Cannabis Traceability with AIDC (S1:E26)

Cannabis Traceability with AIDC (S1:E26)

Mary Lou Bosco, CEO at AIM Global, and Elizabeth Sinclair, Global Director of Marketing at Seagull Scientific, join us to take a deeper look at cannabis traceability through automatic identification and data capture (AIDC) technologies. AIDC, like RFID and NFC, allows the cannabis industry to track every plant from seed, to packaging, to the consumer.

Full Transcript

Speaker 1 (00:01):
You’re listening to Humans in Tech. Our podcast explores today’s most transformative technology and the trends of tomorrow bringing together the brightest minds in and outside of our industry. We unpack what’s new in physical access, identity verification, cybersecurity, and IoT ecosystems. We reach beyond the physical world, discuss our digital transformation as a species, and dive into the emerging digital experience. Join us on our journey as we discover just how connected the future will be and how we will fit into that picture. Your host is Leigh Dow, VP of Global Marketing at Identiv.

Leigh Dow (00:43):
Welcome. Thanks for tuning in. I’m joined today by Mary Lou Bosco, CEO at AIM Global and Elizabeth Sinclair Global Director of Marketing at Seagull Scientific. And she’s also the Cannabis Working Chair at AIM. Appreciate you both taking the time to join us today.

Elizabeth Sinclair (00:58):
Thanks for having us.

Mary Lou Bosco (00:59):
[Inaudible 00:00:59]. Thank you.

Leigh Dow (01:00):
Of course. We’re proud to support technology advocates like AIM Global. And the plan today is to just explore the vision and mission behind the association, and take a deeper look at cannabis traceability. So as the unbiased resource for networking, education, advocacy and standards, AIM helps members grow their business by fostering the effective use of AIDC solutions. Maybe just describe to our audience what is AIDC.

Mary Lou Bosco (01:29):
Well, AIDC means Automatic Identification and Data Capture technologies. And it encompasses a lot of asset tracking technologies, which has evolved over the years. It includes barcodes, RFID, RAIN RFID, NFC, QR codes and all technologies that help track assets. AIDC technologies also enables AI, blockchain, IoT, and robotics, and even smart devices. These technologies are essential to enabling adoption, growth and interoperability to those who depend on accurate, available and identifiable data.

Elizabeth Sinclair (02:07):
Yeah. And AIDC it’s the barcode and the scanner at the grocery store, right? It’s the E boarding pass on your smartphone. It’s the microchip in your pet. It’s the automatic toll collection on the highway. Whenever there is machine readable data and a machine to read it, that’s AIDC.

Leigh Dow (02:27):
Elizabeth, how can the cannabis industry apply AIDC technologies?

Elizabeth Sinclair (02:33):
So we’ve just talked about consumer driven applications of AIDC or auto ID as we sometimes call it. But there are very powerful commercial and industrial applications that touch every one of us every day. So every can of Coke has the same UPC barcode on it that contains the very same information. But think about that boarding pass, or the microchip in your pet, or the code on the back of your driver’s license. These contain information that’s specific to the item in question. The data varies on each item. This is how food producers track farm to fork, pharmaceutical companies manage drug recalls.

It’s how aerospace companies track the history of every part in an airliner. So specific information like production date, lot number, location can all be encoded into an individual items machine readable, or AIDC code. So what does this have to do with the cannabis industry? States have mandated that this kind of information needs to be tracked from seed to sale, as they say. So let’s think about how you’re going to track every cannabis plant from seed, to packaging, to the consumer. You’re not going to be able to do that without technology and specifically AIDC.

Leigh Dow (04:05):
And what is the reason for needing to track that? Because one of the things that we talk about quite a bit is how cannabis is an ingestible product that isn’t regulated by the FDA.

Elizabeth Sinclair (04:18):
So it’s not regulated by the FDA yet. We anticipate that once it’s regulated or federally legalized, it will be regulated by FDA. Companies are already using CGMP practices in manufacturing, and anything that goes into a food item of course, the food item part FDA has purview over that. So it’s interesting. This is actually an interesting topic and maybe a little off track. But I have a former associate who works for a giant cola company. There are two of them pick whichever one you want. She works for one of them. And they’ve actually since the Farm Bill in 2018 was passed, they’ve actually had a CBD beverage developed and ready to go to market as soon as their executives feel comfortable pulling the trigger on that. And that’s obviously going to go coincide with FDA.

