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The Contactless World Pre and Post COVID, Opportunities in the IoT Landscape

Mister Beacon Episode #120

· Mr Beacon

Why would you want Near Field Communication, or more commonly known as NFC, technology in soccer balls, hand bags, and COVID testing kits? After this conversation with Avery Dennison’s Head of NFC business, Amir Khoshniyati, you’ll be asking ‘Why not?’.

To name a few uses that Amir mentions, the unique ID that NFC provides can enable authenticity, consumer engagement and loyalty, and supply chain visibility. Avery Dennison, who recently acquired Smartrac, are a company whose products are used in almost every industry. These include ‘pressure-sensitive materials for labels and graphic applications; tapes and other bonding solutions for industrial, medical, and retail applications; tags, labels and embellishments for apparel; and radio frequency identification (RFID) solutions serving retail apparel and other markets.’ NFC technology falls under the RFID umbrella, of which they are the world’s largest provider. Tune in this week to learn about the use cases NFC are enabling today, uniquely in COVID times, and the upcoming opportunities in the IoT landscape.


Narration 00:07

The Mr. Beacon podcast is sponsored by Wiliot, scaling IoT with battery free Bluetooth.

Steve Statler 00:16

Welcome to the Mr. Beacon podcast. Wonderful to have you with us through these trying times it's gonna get better. And one of the reasons is going to get better is we're gonna have a scintillating conversation with Amir Khoshniyati, who is head of the NFC business at Avery Dennison. Amir, Welcome to the show.

Amir Khoshniyati 00:38

Thank you, Steve. Happy to be here.

Steve Statler 00:40

We've got a lot to talk about. I think it's for anyone that's in the IoT business, they need to know about Avery Dennison, you're huge. You've got huge IP with the acquisition of Smartrac. I'd like to talk about, you know, General premise for people who need to understand that part of the landscape. You've been driving driving NFC key part of contactless, I want to talk about that. And then if we have time, let's talk a bit about what a region is doing. You guys are already invested in a company. And I think it's kind of cool because people might look at Avery Dennison and they'll think of labels QR codes. They'll think of UHF RFID. They'll think about NFC and then there's suddenly this Bluetooth thing isn't that competitive. So if we have time, let's talk about that. But first off, help us get up to speed on Avery Dennison, people have seen the Avery label. But that's actually not you anymore, is it?

Amir Khoshniyati 01:46

So I guess it's a combination. So I'll start there. And we'll start building the storyline from there. I think from a this last, it's been almost, you know, 10 months that we're we have the ball rolling here. It's been very exciting. I think as much as COVID has slowed down the economic landscape, we feel like we're running over 100 miles an hour right now with with the integrations and what we've been able to do as tour massive organizations coming together. When you look at the RFID landscape, we were really number one and number two, and now we're one plus because of the size, the innovation, and then basically the creativity that goes into what we're doing. Traditionally, I think Avery has always been very competitive in our in our landscape. On the UHF side. On the NFC side, I think we've we've had a very strong footprint. So merging the two together, it's given us an extra horsepower into every client engagement and all our existing clients now have a much broader portfolio to build from. And then we're also seeing that there's now different hooks as we get into new engagement, so they might be interested in UHF. And then we could come in with our NFC and platform capabilities. And very similar on the other side of the fence. If someone was interested in consumer engagement, and more building on the contact list POS solutions they have, UHF can come in and then hopefully give them that visibility into their supply chains in a way they've never had. So these two coming together has been really exciting. I think it's kept us busier than ever. And then you build this whole RFID landscape now on top of everything we're able to do from a converting standpoint, and with all our labels and those competencies. So it really gives us a good formula for for success.

Steve Statler 03:39

Well let's break this down a little bit because you mentioned the word converting and maybe not everyone understands what that that means so what what are the the big businesses within Avery Dennison that I mentioned Avery used to make the labels that we all bought at Office Depot and I think you've sold the Avery brand is related but it's really a separate thing as I understand it. What's what are the pillars of Avery Dennison now?

Amir Khoshniyati 04:10

So Avery Dennison, and that Avery group to eluding to your point that that has been sold. So we really three main business units, we have our printer Solutions Group, we have our labels graphics group. So that's really the converting the sticker labels and things you see, that could be coupled with RFID. And then we have our RBS group, which is really a focus on retail. And then we have intelligent labels that sits within that. And within labels is where you see our RFID tags is okay.

