WO2017085488A1 - Label for indicating elapsed time - Google Patents

Label for indicating elapsed time

Info

Publication number
WO2017085488A1
WO2017085488A1 PCT/GB2016/053586 GB2016053586W WO2017085488A1 WO 2017085488 A1 WO2017085488 A1 WO 2017085488A1 GB 2016053586 W GB2016053586 W GB 2016053586W WO 2017085488 A1 WO2017085488 A1 WO 2017085488A1
Authority
WO
Grant status
Application
Patent type
Prior art keywords
electronic
time
label
indicator
elapsed
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/GB2016/053586
Other languages
French (fr)
Inventor
Peter Higgins
Sergey GORDEYEV
David MCILVENNA
Original Assignee
Uwi Technology Limited
Priority date (The priority date is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the date listed.)
Filing date
Publication date

Links

Classifications

    • GPHYSICS
    • G09EDUCATION; CRYPTOGRAPHY; DISPLAY; ADVERTISING; SEALS
    • G09FDISPLAYING; ADVERTISING; SIGNS; LABELS OR NAME-PLATES; SEALS
    • G09F3/00Labels, tag tickets, or similar identification or indication means; Seals; Postage or like stamps
    • G09F3/08Fastening or securing by means not forming part of the material of the label itself
    • G09F3/18Casings, frames or enclosures for labels
    • G09F3/20Casings, frames or enclosures for labels for adjustable, removable, or interchangeable labels
    • G09F3/208Electronic labels, Labels integrating electronic displays
    • GPHYSICS
    • G09EDUCATION; CRYPTOGRAPHY; DISPLAY; ADVERTISING; SEALS
    • G09FDISPLAYING; ADVERTISING; SIGNS; LABELS OR NAME-PLATES; SEALS
    • G09F3/00Labels, tag tickets, or similar identification or indication means; Seals; Postage or like stamps
    • G09F3/02Forms or constructions
    • G09F2003/0283Forms or constructions food-compatible or edible

Abstract

A label (1) for indicating an elapsed time associated with an item comprises a plurality of electronic indicator elements, an electrical source and an electronic controller. The electronic controller is configured to receive electrical power from the electrical source, measure an elapsed time and control the electronic indicator elements according to the measured elapsed time so as to provide a quantitative progressive visual indication of the time remaining until expiry of a predetermined time period. The predetermined time period may be associated with an item such as a perishable item with which the label is to be associated or to which the label is to be attached. The predetermined time period may be a lifetime or a shelf- life of the item or a predetermined proportion of a lifetime or a shelf- life of the item.

Description

LABEL FOR INDICATING ELAPSED TIME

FIELD

A label is described herein for measuring and indicating an elapsed time for use in particular, though not exclusively, for measuring and indicating an elapsed time associated with an item with which the label is to be associated or to which the label is to be attached.

BACKGROUND

It is known to use labels which rely upon microfluidic methods for measuring and indicating an elapsed time associated with an item to which the label is to be attached. The precision of the measurement of the elapsed time using such microfluidic methods may not be accurate enough for some fields of use. Furthermore, the visual indication of the elapsed time using such microfluidic methods may not be sufficiently visible for some fields of use.

It is also known to use labels incorporating simple electronics to provide a binary indication relating to the expiry of a time period such as a lifetime or shelf-life of an item.

SUMMARY

One or more features of any one of the following aspects or embodiments may apply alone or in any combination in relation to any of the other aspects or embodiments.

According to an aspect or an embodiment there is provided a label for indicating an elapsed time associated with an item, the label comprising:

a plurality of electronic indicator elements;

an electrical source; and

an electronic controller which is configured to:

receive electrical power from the electrical source;

measure an elapsed time; and control the electronic indicator elements according to the measured elapsed time so as to provide a quantitative progressive visual indication of the time remaining until expiry of a predetermined time period.

Such an electronic label may provide a more accurate measurement of the elapsed time compared with known microfluidic methods. Furthermore, the visual indication of the elapsed time provided by such an electronic label may be more visible than known microfluidic methods. This may be important in a poorly lit or a dark environment or where it is difficult or impractical to inspect the label closely. Such an electronic label may provide a continuous real-time visual quantitative indication of the elapsed time.

