Instead of reading a label, consumers could be interacting with an electronic screen on packaging in the future, thanks to a development by scientists at the University of Sheffield. The scientists collaborated with technology company Novalia to create a new way of displaying information on packaging, a move that could revolutionize the packaging industry.

This technology could be used in greetings cards or products where a customer could receive a simple message. More complex developments could include a countdown timer on the side of a packet to indicate when a timed product was ready such as hair-dye, pregnancy tests, or home-baking using a “traffic lights” system.

The team says a screen can be fixed onto packaging to display information. The process involves printing electronic tracks onto paper and then fixing low-cost electronics and a polymer LED display to the paper using an adhesive that conducts electricity.

Working together, University of Sheffield scientists and Novalia designed and constructed a touch-pad keyboard on the paper that allows a user to selectively “drive” the LEDs in the display.

Professor David Lidzey from the University's Department of Physics and Astronomy said: "Labels on packaging could become much more innovative and allow customers to interact with and explore new products. The use of displays or light-emitting panels on packaging will also allow companies to communicate brand awareness in a more sophisticated manner."