Steve Statler 04:41

So let's focus on the intelligent labels stuff because printers and all that sort of thing. That's a whole other episode. I think. And just to explain what you don't do, you're not a chip manufacturer, right? You buy chips from companies like Willie art and much bigger companies. The traditionally the providers of the brain have an NFC or an RFID tag, what, you know, when you buy a wafer, what what happens next? How does that wafer turn into a tag? Sure, so

Amir Khoshniyati 05:16

we have many suppliers out there some some, from a volume standpoint, they do much bigger business than others. Obviously, their capabilities and innovations kind of Roland says same same line. So they they provide us with to your point, the brain of the tag itself, or differentiator here is the antenna designs. So everything from the design to relate the deployment and ultimately, the manufacturing of that tag is what we do end to end. So we'll buy that as a bill of material that that ship itself will be delivered in a wafer format. And we have a few variations on the sizes, depending on the supplier, we put them on our machines, whether we have two different methods of basically picking those ICS will attach them within our two methodologies. finished the tag themselves. And then we have basically a roll of tags, and we'll be able to deliver to the customer. What we've been able to master definitely on the NFC side this last year is the ability to also encode on those same lines, and then also have the competency to convert those tags as well for our customers. UHF, this has always been the process. But for NFC, this has been always a finite run. And we've always tacked on additional cost to actually bring that tag itself to life associated to the product and then also convert it to put labels and different things on top of it. So really proud to say we can now deliver that at massive volumes, all within one line, which is very exciting.

Steve Statler 06:49

Just explain this converting word. What does that mean?

Amir Khoshniyati 06:52

So converting means you have basically an inlay you'll see an antenna design, converting means that you can actually take it and have a material placed on it and printed on top of it. So you may be able to convert in a format of it sitting as a hang tag. So if you walk into a department store, you see brand names, maybe a barcode, something of a similar format, sometimes they have 234 color variations, that's converting being done. So if you take that hang tag, you hold it up to the light, usually you might see the RFID inlay either embedded between two pieces of paper, cardboard over the material is that's the ability to do that all within one house, versus just producing the inlay itself and then outsourcing it to somebody else to to package into the final product.

Steve Statler 07:38

So the inlay is like the skeleton, you've got the chip from, say, NXP or an impinj that then gets gets glued to an antenna. That's, I don't know, they etched edge aluminum or aluminium as I would say in my homeland. And it's on some kind of substrate which paper plastic. So that's kind of the skeleton. And then this conversion you described is taking that thing, which is the kind of looks similar to to to this only with chips glued on it. And you wrap that up in something that looks fantastic and is appropriate for the brand. My understanding is that you don't do the conversion for so your product is in many tags when you don't do the conversion. Is that the case?

Amir Khoshniyati 08:30

That's correct. So in many cases, RFID in general doesn't require line of sight. And that's the beauty of it. So when you do converting, you're actually hiding the tag itself. And you may have an overlay that whether it's branding purposes, or second to that it might be actually a barcode. So it works in complimentary to to some systems that aren't retrofitted for RFID infrastructure. So for us, the converting traditionally has been outsourced. So a group might come in, and they might buy a bulk of tags and the multi millions, they have many customers under their umbrella. And then those customers what they'll do, they'll convert it specifically for their use cases, whether it's going on a piece of packaging with a sticker on top, whether it's going on a hang tag in a department store, whatever the case may be. But the nice thing is now coming in under the Avery umbrella, we do have the ability to now do it at much higher volumes. But then at the same time, we have an IP now that we brought in from our legacy business from the smarttrack side. That gives us much more variability on the product portfolio and offer which is very exciting.

Steve Statler 09:39

Yeah, so So tell us a bit about so you run the you're like expanding the NFC business. What's the significance of being coding what what am i encoding on an NFC tag?