The predetermined time period may be associated with an item with which the label is to be associated or to which the label is to be attached. The predetermined time period may, for example, be a lifetime or a shelf-life of the item with which the label is to be associated or to which the label is to be attached or a predetermined proportion of a lifetime or a shelf-life of such an item. The item may comprise a perishable item such as a fresh food item or a pharmaceutical item or the like. Such an electronic label may provide a continuous real-time visual quantitative indication of the time remaining to expiry of the predetermined time period.

The electronic controller may be configured to control the electronic indicator elements sequentially according to the elapsed time.

The electronic controller may be configured to control the electronic indicator elements sequentially such that, once activated, a given electronic indicator element, remains activated.

The electronic controller may be configured to control the electronic indicator elements sequentially such that, once activated, a given electronic indicator element remains activated until the next successive electronic indicator element is activated, whereupon the given electronic indicator element is de-activated.

The electronic controller may be configured to control the electronic indicator elements so as to cause the appearance of one or more of the electronic indicator elements to change periodically and/or flash.

The electronic controller may be configured to control the electronic indicator elements so as to cause the appearance of one or more of the electronic indicator elements to be brighter and/or more distinctive for an indication time period after being first activated and to become less bright and/or less distinctive after expiry of the indication time period. At least one of the electronic indicator elements may be operable to have a coloured appearance.

Two or more of the electronic indicator elements may be operable to have an appearance of the same colour.

Two or more of the electronic indicator elements may be operable to have appearances of different colours.

One or more of the electronic indicator elements may be operable to have a green appearance.

One or more of the electronic indicator elements may be operable to have a red appearance.

The label may comprise a cover layer defining an opaque area and one transparent window area for each electronic indicator element, each transparent window area of the cover layer being generally aligned with a corresponding one of the electronic indicator elements so that the corresponding electronic indicator element is visible through the corresponding transparent window area of the cover layer.

The cover layer may be plain.

The cover layer may be white.

The cover layer may have one or more symbols, characters, letters, numbers or graphical representations printed or otherwise defined thereon.

The label may be flexible.

The label may comprise a substrate.

The substrate may be flexible.

At least one of the plurality of electronic indicator elements, the electrical source, and the electronic controller may be mounted on the substrate.

The substrate may define one or more electrical inter-connections between two or more of the plurality of electronic indicator elements, the electrical source, and the electronic controller.

At least one of the plurality of electronic indicator elements, the electrical source, and the electronic controller may be flexible.

The electrical source may comprise a battery.

The electrical source may be rechargeable.

The label may comprise an inductive element for wireless recharging of the electrical source.

The electrical source may be formed by printing. At least one of the plurality of electronic indicator elements, the electrical source, the trigger arrangement and the electronic controller may be rigid.

The electronic controller may be programmable.

The electronic controller may store or define the predetermined time period. The electronic controller may store or define each of the intermediate predetermined time periods.

The label may be configured such that the electronic controller initiates the measurement of the elapsed time in response to connection of the electronic controller to the electrical source for the first time.

The label may comprise a first label part and a second label part, wherein the first and second label arts are detachably attached to one another.

The label may be configured such that separation of the first and second label parts for the first time causes the electronic controller to initiate the measurement of the elapsed time.

The label may be configured such that separation of the first and second label parts for the first time causes the electronic controller to be connected to the electrical source.

The first label part may be configured for attachment to a first object. The second label part may be configured for attachment to a second object.

The label may be configured such that the electronic controller automatically initiates the measurement of the elapsed time in response to relative movement between the first and second label parts for the first time.

The label may comprise a switch arrangement.

The label may be configured such that operation of the switch arrangement causes the electronic controller to initiate the measurement of the elapsed time.

The switch arrangement may be configured for manual operation.

The switch arrangement may be mechanically operable.

The switch arrangement may comprise a normally-open or normally-off switch arrangement.

The switch arrangement may comprise a first switch part provided with one of the first and second label parts and a second switch part provided with the other of the first and second label parts.

The switch arrangement may comprise a pair of electrical contacts and an electrically insulating activation member, wherein the electrical contacts are mechanically biased towards one another and the electrically insulating activation member is removably inserted between the pair of electrical contacts so that removal of the electrically insulating activation member from between the pair of electrical contacts causes the pair of electrical contacts to move into contact with one another.

The switch arrangement may be electrically connected between the electrical source and the electronic controller.

The electronic controller may comprise a memory.

The electronic controller may be configured to store a value of the predetermined time period in the memory.

The electronic controller may be configured to store a value of each of the intermediate predetermined time periods in the memory.