So why do we need to track? We’re talking a controlled substance. We’re talking human safety. As we all know, there’s a bit of a societal pushback that’s changing. People’s attitudes are changing about cannabis. But it’s still saddled with that reputation that it’s a drug and that it’s illegal. And so the states have mandated that every plant get traced. Because interestingly enough, even in Canada where it’s federally legalized, 85% of sales are still on the black market.

Leigh Dow (06:15):
Oh, wow.

Elizabeth Sinclair (06:15):
So there’s a need to control where everything is and you can’t control where things are without knowing where they are. So that’s where AIDC is important.

Leigh Dow (06:29):
Which tech do you see poised for the most growth in 2022?

Mary Lou Boscom (06:33):
Overall, we’re seeing an increased demand for automated processes across all vertical markets. I know we’re here talking a lot about cannabis, and that’s definitely a growing area as well. But consumers want to identify, locate, authenticate and communicate where their items are. And they want to know where it is now. AIDC as I mentioned earlier enables IoT and blockchain. And that’s where we’re seeing most of our growth. IoT and blockchain are no longer just buzzwords, where we’re seeing more and more consumers using those terms as well. And the adoption of these applications in various supply chains, including warehousing and logistics, pharmaceutical, food, retail, and of course cannabis.

Elizabeth Sinclair (07:16):
Yeah. And I think for the retail cannabis industry specifically, I think digital watermarks are interesting. It’s a new technology. These are practically invisible machine readable codes that cover the entire packaging and hold the same kinds of information that barcodes and RFID hold. They’re virtually tamper proof, which is important in this industry. And as the industry grows and sees more investment in infrastructure and business conglomerates are getting involved, I think we’re looking at greater adoption of RFID as well, and which enables of course the IoT, has a larger initial investment, but tremendous ROI in savings and labor and increased accuracy.

Leigh Dow (08:03):
What are the big barriers to adoption that you’re seeing?

Elizabeth Sinclair (08:06):
Well in the cannabis industry specifically, companies are worried about so many other things. They’re dealing with the complexities of doing business in a patchwork of regulations that vary from state to state. And top of mind for many of these companies are the banking regulations that presently don’t allow businesses to accept credit card. That’s a big hurdle with lots of danger inherent for retailers. And they’re just really busy trying to navigate this non-traditional business environment. I think as we said the industry is in a time of dynamic change, and growers and packagers are only just realizing that to scale up their operations, they might need technology and knowledge that’s outside of their core competencies.

So that’s been a barrier. And then finally, I think the lack of standards for data taxonomy and syntax, a common language, if you will, is a real barrier here. Nobody has stepped up and said, this is the way you’re going to format lot and production date, and location in your barcode or in your RFID tag, which means every grower every retailer is inventing their own taxonomy and syntax. You don’t have an interoperable supply chain here so somebody’s going to have to step up and set standards. And I think that will probably come again on that golden day when we have federal legalization in the U.S.

Leigh Dow (09:58):
For either of you, what do you see the future holding for IoT over the next few years, whether it’s in cannabis or in other industries?

Mary Lou Bosco (10:06):
Mm-hmm. Well, the interest in IoT is definitely growing and the adoption of it is very real. Based on current interests and projects that we’re seeing from real world track and trace and sensor based productions, we’re seeing interest in logistics definitely prove that. We expect new AIDC implementations to be especially strong in several interest industries like what we’ve been talking about today with food and healthcare, medical devices, life sciences, and of course, cannabis.