Amir Khoshniyati 09:55

So traditionally, when we were doing encoding, they were finite runs when we were starting our early engagements and the early customers that were coming to us, and encoding is a very, very fun thing to do, from my perspective, when you get involved with the brands, because what you're doing, you're giving that product at the manufacturing level at Digital birth certificate, meaning that if you're designing a ball, you're the data. So the world where you're designing a handbag like the Bulgars of the world, you're you're designing that bag, you're manufacturing it and right at the point of manufacturing, you're giving it basically a heartbeat with NFC tag. So if that tag, and traditionally the way we were doing it, these were finite runs, let's say run a 10,000 at a time. So we weren't really a bottleneck because the volumes were fixed. And we would be able to one to one, associate all the skew information to the tag on site, basically turn it on, give it a heartbeat, embed that tag into the product, and then that product would go out the door and you have full visibility down the supply chain all the way to the consumer and then the consumer would have ongoing engagements with it. And then you would be able to understand the consumers mannerisms, what they've done from a from a product loyalty standpoint, and then you would be able to start to build more customer lifetime value as a matter of what they were able to do with the engagement of the original product they purchased. What we started to see over the last couple years was not only was NFC picking up, but the quantities in the original manufacturing runs, we're getting much larger. So when you were looking at about 10,000 units or 20,000 units, they start to get into the hundreds of thousands. So stopping a production in the hundreds of thousands, let's say even millions, you start to become a bottleneck really quickly in the supply chain, when you start having to turn on each product one by one. So we've we figured for us to get creative on the encoding side of things. If we were able to work with suppliers to pre encode at the wafer level, each one of those chips on the wafer could have a basically an existing identity. We didn't know exactly where they would go. But regardless, once we knew where they were going to go from the cloud, we could then give it its digital identity and redirect whatever the experience was. So it was not only a secure way of doing it, but it was also a more efficient way as the the volumes increased.

Steve Statler 12:22

So there's an identity that is provisioned onto the chip that stung by one of those big chip manufacturers, it's a unique ID, is this a number or is it a URL? What What does that identity look like?

Amir Khoshniyati 12:38

It's basically a URL, a very generic URL. And then what we do is when we encrypt that in from the platform, we could redirect that URL to its final destination. And then once you're able to assign that URL to the UID, which is the ID identification number of the tag itself, you're able to assign an experience that will speak between the three and the skew information from the product. And what's get what gets really interesting is as you move up the capability ladder, you can actually put different slugs in the URL that actually hit a validation service. So you can start working up the capability ladder just from that initial encoded URL that you program it.

Steve Statler 13:21

Now my understanding was you smarttrack before the acquisition had a business with a cloud platform called Smart cosmos. And that that's kind of like a serialization platform is something that relates what's on the chip to all of this metadata that can describe all of the product information that's no longer that's not part of a reading Dennison, is that correct? That's still is that still called Smart tracker is it.

Amir Khoshniyati 13:54

So from a, from a tracking of the unique identifiers of the tags, all the way to the experiences, even with the Validation Service that stayed outside of the acquisition, and it helped us to fall to accelerate what we were doing on the platform side with our third party partners, and also in house to figure out where the suppliers were going with their capabilities, so we can align them pretty quick. Back in the smart Cosmos days, we had a station It was called the enablement station. So if you take that same example of the soccer ball or the purse, if it was a finite run of 10,000, this enablement station powered by smart cosmos, would give you the ability to register the NFC tag, register the barcode, and essentially if there was a QR code, register that and all in one you had the skew the promotion, and then the tag ID all in one, basically, edit and you were off and running. But as we started to get a little more agile and we got over the acquisition hump, we started to understand that not only that As suppliers were moving up the capability ladder, but the customer feedback was that they wanted much more scale and at higher throughput, and for we're getting creative on the internal side of things to, to build basically the next integration of this.

Steve Statler 15:16

Okay, so the, just to understand this correctly. So there's a few things I want to clarify. One is the mapping that happens between this ID that's a chip level to something more abstract, is that still being done with smart cosmos, so let's bring them with something else now.

Amir Khoshniyati 15:38

So So we, so I believe they still are doing their set of it. But we are working very close with our outside partners and internally to do that mapping. So we have a handful of different options when it comes to our customers based on what segment they fall under, and how they want to basically achieve the the feature sets that they want. So for example, if someone's in retail, we have a de facto standard from a platform standpoint, and how that redirection works. If they get into CPG, it's much higher volumes. And we have a standard behind that as well. So we what we did, since the acquisition turned over, we really started to look at one the use case, and then the market segment that they fell under, and then we just follow that protocol for each one.