The electronic controller may be configured for wireless communications with an external apparatus.

The electronic controller may be configured for uni- or bi-directional wireless communications with the external apparatus.

The electronic controller may be configured to wirelessly receive a trigger signal from the external apparatus and to initiate measurement of the elapsed time on receipt of the trigger signal.

The electronic controller may be configured to wirelessly receive a value of the predetermined time period from the external apparatus and to store the value of the predetermined time period in the memory.

The electronic controller may be configured to wirelessly receive a value of each of the intermediate predetermined time periods from the external apparatus and to store the values of the intermediate predetermined time periods in the memory.

The electronic controller may be configured to wirelessly transmit a signal to the external apparatus on expiry of the predetermined time period.

The electronic controller may be configured to wirelessly transmit a signal to the external apparatus on expiry of each of the intermediate predetermined time periods.

The label may comprise an environmental sensor for measuring at least one environmental parameter, wherein the electronic controller is configured to repeatedly receive measured values of the at least one environmental parameter from the environmental sensor.

The electronic controller may be configured to repeatedly adjust the stored predetermined time period according to the measured values of the at least one environmental parameter. The electronic controller may be configured to convey an alarm signal when a measured value of the at least one environmental parameter falls outside a corresponding predetermined range.

The alarm signal may be visual.

The alarm signal may be provided by the electronic indicator elements.

The electronic controller may be configured to convey the alarm signal by operating the electronic indicator elements so as to provide a distinctive pattern or appearance.

The electronic controller may be configured to convey the alarm signal by causing the electronic indicator elements to change appearance or flash periodically.

The alarm signal may be audible.

The label may comprise an audio device such as a speaker for providing the alarm signal.

The alarm signal may include information relating to the location of the label. Such an alarm signal may allow the label to be located, for example, within a storage area or a warehouse or the like. Such an alarm signal may allow an item or a container for an item with which the label is located or to which the label is attached, to be located within a storage area or a warehouse or the like.

The electronic controller may be configured to wirelessly transmit the alarm signal to the external apparatus when a measured value of the at least one environmental parameter falls outside a corresponding predetermined range.

The external apparatus may be configured to emit, transmit, display, broadcast, and/or disseminate a further alarm signal in response to receipt of the alarm signal. The further alarm signal may be visual and/or audible.

The environmental parameter may comprise at least one of temperature, pressure, humidity, pH, vibration, shock, orientation and location.

The electronic controller may comprise a microcontroller.

The electronic controller may comprise a timer.

The electronic controller may comprise an oscillator.

The electronic controller may comprise a crystal oscillator or a microelectromechanical system (MEMS) oscillator.

The electronic controller may comprise a clock crystal.

The label may include an adhesive layer for attaching the label to an object. The label may have a thickness of less than or equal to 1 mm.

The label may have a length of less than or equal to 100 mm. The label may have a width of less than or equal to 10 mm.

One or more of the electronic indicator elements may comprise a light emitting element.

One or more of the electronic indicator elements may comprise a light emitting diode.

One or more of the electronic indicator elements may comprise a light reflecting element.

One or more of the electronic indicator elements may comprise a bi-stable display element.

One or more of the electronic indicator elements may comprise a liquid crystal display (LCD) element such as a cholesteric liquid crystal display (LCD) element.

One or more of the electronic indicator elements may comprise at least one of an electrowetting display element, an electrochromic display element and an electrophoretic display element.

One or more of the electronic indicator elements may comprise electronic ink and/or photonic ink.

According to an aspect or an embodiment there is provided a container comprising the label.

The container may comprise a first part and a second part.

The first label part may attached to one of the first and second parts of the container and the second label part may be attached to the other of the first and second parts of the container.

The first part of the container may comprise a body of the container and the second part of the container may comprise a lid of the container.

The first and second parts of the container may be separable.

The first and second parts of the container may be unitary.

According to an aspect or an embodiment there is provided a kit of parts for a label for indicating an elapsed time associated with an item, the kit of parts comprising: a plurality of electronic indicator elements; and

an electronic controller,

wherein the kit of parts is capable of being assembled to form a label such that the electronic controller is configured to:

receive electrical power from an electrical source;

measure an elapsed time; and control the electronic indicator elements according to the measured elapsed time so as to provide a quantitative progressive visual indication of the time remaining until expiry of a predetermined time period.

The kit of parts may comprise the electrical source.

