Paco Rabanne’s Phantom cologne is made with a futuristic style that includes a robot bottle with built-in intelligence via NFC, so users can tap their phones to access games and music, as well as reorder or refill their eau de toilette.
Dec 22, 2021Parisian fashion and fragrance company Paco Rabanne has built Near Field Communication (NFC) technology into its latest men’s fragrance, Phantom, to provide a new level of engagement for its customers. The technology is intended to provide users with automated digital access to what the company calls the Phantom Universe.
This digital universe, accessible via a smartphone, features what Paco Rabanne describes as a futuristic-style gaming experience, links to music, and reordering offers for those who purchase the fragrance. The solution employs STMicroelectronics‘ ST25TV integrated circuit, built into Paragon ID inlays that are encapsulated into the product’s Phantom bottlecap by Faiveley Plast (VPI), which provides the injection molding, decoration and assembly of the bottle’s NFC-enabled spray cap.
Paco Rabanne, which opened for business in 1966, was founded by the same-named Spanish fashion designer to offer luxury accessories and perfumes worldwide. Throughout the past few years, the company had been looking to technology as it considered developing a fragrance product with a futuristic appeal, not only in its appearance but in how users could engage with it. “For years, we had a project with a robot design” for a new product, with a futuristic theme that extends into space, says Fabien Leclercq, Paco Rabanne’s packaging-development manager.
Earlier this year, Leclercq says, the company met with STMicroelectronics to discuss how its product could be automatically linked to the digital world. The result is a new connected product that was released in September. “Phantom brings a new dimension to users and a pathway to the digital universe,” he states. The product is packaged in a connected bottle sized at 100 milliliters (3.4 ounces) and 150 milliliters (5.1 ounces). A smaller bottle does not include the NFC connectivity.
During early development efforts, STMicroelectronics worked with Paragon ID and Faiveley Plast to determine how the NFC technology could be incorporated into a challenging form factor, according to Giuliana Curro, STMicroelectronics’ marketing and business-development manager. “We realized NFC could be a gateway to expand their initial idea to bring to life a robot,” she recalls. “It’s not just a static bottle but a gateway to another world.” However, the companies required an effective chip and antenna design small enough to fit in the spray top.
The technology selected includes the NFC-certified Type 5 tag IC, which Curro says provides a reliable read when a smartphone is placed at most orientations above the bottlecap. The contactless interface on the ST25TV device is compatible with the ISO 15693 standard. The ST25TV is NFC Forum-certified, ensuring interoperability with all NFC-enabled smartphones. Paragon ID provided a small, custom-designed antenna suited for the limited space available, to allow operability around the shiny chrome-metal finishing of the cap, smartphone or tablet. Consumers can now use the cap for multiple purposes, she reports.
VPI manufactures the spray bottlecaps with the NFC technology built in. The company sends each bottle and cap to Paco Rabanne, which uses an NFC reader to confirm every 13.56 MHz tag is operating, then fills each robot-style bottle with the Phantom fragrance. The product is packaged in a box with printed instructions explaining how to access the NFC-based content, and the cap displays a logo indicating where the phone should be tapped.
No app is necessary—users can simply tap their Android-based phone or Apple iPhone against the bottlecap. The NFC reader in the phone will then capture the tag’s ID number, prompting the device to open a URL. Initially, users are provided with a playlist of songs at the top of the charts on a day they can select—a person’s birthday, for example. The system comes with an Instagram sticker in the shape of a robot so users can create selfies to post on the social-media platform.
In the future, the company reports, the content is expected to evolve. Users can employ the solution to reorder product when it is running out. The firm also focuses on sustainability and, therefore, enables customers to purchase ecofriendly containers of product that can be refilled into the robot bottles. By tapping their NFC phone against each tag, they can view a video showing how to refill the container. The company intends to develop the Web services in-house.
Because the NFC tags are built directly into the bottlecaps before they arrive at Paco Rabanne’s site, Leclercq says, the technology has been simple to deploy. This simplicity was a key requirement for Paco Rabanne, he explains, adding, “We wanted it to be something that was simple to add” to the manufacturing process. The only change to the processes that the technology required was for tags to be interrogated to ensure they were working properly before product was poured into the bottles.
Paco Rabanne says it will continue to expand the Phantom Universe concept to offer other features and entertainment. “It’s meant to be enlarged little by little,” Leclercq says. The goal is to enable users of the fragrance to come back to the bottle for new content over time. It’s too early to know how consumers are responding to the NFC connectivity, he adds, though sales for the perfume have been high. The technology is not capturing data regarding where or when engagements take place for analytics purposes, though that could be an option in the future. “There are a lot more things we can do with it,” he states. “It’s a good path for the future.”
The ST25TV is part of ST’s NFC and RFID tag IC series, which offers various modes to protect tag access, including kill and untraceable modes, as well as a 64-bit encrypted password with a failed-attempt counter to protect read and write access to user memory. It features a digital signature that can prove the chip’s origin for the purpose of cloning detection, as well as tamper-detection functionality.
In addition, Curro says, STMicroelectronics has launched an initiative known as ST25Connect, which enables brands like Paco Rabanne to connect with all stakeholders in the value chain, in order to add NFC in their final products. This includes luxury goods, wine and spirits, healthcare and wellness, pharmaceuticals, consumer packaged goods and apparel.