Steve Statler 16:24

So does that mean you're working with other software platforms that are not smart Cosmos as well?

Amir Khoshniyati 16:31

Yes. So we, we since we we broke away, we work with a handful of them, we work with blue byte, which Steve I'm sure you've heard of. And they've been close with us over the years, we work with citizens reserve suku. So they have a nice blockchain platform, which we did the COVID kits with, when this pandemic started. And internally, we're working with our own platform as well, which is really driven by the team here for UID management. And then on top of that, the experiences that come into play, and it has robust capabilities outside of NFC for for qR for UHF as well. And I think we could spend hours just talking about that piece and and where it's going.

Steve Statler 17:16

Well, let's look at some example applications to bring this to life. So you mentioned that COVID kid, I can't let that go without asking more about it. Can you explain a bit about that? Sure. This

Amir Khoshniyati 17:27

one was exciting. It actually came to me over over a weekend, about three weeks into the pandemic, that we might have a chance to start working with COVID kits. And I kind of laughed it off, because I not only was it a reactive approach, but it was what is the timeline, what are the requirements, and over the following couple of weeks, it accelerated pretty quickly. And what it was is they there was a lot of counterfeit kits out there, which meant there was a lot of fake results come in as a result of it and a lot of turmoil. So this organization that came to us, they were working very close with all the COVID kids that were FDA approved. So one thing they wanted to do, they wanted to secure NFC tag to go to all the FDA approved kits, they wanted to establish the process to scale it at a high volume. And then on top of it, since these were FDA approved, it meant that a physician would have to administer the kit to the patient, they would figure out the results, these were rapid results within one hour, they would get the get the results back. And then that physician would take the results and then input it into the platform, which meant that we needed HIPAA compliancy as an underlying factor for it. So again, a lot of variables. We were We were rushing all in one to make this happen. And there was there was two main objectives here. One was with citizens reserve, the platform of suku, we were able to get the HIPAA compliancy checked off, which was a major step forward. And the biggest hurdle here was for us to get the tags administered encoded in a secure way. And then also figure out how do we add it as a bill of material so that each time that it's manually applied to each one of these kids and then house behind the shell, that it would be consistent, and each physician would know how to administer it. So it took us about one month, but we were up and running and we delivered our first set and the use case was it was a great one.

Steve Statler 19:29

It's fantastic. And how did you get HIPAA compliant what's involved in doing that?

Amir Khoshniyati 19:34

So that that was kind of out of our out of our reach that was on the platform side. So our biggest hurdle here was make sure the tags get delivered, they get encoded and we are the SI there to embed the tags on the platform side they they had a lot of hoops to jump through. So they they handled that portion.

Steve Statler 19:54

Pretty cool. And you bet you mentioned handbags and footballs so got to go back to those about those, what enough is the intersection between an NFC tag and the football? Sure. So

Amir Khoshniyati 20:07

the beauty of NFC is it, it comes in

Steve Statler 20:10

because I'm talking about soccer. So it translates with British and American soccer ball, I should say.

Amir Khoshniyati 20:16

I wish I had it within reach. But the way that way that it works is with with NFC, especially our capabilities, we they come in many shapes and sizes and form factors. So whether it's on the sustainable side, or it's just a generic tag that's going into a product and its its durability is really the the use case behind it. With the soccer balls, it came at a very unique time, right around the World Cup. And we partnered up with Adidas to embed a circus tag, which is one of our circular tags and the smallest form factor and actually embedded as a bill of material into the soccer ball itself. So that you can engage with the ball, it would give you authenticity, it would give you the product ID and it would actually give you the production date of the ball when it was administered through the manufacturing site down to the month, day, year and operator of that machine to get everything assembled. And each time you engage with the ball, it tells you the number of times that ball has been physically tapped by a phone. And then on top of it. It recognizes who you are, it can give you cross marketing. And then it gives you all the data points around the world of everybody else engaging with that Telstar, Adidas soccer role. So this this had two major applications. One was how do we get a circus NFC tag embedded in a ball so that it's kicked around in adverse environments, it's goalpost walls, whatever the case may be, and it stays intact and working. And secondly, how do we keep the consumer engaged that they can actually continuously use the ball with the NFC capability and do cross marketing. So we, it was in the early stages, the NFC, so we were still educating people on how to tap. But the unique thing here was, I still have my Telstar ball, I still kick it around and NFC tags works great. So we were able to achieve a major milestone there one on the durability side to understand that it's been now three and a half years or so that the bolt, that ball has the tag embedded in and it's still a working product, you could still work into it walk into a ditas retail store, and it's still on the shelves. And it's served as a first step forward not only from soccer, ball standpoints, but also within footwear, and what we're doing. So the durability use case was the first of many, but it opened the door to much more, both from the product side, and then also what we're able to do with the platform. So