According to an aspect or an embodiment there is provided a method for indicating an elapsed time associated with an item, the method comprising attaching a label to the item, wherein the label includes:

a plurality of electronic indicator elements;

an electrical source; and

an electronic controller which is configured to:

receive electrical power from the electrical source;

measure an elapsed time; and

control the electronic indicator elements according to the measured elapsed time so as to provide a quantitative progressive visual indication of the time remaining until expiry of a predetermined time period.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

A label for indicating an elapsed time associated with an item is described herein by way of non-limiting example only with reference to the following drawings of which:

Figure 1 (a) is a schematic perspective view of a label including an electronic elapsed time indicator before activation;

Figure 1 (b) is a schematic longitudinal cross-section of the label of Figure 1 ;

Figure 2 is a schematic circuit diagram of the label of Figure 1 before activation; Figure 3(a) is a schematic plan view of the label of Figure 1 immediately after activation;

Figure 3(b) is a schematic plan view of the label of Figure 1 after elapse of a first time period following activation; Figure 3(c) is a schematic plan view of the label of Figure 1 after elapse of a second time period following activation;

Figure 3(d) is a schematic plan view of the label of Figure 1 after elapse of a fourth time period after activation;

Figure 4(a) is a schematic illustration of the label of Figure 1 attached to a two-part container before opening of the container for the first time so as to activate the electronic elapsed time indicator;

Figure 4(b) is a schematic illustration of the label and the container of Figure 4(a) immediately after opening the container for the first time so as to activate the electronic elapsed time indicator;

Figure 5 is a schematic circuit diagram of a first alternative label before activation; and

Figure 6 is a schematic circuit diagram of a second alternative label before activation.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Referring initially to Figures 1 (a) and 1 (b) there is shown a label 1 including an electronic elapsed time indicator generally designated 2 which includes a body 4, an electrically insulating activation member 6 and a display arrangement 10 for providing a visual indication of elapsed time. The activation member 6 is detachably attached to one end of the body 4. The body 4 includes an adhesive layer (not shown explicitly in Figure 1 (a)) on its lower surface 8 for attachment of the body 4 to an object (not shown) such as a perishable item or a container for a perishable item. The body 4 is flexible to allow the body 4 to conform to the shape of a variety of different objects. One of ordinary skill in the art will understand that the electronic elapsed time indicator 2 is illustrated schematically in Figure 1 and that the relative proportions of the label 1 and the electronic elapsed time indicator 2 may be significantly different to those represented in Figures 1 (a) and 1 (b). In particular, the thickness of the label 1 and the electronic elapsed time indicator 2 (i.e. the height or dimension of the label 1 and the electronic elapsed time indicator 2 in the vertical direction in Figures 1 (a) and 1 (b)) has been exaggerated in the interests of clarity.

As shown in Figure 1 (b), the display arrangement 10 includes a plurality of electronic indicator elements in the form of a plurality of light emitting diodes (LEDs) 20a, 20b, 20c, 20d and 20e. Although not shown explicitly in Figure 1 (b), the first four LEDs 20a, 20b, 20c, and 20d are configured to emit green light, whereas the fifth LED 20e is configured to emit red light.

The electronic elapsed time indicator 2 further includes an electrical source in the form of a flexible printed battery 30, a normally-open switch arrangement 40, and an electronic controller 50 which includes a programmable microcontroller 52 and a clock crystal 54.

The normally-open switch arrangement 40 includes a pair of electrical contacts 42, 44 which are biased mechanically towards one another. Prior to activation of the electronic elapsed time indicator 2, the electrically insulating activation member 6 extends between the electrical contacts 42, 44 so as to prevent an electrical connection therebetween as shown in Figures 1 (a) and 1 (b).

The electronic elapsed time indicator 2 further includes a generally opaque cover layer 60 which defines a plurality of transparent windows 60a, 60b, 60c, 60d and 60e, each transparent window 60a, 60b, 60c, 60d, 60e being generally aligned above a corresponding one of the LEDs 20a, 20b, 20c, 20d, 20e.

The LEDs 20a, 20b, 20c, 20d, 20e, the battery 30, the normally-open switch arrangement 40, the microcontroller 52 and the clock crystal 54 are all mounted on a flexible substrate 12. The flexible substrate 12 includes a plurality of electrical conductors such as metal tracks (not shown) which define electrical connections between the LEDs 20a, 20b, 20c, 20d, 20e, the battery 30, the normally-open switch arrangement 40, the microcontroller 52 and the clock crystal 54 so as to realise the circuit shown schematically in Figure 2.

