enabling Paco Rabanne to offer customers access to its online world. Users bring their phone to the bottle and a notification appears sending them to a URL. The container, shaped like a robot, thus becomes a gateway to the fragrance’s world and services. At the moment, Paco Rabanne offers customers a playlist of songs that were at the top of the charts on a specific day of a particular month. For instance, customers can see all the trending songs on their birthday throughout the years. The company also provides an Instagram sticker in the shape of the robot for whimsical selfies. The first bottles became available mid-July to travel retail stores only. Paco Rabanne has then been releasing its new fragrance to stores worldwide during August.
In a blog, STMicroelectronics explained that NFC has brought the ability to add electronics to items that previously had none. For instance, some winemakers now use type-5 tags for anti-tampering, asset tracking, and brand building. However, adding digital connectivity to a product can be a minefield. The technology must work everywhere, regardless of each country’s regulations. The experience must be flawless for all customers, or users will hate it, negatively impacting the overall brand. In addition, there must be a significant added value, or the technology will appear meaningless.
Paco Rabanne has taken a different approach to most companies that add NFC to their products. Companies integrating NFC into their product often consider using the technology to track inventories, prevent theft, or simplify customer support. However, with Phantom, Paco Rabanne went beyond the simple robot shape to create a gateway to its online services.