Steve Statler 22:44

I'm gonna How do you stop this thing being destroyed every time it's kicked, that's gonna be challenging.

Amir Khoshniyati 22:50

So So we, as I kind of went through, we have many form factors. So we have standard and lays that we kind of discussed on the converting side. So they might have adhesives, which we call wet, we may have dry form factors, which don't actually stick to something. But we can put in a converted piece of paper or a piece of cardboard, kind of like a packet. We have glass tags, and then what we were able to do is come up with a certain form factor of a tag that actually was more durable. So we have two lines, we have one flex, which is short for flexible. And we have one durable, which is short for durable. And what these are made to do is withstand impact, withstand different temperatures, low and high extremes, and also wash cycles. So the sort of flex tag more than anything provides the flexibility to actually slightly be bent in the object that it's embedded in without jeopardizing the performance or the quality behind it. And at the same time, it has the ability to be put into washing machines kicked around in the Moto rain and it still performs up to par. And so that's that's how we were able to achieve it

Steve Statler 24:01

by using and tell us a bit more about the handbag use case.

Amir Khoshniyati 24:05

So the handbag one more than anything is I think a market that counterfeiters really strive on. And it's not just the authentication, it's the messiness to the brand and what it creates over time. And what we were able to do with the handbags, is not only embed the tag in a very similar format, so it shows as a proof of authentication. But also if you take it to a department store level, it gives you the ability to purchase it with your phone as well after that first tap. And then once you register your information, your certificate of authenticity tied to that purse, the brand knows who you are, because based on loyalty, and anytime you go close to proximity of the mall, it can give you a trigger to say we know you're close to the mall, come into the store and we'll give you 40% off for the next hour. So what we're able to do there is we're decreasing the cost of acquisition Increasing the lifetime value of the customer as a result of the data points we have and how they engage with the product. And then secondly, we're able to provide much more on a social level when it comes to social media and engagement. So every time somebody taps, we can register their interactions with that product. And then also give them incentives to share it with their community. So they become become stakeholders, advocates for the brand, and then all within the platform and that initial tap, start to build an ecosystem around that brand. And that product

Steve Statler 25:32

does I hear you right, saying that you could actually use the NFC tag to purchase the bag.

Amir Khoshniyati 25:42

So we're not in the merchant services world. But what we're able to do is provide a means for any of the platforms to really work on top of our NFC tags. The result of it is our suppliers, they provide us with the highest quality chips that are secure. And with our uniqueness of our designs and our performance equality. When somebody comes in and they engage with something, whether it's going to their website, or a third party website, we're able to securely then transact not only the experience and what they digest from a marketing standpoint, that they can actually click through, and then use it as a means a point of sale, which is exciting. And it all can start with just one one tap on your phone.

Steve Statler 26:24

And how does that work? Because this is I think there's many flavors of NFC NFC that we're now trained to interact with, at a point of sale, that has a protocol where secure credentials exchange from, you know, a secure enclave in your phone to the secure point of sale system. But I'm assuming that the NFC that you're talking about here is not the same as that NFC is that correct.

Amir Khoshniyati 27:00

So the the means of tapping and the mechanics behind it are the same. Where we differentiate here between the two is the means of how the conversion happens. Many times when we tap with our product lines, it's for the means of authentication and experience. And since we don't handle the merchant services part, if it is a product that's sitting on a shelf, in a designer store, or even at a retail store, for for a consumable product, what we're able to do is basically give them the means to to see the experience itself. And then within that experience, you may have a widget that allows you to pay with your credit card or with Apple Pay or Google pay. But it's essentially another tab physically with your finger within the platform itself, that redirects them to that to that conversion. Now, a lot of times if we are if our services are being used from a tag perspective, at a POS station, it works in the same same manner, we'll provide an encoded tag to them. And then if we have one use case with parking meters, for example, a user could walk up and tap that parking meter, they would then be either adjusted over to an app or direct experience that sits on that parking meters or that vendor's website, and then they would be able to process that transaction through whatever service and protocol they have. But we initiate the experience with our tax, that's where the train basically starts in the process.