In use, the microcontroller 52 receives electrical power from the battery 30 and controls the LEDs 20a, 20b, 20c, 20d, 20e according to the result of a comparison between a timing signal received from the clock crystal 54 and a number of predetermined or pre-programmed time periods which are stored in the microcontroller 52 so as to provide a quantitative progressive visual indication of an elapsed time after operation of the normally-open switch arrangement 40. Specifically, on withdrawal or removal of the electrically insulating activation member 6 from between the electrical contacts 42, 44 of the normally open switch arrangement 40, the electrical contacts 42, 44 move into contact thereby activating the electronic elapsed time indicator 2 by connecting the battery 32 to the microcontroller 52. Upon the microcontroller 52 receiving power from the battery 32, the microcontroller 52 initiates a timer according to the timing signal received from the clock crystal 54. Immediately after activation, as shown in Figure 3(a), none of the LEDs 20a, 20b, 20c, 20d, 20e are activated. The microcontroller 52 is programmed with a first intermediate predetermined time period, a second intermediate predetermined time period, a third intermediate predetermined time period and a fourth and final predetermined time period which may be selected according to the intended field of use for the electronic elapsed time indicator 2. After elapse of the first intermediate predetermined time period following activation, the microcontroller 52 provides power to activate the first LED 20a as shown in Figure 3(b). After elapse of the second intermediate predetermined time period following activation, the microcontroller 52 provides power to activate the second LED 20b whilst continuing to provide power to the first LED 20a as shown in Figure 3(c). After elapse of the third intermediate predetermined time period following activation, the microcontroller 52 provides power to activate the third LED 20c whilst continuing to provide power to the first and second LEDs 20a, 20b. After elapse of the fourth and final predetermined time period following activation, the microcontroller 52 provides power to activate the fourth and fifth LEDs 20d, 20e whilst continuing to provide power to the first, second and third LEDs 20a, 20b, 20c as shown in Figure 3(d). The fourth and final predetermined time period may, for example, correspond to a lifetime such as a shelf life of a perishable item with which the electronic elapsed time indicator 2 is to be used. Activation of the fifth LED 20e may then provide a visual warning to show that the lifetime of the perishable item has expired. The emission of red light from the fifth LED 20e may provide a visual contrast to the green light emitted from the first, second, third and fourth LEDs 20a, 20b, 20c, 20d. As such, the LEDs together provide a quantitative progressive visual indication of the amount of time elapsed from activation and/or a quantitative progressive visual indication of the amount of time remaining before expiry of a lifetime of an item with which the electronic elapsed time indicator 2 is associated or to which the electronic elapsed time indicator 2 is to be attached.

The electronic elapsed time indicator 2 may be activated manually by pulling the electrically insulating activation member 6 so as to withdraw or remove the electrically insulating activation member 6 from between the electrical contacts 42, 44 of the normally-open switch arrangement 40. The electrically insulating activation member 6 may, for example, be removed when a perishable item to which the electronic elapsed time indicator 2 is attached is first manufactured, processed, packaged or stored.

Alternatively, the electronic elapsed time indicator 2 may be activated automatically as described with reference to Figures 4(a) and 4(b) which illustrate the use of the electronic elapsed time indicator 2 for monitoring the time elapsed from opening a container 80 for the first time. The container 80 may contain a perishable item (not shown) and the electronic elapsed time indicator 2 may be configured to provide a quantitative progressive visual indication of the amount of time remaining to the expiry of a time period by which the perishable item should be used after opening the container 80 for the first time.

As shown in Figures 4(a) and 4(b), the container 80 includes two parts, namely a container body 80a and a container lid 80b. The lower surface 8 of the body 4 of the electronic elapsed time indicator 2 includes an adhesive layer for attachment of the lower surface 8 of the body 4 to the container body 80a. Similarly, the activation member 6 includes an adhesive layer on a lower surface of the activation member 6 for attachment of the lower surface of the activation member 6 to the container lid 80b. The electronic elapsed time indicator 2 may be configured as, or may form part of, a label for attachment to the container 80. On opening the container 80 for the first time and separating the container lid 80b from the container body 80a for the first time the activation member 6 remains attached to the container lid 80b but is separated or detached from the body 4 which remains attached to the container body 80a as shown in Figure 4(b) allowing the contacts 42, 44 of the normally-open switch arrangement 40 to come into contact and thereby activating the electronic elapsed time indicator 2 as previously described above. As such, the electronic elapsed time indicator 2 may provide a progressive indication of the time elapsed from opening the container 80 for the first time and/or a progressive indication of the time remaining until expiry of the contents of the container 80.

