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Never Lose a Package With This Paper-Thin 5G Tracking Label That Has a Printed Battery Inside

The Smart Label offers similar functionality to Apple's AirTags but is just two millimeters thick.

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The Pod Group's ultra-thin Smart Label tracker attached to a cardboard box against a white background.
Image: Pod Group

How often have you checked the status of a shipment through a carrier’s website only to find its expected ETA and current location wildly inaccurate? With these smart shipping labels that can be stuck to boxes and even letter mail, the precise location of a package is always known thanks to an always-on 5G connection that broadcasts its whereabouts.

Tracking devices used for important or sensitive packages being shipped around the world aren’t a new idea, but most require the package to be of a certain size to accommodate the hardware. In other words, you have to pay to ship a box. And while Apple’s AirTags managed to dramatically shrink the size of location trackers by taking advantage of the millions of iPhones in the wild around the world, they’re designed around a CR2032 coin battery and are eight millimeters thick. That’s four times as thick as the Pod Group’s new smart labels.

An example of the Pod Group's ultra-thin Smart Label tracker that looks like a regular black and white shipping label.
Image: Pod Group
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Taking advantage of both innovations in ultra-thin printed battery technology and low-power 5G cellular chips, the Smart Label is just two millimeters thick and can be attached to packages, including envelopes containing documents, like any adhesive label. They’re also removable and reusable as the printed alkaline batteries inside can last up to six months on a charge depending on how often they’re in use, before being recycled.

The Smart Label’s creators believe the unobtrusive tracking device will help make supply chains more efficient. That’s because not only can a shipper set up geofenced notifications to know when a package arrives or departs specific locations, but the label also includes a temperature sensor that can indicate when foods or medicines have been exposed to problematic conditions and a motion sensor that knows when and where an item has been dropped or aggressively banged around. It might not offer any additional protection, but it can help point the finger if a package arrives damaged or compromised.

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Being thinner and potentially easier to hide than an AirTag (the Smart Labels seem incredibly easy to stick to the underside of a vehicle) does raise privacy and security concerns. But whereas anyone can purchase and start using an AirTag right out of the box, the Smart Label’s use of cellular connectivity (instead of quietly reporting its location to Apple devices) hopefully means there’s more accountability when it comes to who is using these, and for what purpose.