Steve Statler 28:28

So in the case of the handbag, there's a URL that says this is the handbag, this, this might be a pointer to a service, which you can use to do the purchase. The actual exchange of these identity and payment tokens is all done in the cloud. It's not going between your phone and the and the tag, it's going elsewhere. Whereas when you're in CVS and you're paying with Apple Pay, then NFC is actually the channel for some something that actually has monetary value the tokens that are part of the payment mechanism. I don't know whether that made it any clearer or whether you agree with the difference between those two things. But that's my understanding at least up correct. I

Amir Khoshniyati 29:19

mean, a good way of thinking about it from our consumer experience side, let's say back to the handbag example is purchasing a good online, you'll go to a website, you'll create a shopping cart, and then you checkout through the process. So think of the NFC process very similar to that. With the tap of a handbag, you'll see the skew information for that handbag, you'll be able to pay for it as if you were within the internet browser. But then the second step when you register your product to the to the device ID and your name, and all that information. We now know who you are. So every time you engage with that product, there's much direct channels from a CRM standpoint to give you personalized marketing

Steve Statler 30:00

Amazing. Very good. Well, we've got a lot to cover. And I think we're just scraping scraping the surface. So let's let's move on a little bit. And let me just ask you. Let's come back to the COVID topic and how is COVID, changing contactless, you gave one example of a very specific application, any other implications that you have in mind?

Amir Khoshniyati 30:26

Yeah, I would say, as a whole, if we take it up to the to the highest level as a kind of an umbrella view here. COVID has opened the door for contactless payment more than ever, I think people are apprehensive to touch currency, they're even apprehensive to hand their credit cards to someone. And many of the credit card vendors are now coming in and issuing their NFC versions. Many times people don't even know what they are. But then you see those three, almost Wi Fi like symbols on it. And you know that you don't need to insert it as a chip, you don't need to hand it to a server, you can just hover it and you're off and running. So I think in a positive way, it's opened the door for NFC to start accelerating. use cases, it starts on the payment side. But I think it evolves very quickly now to the consumer experience side as well. So you have a lot of shelf talkers. Now when you walk through stores, I've noticed in the gyms a lot of the machines are now adopting NFC use cases. So instead of having things in a format, where you walk up to a machine, and you have to try to read the instructions, and maybe even flip a sheet to see how to use it, you can tap and all of it becomes digital and attracts your workout. So it's it's been exciting from that standpoint, that we're not doing too much educating now on technology, we're educating more on the use case of the technology. So our conversations this year have have morphed, they're all virtual, unfortunately. But at the same time, they've opened the door for us to really start to get creative on how to use it versus specifically what the technology is as a whole.

Steve Statler 32:00

So what are the new opportunities that you see as a result of this change.

Amir Khoshniyati 32:07

So we're seeing a lot around consumer packaged goods more than anything. I can maybe caveat that to say also healthcare is picking up as well, and the different lines of business, but specifically, under the NFC umbrella, getting a lot of requests around it. People want to see one the ability to digest what's within packages that they're getting delivered to their house ahead of time. Many times I've received packages, the name whatever is torn off, they want the ability to tap, not requiring line of sight get that information. If they have some discrepancy, they don't want to touch it. They're off and running from a from a retail standpoint, it works in a similar format, rather than going in now that retail stores are opening up again, we're getting a lot of requests that they want shelf talkers, they want the ability for people to tap, get the information, get the pricing information, the Explorations if they're in a grocery store. And then once everything is good, in their opinion, they pick it up rather than really fiddling with many different things before they put them into baskets. We're starting to see that the evolution is also picking up in a way that if you get into the macroscale, if you tap, the store itself could have designated employees that actually come in, they've went through the protocol of sanitization, and things like that. So when you tap and you check it off, they'll actually do the fulfillment for you. And when you get to the checkout counter, everything was packaged and ready to go. We have the stores down the street that already started the process. For good and bad. They're using qR. So I think we have a really good use case now to get involved from an NFC standpoint. But we're starting to see more and more of this. So it's really starting on the payment terminal front. But a lot of the conversations we're having with the brands that are using our technology and the brands that are interested, or taking us down the CPG route, more than anything.