Alternatively, the container body 80a and the container lid 80b may be unitary but may still be movable relative to one another so as to detach the activation member 6 from the body 4 on opening the container 80 for the first time. For example, the container body 80a and the container lid 80b may be unitary but may be pivotable relative to one another so as to detach the activation member 6 from the body 4 on opening the container 80 for the first time.

Alternatively, the body 4 could be attached to the container lid 80b and the activation member 6 could be attached to the container body 80a. Figure 5 shows the electrical connectivity of a first alternative electronic elapsed time indicator 102. The electronic elapsed time indicator 102 is similar to the elapsed time indicator 2 of Figures 1 to 4(b) and, as such, features of the electronic elapsed time indicator 102 are identified with the same reference numerals as the corresponding features of the electronic elapsed time indicator 2 incremented by "100". Although not shown in Figure 5, it should be understood that the physical arrangement of the components of the electronic elapsed time indicator 102 may be identical to the physical arrangement of the corresponding components of the electronic elapsed time indicator 2 shown in Figures 1 (a) and 1 (b) but that the components themselves and their electrical connectivity differ as described below.

Like the electronic elapsed time indicator 2, the electronic elapsed time indicator 102 includes a plurality of electronic indicator elements in the form of a plurality of light emitting diodes (LEDs) 120a, 120b, 120c, 120d and 120e, an electrical source in the form of a flexible printed battery 130, a trigger arrangement in the form of a normally-open switch arrangement 140, and an electronic controller 150 which includes a programmable microcontroller 152 and a clock crystal 154. Like the LEDs 20a, 20b, 20c, 20d and 20e of the electronic elapsed time indicator 2, the first four LEDs 120a, 120b, 120c, and 120d of the electronic elapsed time indicator 102 are configured to emit green light, whereas the fifth LED 120e is configured to emit red light. However, unlike the electronic elapsed time indicator 2, the battery 130 of the electronic elapsed time indicator 102 is permanently connected to the microcontroller 152 as shown in Figure 5.

In use, the microcontroller 152 receives electrical power from the battery 130 but remains in a low power consumption or "sleep" mode in which the microcontroller 152 monitors for a change in the status of the normally-open switch arrangement 140. On detecting a change in the status of the normally-open switch arrangement 140, the microcontroller 152 controls the LEDs 120a, 120b, 120c, 120d, 120e according to a timing signal received from the clock crystal 154 so as to provide a quantitative progressive visual indication of an elapsed time after operation of the normally-open switch arrangement 140 and/or a quantitative progressive visual indication of the amount of time remaining before expiry of a lifetime of an item with which the electronic elapsed time indicator 102 is associated or to which the electronic elapsed time indicator 102 is attached. Specifically, on operation of the normally-open switch arrangement 140, the microcontroller 152 initiates a timer according to the timing signal received from the clock crystal 154 whereupon the LEDs 120a, 120b, 120c, 120d, 120e are activated in a sequence like that already described for the LEDs 20a, 20b, 20c, 20d, 20e of the electronic elapsed time indicator 2 with reference to Figures 3(a) - 3(d).

Figure 6 shows the electrical connectivity of a second alternative electronic elapsed time indicator 202 which is configured for wireless communications with an external apparatus 290 such as a handheld device. The electronic elapsed time indicator 202 is similar to the elapsed time indicator 102 of Figure 5 and, as such, features of the electronic elapsed time indicator 202 are identified with the same reference numerals as the corresponding features of the electronic elapsed time indicator 102 incremented by "100". Although not shown in Figure 6, it should be understood that the physical arrangement of the components of the electronic elapsed time indicator 202 may be similar to the physical arrangement of the corresponding components of the electronic elapsed time indicator 102 but that the components themselves and their electrical connectivity differ as described below.

