New labeling technology would allow you to tap-and-receive data on an item before you buy.
smart food packaging
Credit: Courtesy of Active & Intelligent Packaging Industry Association

Smartphones. Smart watches. Smart thermostats. Smart speakers. Smart power switches. Smart pet cameras. Smart smoke detectors. Smart vacuums. We have so many smart things that it was only a matter of time before we welcomed smart packaging into our grocery stores—and that time could be right around the corner.

The NFC Forum announced this week it's partnering with the Active & Intelligent Packaging Industry Association and the Wireless Power Consortium to bring new, intelligent labels, interactive tags, and time-temperature monitors—using near field communication—to stores. With this smart packaging, consumers could instantly read about food before purchasing them—without having to scan anything at all.

Near field communication isn't anything new; currently, the tech is used for e-tickets and mobile payments, while some food products already come with QR codes that allow customers to scan and download information about their origin. What would make this packaging different is that it wouldn't require an app—or a scan—on the customer's part. Instead, the data in this tech is tap-and-receive—just get your phone close enough to the label and the information appears on-screen.

The "AIPIA believes that implementation of new technologies in packaging is key to growth, enhanced efficiency and security, reduced waste and better control in sales and marketing," the association said in a press release. That release did not include a time table for when the tech could come to stores.

If you can't wait for the new tech, take heart that at least QR codes are becoming more common on food packaging. For example, Arkansas livestock farmers also announced this week that they will use blockchain technology—aka QR codes—on packages of their meat. With a scan, customers will be able to read about where the meat came from and how the animals were raised, according to a press release. And of course, foods that contain GMO ingredients are now required to place QR codes on their packaging so that consumers can know exactly what they're eating.