Steve Statler 34:03

And is it the CPG companies that are doing the investment or the retailers? How does that fall out?

Amir Khoshniyati 34:10

It's a combination of both we have CPG brands that are you could almost look at him like converters, so they're working from manufacturing companies and doing the packaging for them. We're working very close with some of them that have a handful of customers. So they're almost acting as if they're resellers for us. And then we have direct brand relationships as well. So they're doing end to end, whether it's on the consumable side, so it's going on plastic overlays around the product, or if it's also that the manufacturer has their own packaging department, and then we tag the packaging as well.

Steve Statler 34:46

So we talked a bit about the opportunities you described some of the use cases but you know, for an entrepreneur who's listening or watching this show, where are the Where are the opportunities for new enterprises, new companies, or new projects within existing companies, if you were advising someone where to get a look out what, where would you point them? Yeah, I

Amir Khoshniyati 35:11

Actually got this question, Steve, not too long ago. So I'm really glad you asked this. But I think it really starts with looking at the landscape of technology and where we're at today, and where the future is going. I think we went through the buzz that marketing as a whole was really driven around websites, parallax format, where the websites were long, and people could scroll all day and get their information. And so those days of the websites started to kind of morph into applications. So people started to get really creative around building iPhone, Android type applications, sometimes even bold. And I think, really, the future lies if someone is starting to get involved, and they want to have a startup that's kind of agnostic to a lot of these technologies. It's really the on the experience side and what you're able to read on your phone. So it involves more than just a website that becomes mobile friendly. But it's something that becomes agile enough to recognize not only the data points of what people are doing from an analytic perspective, what pages they're landing on, and what they're interested in looking at. But also how do you build it on top of some of the technologies we have in place, so that you can provide a means for these brands to build from many times these brands, their marketing departments are focused on their website, they're focused on SEO, they're focused on product marketing, but they're not focused on how to build on our technology. So as much as they look to adopt, a lot of this work actually gets outsourced. So either we're consulting or partners or consultants. So I think there's a huge market for that entrepreneur environments really get involved in a lot of the big name brands would, would use it.

Steve Statler 36:54

Very good. Well, we need to wrap this up fairly soon. But let's talk a bit about so Willie Nelson Avery Dennison, I actually try and avoid talking about where the art I don't want this to be just a platform for self promotion. But I think it would be a bit weird if we didn't talk about not the elephant in the room, but the obvious relationship between the two companies. So maybe you can give people just a really high level overview of what that relationship is, rather than me doing it. What what are we doing together?

Amir Khoshniyati 37:32

Sure, I think more than anything, the landscape is set there for us to really evolve in a strong way based on where we've been on the consumer experience side with NFC on top of some of the aggregated technology. But our relationship with Willie, it outside of just being a investor is a really exciting one, because we're essentially geared to really become a builder on top of what they're supplying to us from a chipset, but really providing the market with an end to end solution. From a tax standpoint, in many cases, even building on top of the platform, you guys have to to register the device IDs, and then basically embed them into products packaging wherever the case is. So I guess in the most summarized way, we are really the the one that's assembling the tags and bringing it all all home on top of the chip technology that you provide us.

Steve Statler 38:26

Yeah, I think that's a really good summary. We we've designed what we do for everything to be on a single chip. So there's, there's no external crystal, there's obviously no printed circuit board. And the the idea is that you put a Bluetooth chip through the same machine that's used to manufacture an NFC or an RFID tag, and we're the few nuances that's what we've achieved so from Williams perspective, what better company to work with the largest provider of inlay arrays and converted NFC tags in the world and you have a production capability that can really scale beyond anything that we could do on our own. You know, there's you make an how many tags do you make billions of tags and that takes a lot of scale in terms of capital equipment. And and also I think your distribution channels you have a lot of companies that are used to taking the the basic vanilla inlays and tags that you have and and doing all of the integration. So I think we get a lot of benefit from that. And obviously you have a ton of smart engineers and antenna designers and so forth. And as as our tags get start to get to us are used in more diverse applications. I think that's, that's really key. Well, give it a lot, Amir, thanks so much for your time. I really enjoyed talking with you. All the best.

