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Vitality GlowCap, innovation or bust?

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Vitality GlowCap, which has been around as a concept since 2007, recently is grabbing increasing attention. Now that Engadget is reporting a hands-on test, we felt that the time was right for an opinion piece on whether this is innovation or bust in packaging.

Remote Accessed Tags in Packaging

Among other technologies, RFID may be the stand-out technology that has been connected to packaging for remote sensing and information exchange. It has been around for a long time. Despite Walmart’s push some years back, RFID is yet to make a big impact on the consumer side in packaging. In the meantime, more and more sophisticated bar-code type formats have been emerging packing denser information to printed, machine readable codes. However, wireless and remotely accessed information is still on the horizon as a destination.

What Vitality does, however, is different than what RFID or similar technologies are targeting. It interacts with the consumer on an on-going basis to expedite taking medications.

Intelligent Packages

Intelligent packages have tremendous consumer benefits in addition to their benefits in the distribution channel. These benefits are too numerous for us to go into detail here. Instead of having this broader discussion, we’d like to look into this specific implementation of an intelligent package from a consumer centric innovation perspective.

Innovation Framework

As mentioned in prior articles, for us at PackageRepublic.com, at its most basic form, there are three different business/innovation models behind new products. These are;

  • better
  • cheaper
  • or just different

Better products naturally deliver better product performance, such as better usability, or some better attribute like package transparency. Cheaper products deliver same product performance at a lower cost point. In the packaging world, this may be down-gauged PET bottles, for example. Just different products deliver arguably same performance and cost, but they are differentiated in terms of consumer value through branding. i.e., Coke vs. Pepsi, Evian vs. Aquafina.

Vitality GlowCap

Let’s look at what this cap does:

  • Informs the consumer (or patient) when the pill needs to be taken, by: [1] Flashing lights, [2] Phone calls (SMS, we presume), [3] Social Network reminders (twitter or FaceBook, we presume)
  • tamper proof cap that requires push and twist to open

It requires:

  • batteries.
  • a cell phone connection. (Vitality is partnering with AT&T using a 2G connection. International use is an open question.)

For us, innovation has to address a consumer need that is previously underaddressed. This idea appears to be a solution looking for a problem. There are many substitutes for this product’s solution, and they are most certainly cheaper, if not better. A good alarm clock is arguably a better and definitely cheaper substitute for this product that does not require a battery change as often as this product would require. From a branding perspective, this product could serve well, but Vitality is hardly a household brand. It needs to be branded under a pharmacy brand such as Walgreens.

Cheaper
Better
Just Different

One of the show stoppers for us, is that this product does not bring simplicity. Instead, it increases complexity and cost with a relatively low return from a consumer perspective. In addition, it introduces new modes of failure to a field that is highly lawsuit prone. This product needs to be programmed for proper use each time, and it needs to be maintained from a battery perspective. Wireless connections have still not caught up with their wired partners in terms of reliability, and consistency due to signal strength issues, which causes a rather weak link in the chain.

In addition, if a person is incapable of maintaining a medication schedule with a watch, it is a faulty assumption that the person will pay attention to a flashing light. Finally, this product does not make a medicine package any more usable than it was before, once again using efficiency, effectiveness, and attractiveness measures.

So, innovation or bust? For us, it is a bust! For more information regarding this product, head over to rxvitality.com or engadget.com.

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