Elizabeth Sinclair (10:38):
And I was actually talking to a colleague this week who mentioned that we’re scanning billions of RFID tags every day. And that’s not very much. There’s tremendous room for this technology to grow. We’re in a convergence of societal and technological shifts that make this really interesting time for the IoT. I see the future of IoT being consumer driven rather than industry driven as it is now. So right now sociologists have identified a phenomenon, they call it the thin interface. I mean, it used to be you’d pick up your phone and call a taxi cab and the dispatcher would send it. Now you just punch up Uber on your phone and you do it yourself. I used to with my parents watch Walter Cronkite deliver the news every day. Now, we all access news the way we want it when we want it. People want to access information themselves.

They want to be able to know is the diamond I’m getting engaged with a blood diamond? Is the food I’m serving my child going to exacerbate his or her allergies? They want to know what are the ingredients that I’m taking into my body in a food product or a CPG on my body. So now time that again with the fact that we now have computers in our pockets that hold more processing power than it took to get man to the moon, right? And we have that convergence of technological infrastructure that is going to take to manage all this data, which would’ve been unimaginable even five years ago. So we’ve exploited the power of barcodes here. People understand that barcodes can do this, manage the thin interface.

The key here is the kinds of access consumers have to IoT data via their smartphones. There’s NFC and RFID that’s web enabled, which is a great way to get data out there. But not too many of us have RFID scanning apps. Once the supply chain starts thinking consumer first, I think we’re going to see an explosion in the information exchanged and applications for the IoT.

Leigh Dow (13:03):
Mm-hmm. I was talking to a reporter the other day, and I was talking to him about, he’s from a tech magazine. And I was talking to him about there’s all these companies out there and associations that are connecting the world and tracking and tracing the world that people just don’t even know about. And so it’s really quite the explosion of not only the technology but the applications are really pretty much limitless.

Elizabeth Sinclair (13:30):
Yeah. I see a couple of hurdles here for the IoT. The frequency ranges that are approved for use in Europe and the rest of the world are different. There’s going to have to be harmonization there. And speaking of organizations, their regulatory bodies are going to have to get together and figure that out. And then of course, there’s the chip shortage which is affecting almost every industry everywhere, right?

Mary Lou Bosco (13:58):
Yes.

Leigh Dow (14:00):
Well, one question we ask everyone regardless of the topic is if you have any closing thoughts on living in our technology centric, hyperconnected world.

Mary Lou Bosco (14:10):
And Elizabeth definitely touched on this with her last response is just how not only technology is changing, but it’s becoming consumerized. It’s amazing to me how my family now understands what the AIM Organization does, what I do for a living. Elizabeth, you touched on the ability of your phone. People understand going through the E-ZPass, home delivery, COVID has even made supply chain a household name as well. And people are demanding to know and authenticating where their products are coming from. You mentioned diamonds, you mentioned prescriptions, but they’re even tracking food, and they want to know where the origins of that is as well. And I feel with everything with technology it’s limitless right now. And, I agree with Elizabeth’s statement that once the focus is put more on the consumers, the demand for accurate timely data is going to grow. And that’s what AIDC is all about.

Elizabeth Sinclair (15:18):
Yeah. We used to say, let the business needs drive technology decisions, not technology drive the business decisions. But I think what we’re getting ready to see now is a big shift towards letting the consumer drive the technology decisions and choices.

Leigh Dow (15:38):
I can definitely see that coming. Thank you both for being here today. It was really wonderful to have you join us, and all the great work that you’re doing at AIM. Really appreciate you being here today.

Mary Lou Bosco (15:51):
Thank you. We appreciate the opportunity.

Elizabeth Sinclair (15:53):
Thanks for having us.

Speaker 1 (15:55):
Smart, simple, single-use technology can put valuable time back in the hands of healthcare workers and around the world. Identiv’s capacitive fill level sensing tags are the first passive NFC enabled sensing solution to monitor fill levels. Simply attach the tag to any cartridge, bottle or liquid filled container to sense the fill level. No external sensors or special equipment required. The tags can also sense if syringes or autoinjectors have been properly administered, empowering clinical trials, patient compliance and telemedicine applications. Learn more at Identiv.com. Physical security, identity verification, the IoT, the hyperconnectivity of our lives will only grow more pervasive as technology becomes more automated and experience is more augmented. It’s up to us to preserve our humanity and use new tools and trends for good. The only question is, are we up for the challenge?