Like the electronic elapsed time indicator 102 of Figure 5, the electronic elapsed time indicator 202 includes a plurality of electronic indicator elements in the form of a plurality of light emitting diodes (LEDs) 220a, 220b, 220c, 220d and 220e, an electrical source in the form of a flexible printed battery 230, and an electronic controller 250 which includes a programmable microcontroller 252 and a clock crystal 254. Like the LEDs 120a, 120b, 120c, 120d and 120e of the electronic elapsed time indicator 102, the first four LEDs 220a, 220b, 220c, and 220d of the electronic elapsed time indicator 202 are configured to emit green light, whereas the fifth LED 220e is configured to emit red light. Like the electronic elapsed time indicator 102, the battery 230 of the electronic elapsed time indicator 202 is permanently connected to the microcontroller 252 as shown in Figure 6. However, unlike the electronic elapsed time indicator 102, the electronic elapsed time indicator 202 does not rely upon a mechanically operated switch arrangement including an activation member and a normally-open switch. Instead, the external apparatus 290 may be used to wirelessly activate the electronic elapsed time indicator 202. Wireless activation may avoid any need to apply a mechanical force for activation of the electronic elapsed time indicator 202. Moreover, wireless activation may allow the external apparatus 290 to activate multiple electronic elapsed time indicators 202 simultaneously. The external apparatus 290 may be used to wirelessly program the first, second, third and fourth predetermined time periods according to the intended use of the electronic elapsed time indicator 202. In addition to displaying quantitative progressive visual elapsed time information as described above, the electronic elapsed time indicator 202 may also wirelessly communicate the quantitative progressive elapsed time information to the external apparatus 290 for display or onward transmission or dissemination to one or more operators.

One of ordinary skill in the art will understand that various modifications are possible to the electronic elapsed time indicators 2, 102 and 202. For example, the LEDs may be operated in different sequences. For example, the microcontroller 52 may operate only one of the LEDs 20a, 20b, 20c, 20d, 20e at a time according to the results of the comparison between the timing signal received from the clock crystal 54 and the predetermined time periods. Additionally or alternatively, the microcontroller 52 may be programmed to cause one or more of the LEDs to flash. The LEDs may be operable to emit light of any colour. Two or more of the LEDs may be operable to emit light of the same colour. Two or more of the LEDs may be operable to emit different colours of light.

One or more of the electronic indicator elements may comprise a light emitting element of any kind..

One or more of the electronic indicator elements may comprise a light reflecting element.

One or more of the electronic indicator elements may comprise a bi-stable display element.

One or more of the electronic indicator elements may comprise a liquid crystal display (LCD) element such as a cholesteric liquid crystal display (LCD) element.

One or more of the electronic indicator elements may comprise at least one of an electrowetting display element, an electrochromic display element and an electrophoretic display element.

One or more of the electronic indicator elements may comprise electronic ink and/or photonic ink.

The electronic indicator elements may comprise different elements, different pixels, different groups of pixels, different areas or the like of an integrated electronic display.

The electronic controller may be configured to control the electronic indicator elements so as to cause the appearance of one or more of the electronic indicator elements to change periodically and/or flash.

The electronic controller may be configured to control the electronic indicator elements so as to cause the appearance of one or more of the electronic indicator elements to be brighter and/or more distinctive for an indication time period after being first activated and to become less bright and/or less distinctive after expiry of the indication time period.

The number of electronic indicator elements may be greater or less than the number of electronic indicator elements described above.

Each of the electronic indicator elements may have a different shape, size and/or orientation to those described above.

Any one or more of the LEDs 20a, 20b, 20c, 20d, 20e, the battery 30, the normally-open switch arrangement 40, the microcontroller 52 and the clock crystal 54 may be flexible or rigid.

The electronic controller may comprise a memory.

The electronic controller may be configured to store a value of the predetermined time period in the memory.

The electronic controller may be configured to store a value of each of the intermediate predetermined time periods in the memory.

The electronic controller may be configured for wireless communications with an external apparatus.

The electronic controller may be configured for uni- or bi-directional wireless communications with the external apparatus.

The electronic controller may be configured to wirelessly receive a trigger signal from the external apparatus and to initiate measurement of the elapsed time on receipt of the trigger signal.

The electronic controller may be configured to wirelessly receive a value of the predetermined time period from the external apparatus and to store the value of the predetermined time period in the memory.

The electronic controller may be configured to wirelessly receive a value of each of the intermediate predetermined time periods from the external apparatus and to store the values of the intermediate predetermined time periods in the memory.

The electronic controller may be configured to wirelessly transmit a signal to the external apparatus on expiry of the predetermined time period.

The electronic controller may be configured to wirelessly transmit a signal to the external apparatus on expiry of each of the intermediate predetermined time periods.

