IKEA is looking into the area of Printed Electronics (PE) for ideas that could transform its operations. As a first step, the company will run two Open Innovation Challenges. The challenges are in the areas of Digital Communication Carriers and E-Labels.

E-Labels: Part of the IKEA way of working is designing and producing products to be sellable in a large number of markets, to avoid product versions and to keep cost down. One way of achieving few product versions, over time, could be changeable product information. The company is therefore looking into electronic labels that can display different product information, depending on which market they are sold on.

The idea is to attach a “blank” e-label in production that can be activated at a point in the value chain where the product’s destination is known. This means that the e-label needs to be able to communicate to trigger the display of information that is either downloaded or stored.

Once activated, the display needs to be able to maintain its information, which includes complex, substantial text and symbols in roman and non-roman letters. Label sizes vary, depending on product, but have up to 15 cm sides. Possible approaches include, but are not limited to, pixelated displays, electrochromic displays or layered solutions.

Digital Communication Carriers, based on PE technology: A communication carrier within IKEA is the media conveying product information. This media is normally analog and attached to the product or found in the IKEA store as in-store communication.

With the development of PE, communicating with smartphones or tablets for example, IKEA wishes to investigate the possibilities for digital communication carriers as part of its operations. This could be, but is not limited to, hardware such as RFID or NFC technologies, software such as app functionality or technical services supporting the IKEA customer and/or enhancing the IKEA experience.

The main purpose of the challenge is to establish new ways of creating customer value that are not possible with current, analog communication carriers, in order to serve customers in a better way, enhance efficiencies in sales, enhance the value chain and diversify IKEA customer communication.

There is a timeline on these opportunities. For more info and a copy of the Challenges Proposal Template contact Andrew Manly at AIPIA, andrew@aipia.info.