Instead of reading a label, consumers could be interacting with an electronic screen on packaging in the future, thanks to a development by scientists at the University of Sheffield. The scientists collaborated with technology company Novalia to create a new way of displaying information on packaging, a move that could revolutionize the packaging industry.

This technology could be used in greetings cards or products where a customer could receive a simple message. More complex developments could include a countdown timer on the side of a packet to indicate when a timed product was ready such as hair-dye, pregnancy tests, or home-baking using a “traffic lights” system.

The team says a screen can be fixed onto packaging to display information. The process involves printing electronic tracks onto paper and then fixing low-cost electronics and a polymer LED display to the paper using an adhesive that conducts electricity.

Working together, University of Sheffield scientists and Novalia designed and constructed a touch-pad keyboard on the paper that allows a user to selectively “drive” the LEDs in the display.

Professor David Lidzey from the University's Department of Physics and Astronomy says, "Labels on packaging could become much more innovative and allow customers to interact with and explore new products. The use of displays or light-emitting panels on packaging will also allow companies to communicate brand awareness in a more sophisticated manner."