Amir Khoshniyati 40:14

Definitely, great speaking with you, Steve.

Steve Statler 40:22

So before this interview I obviously you and I have worked together for for a little while now. But it seems like you're pretty busy outside of work, you know, like, helping with the Boys and Girls Club. There's the gentleman of OSI what, tell me a bit about what you do when you're not Avery Dennison?

Amir Khoshniyati 40:45

Sure. I guess first and foremost, I'm a, I was a soccer player for 18 years of my life. So sports specific soccer are kind of near and dear and help more than anything. So I love going to the gym, I try to get in at least two hours a day, wherever I can, early mornings, late evenings. So that's kind of been, you know, my routine for last, you know, 30 plus years. And on top of that, we we have a good group of friends here in Orange County, California, we've stayed close over the years. And we started to see you know, with all the time we burn, watching sports, traveling, whatever the case may be, we could take a little bit of that time and start giving it back to the community, we can help a lot of people and then also educate them kind of around things that we're passionate about. So about almost three years ago, we we founded an organization here called gentlemen of Orange County. And with three of my best friends, we came together, and we started to do events at least once a month for the community. So pre COVID, we were doing a lot around toy drives, food drives. And then a lot of education seminars around technology, we had one around the Microsoft Office Suite. So we actually rented the Microsoft location here in Orange County, brought a lot of young kids educated them on soft skills around Word, Excel, PowerPoint. And we started to pick up more and more traction and the way that we kind of segmented this organization, we all took basically a location within Orange County. So I took for example, Southern Orange County, anywhere from Corona Del Mar down to San Clemente. I have other buddies that took North with Newport and such in the Irvine territories. And we focused in not only on the territories, but something that we were passionate around. So for me, it was technology. And it was around bullying. Because I had struggles when I was growing up with language and different things. So I wanted to just make sure I can I can have a sweet spot and hone in on that. So we we've had some really good traction a couple months ago, we had a dance for for basically kids with special needs, we brought about 200 plus kids together, fully sponsored, so not $1 out of our pocket. And we're seeing a big, big impact here. So my hope is that we can not only solidify this and make it a stronger community in Orange County, but then hopefully open up branches for other locations and have, hopefully young entrepreneurs and professionals come together and do the same so that the next generation of kids can do the same and it's just repeating cycle

Steve Statler 43:23

testing, it's hard to imagine you being bullied, but so you you language problems when you were younger or

Amir Khoshniyati 43:31

Yeah, you know, growing up, I think through middle school, early high school it was it was tough. You know, I I still have my struggles here because I speak Farsi and I speak English. So there's certain words that I stumble on to this day. But you know, any anything we can give back and educate where kids can kind of have a sweet spot with what we've went through, I think is important. So

Steve Statler 43:54

that's really inspiring. Fantastic. So we normally talk about music. You spend two hours in the gym and you listening to music then or what how do you feel about music? Is it important to you?

Amir Khoshniyati 44:09

I love music. So all kinds of genres. I actually just got back from Nashville. So his music city over there we story we were we were on the airport on the way home and there was young ladies playing the guitar and one of the cafes, and if she was playing anywhere here, she would be the biggest hit. But audition bar music is so high over there. It's unbelievable. So I like all genres, but I think r&b hip hop kind of is in my soul a little bit more than others. And Michael Jackson is really big.

Steve Statler 44:47

Yeah. So if you were to pick three songs, what would be your three?

Amir Khoshniyati 44:52

Wow, okay. Billie Jean,

Steve Statler 44:55

I think yes, yes.

Amir Khoshniyati 45:00

That's tough.

Steve Statler 45:02

It is tough. Hmm, yeah.

Amir Khoshniyati 45:09

I have to stay true Michael Jackson's all good Michael Jackson bad as well. Okay. George Michael Careless Whisper.

Steve Statler 45:19

Oh yeah, he is an amazing it's so tragic. He's incredibly gifted. I when I grew up Wham with just when I left college and wham, we're doing their thing so that that soundtrack to me is like becoming an adult, being able to go to nightclubs, all that kind of stuff. A lot of fun times. Very good. Well, thanks, man. That's great too. Great to have you share a bit about the non professional side.

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