The elapsed time indicator may comprise an environmental sensor for measuring at least one environmental parameter, wherein the electronic controller is configured to repeatedly receive measured values of the at least one environmental parameter from the environmental sensor. The electronic controller may be configured to repeatedly adjust the stored predetermined time period according to the measured values of the at least one environmental parameter.

The electronic controller may be configured to repeatedly adjust the first, second, third and fourth predetermined time periods according to the measured values of the environmental parameter. This may allow the microcontroller 52 to account for any changes in a lifetime of an item with which the electronic elapsed time indicator 2 is associated or to which the electronic elapsed time indicator 2 is attached, which changes in the lifetime of the item may occur under different environmental conditions. For example, the electronic elapsed time indicator 2 may include a temperature sensor and the microcontroller 52 may be configured to repeatedly adjust the first, second, third and fourth predetermined time periods according to live temperature values measured using the temperature sensor to account for any changes in the lifetime of the item at the measured temperature values. Using such a time temperature integration method may allow the electronic elapsed time indicator 2 to provide a more accurate indication of the time remaining to expiry of the lifetime of the item concerned.

The electronic controller may be configured to convey an alarm signal when a measured value of the at least one environmental parameter falls outside a corresponding predetermined range.

The alarm signal may be visual.

The alarm signal may be provided by the electronic indicator elements.

The electronic controller may be configured to convey the alarm signal by operating the electronic indicator elements so as to provide a distinctive pattern or appearance.

The electronic controller may be configured to convey the alarm signal by causing the electronic indicator elements to change appearance or flash periodically.

The alarm signal may be audible.

The label may comprise an audio device such as a speaker for providing the alarm signal.

The electronic controller may be configured to wirelessly transmit the alarm signal to an external apparatus when a measured value of the at least one environmental parameter falls outside a corresponding predetermined range.

The alarm signal may include information relating to the location of the label. Such an alarm signal may allow the label to be located, for example, within a storage area or a warehouse or the like. Such an alarm signal may allow an item or a container for an item with which the label is located or to which the label is attached, to be located within a storage area or a warehouse or the like.

The external apparatus may be configured to emit, transmit, display, broadcast, and/or disseminate a further alarm signal in response to receipt of the alarm signal.

The further alarm signal may be visual and/or audible.

The environmental parameter may comprise at least one of temperature, pressure, humidity, pH, vibration, shock, orientation and location.

Claims

1. A label for indicating an elapsed time associated with an item, the label comprising: a plurality of electronic indicator elements;
an electrical source; and
an electronic controller which is configured to:
receive electrical power from the electrical source;
measure an elapsed time; and
control the electronic indicator elements according to the measured elapsed time so as to provide a quantitative progressive visual indication of the time remaining until expiry of a predetermined time period.
2. An elapsed time indicator according to claim 1 , wherein the predetermined time period is associated with an item with which the elapsed time indicator is to be associated or to which the elapsed time indicator is to be attached.
3. An elapsed time indicator according to claim 2, wherein the predetermined time period comprises a lifetime or a shelf life of the item.
4. A label according to any preceding claim, wherein the electronic controller is configured to activate a final one of the electronic indicator elements on expiry of the predetermined time period and to activate each one of the other electronic indicator elements on expiry of a corresponding intermediate predetermined time period.
5. An elapsed time indicator according to claim 4, wherein each of the intermediate predetermined time periods is a predetermined proportion of the predetermined time period.
6. A label according to any preceding claim, wherein the electronic controller is configured to control the electronic indicator elements sequentially.
7. A label according to any preceding claim, wherein the electronic controller is configured to control the electronic indicator elements sequentially such that, once activated, a given electronic indicator element, remains activated.
8. A label according to any one of claims 1 to 6, wherein the electronic controller is configured to control the electronic indicator elements sequentially such that, once activated, a given electronic indicator element remains activated until the next successive electronic indicator element is activated, whereupon the given electronic indicator element is de-activated.
9. A label according to any preceding claim, wherein the electronic controller is configured to control the electronic indicator elements so as to cause the appearance of one or more of the electronic indicator elements to change periodically and/or flash.
10. A label according to any preceding claim, wherein the electronic controller is configured to control the electronic indicator elements so as to cause the appearance of one or more of the electronic indicator elements to be brighter and/or more distinctive for an indication time period after being first activated and to become less bright and/or less distinctive after expiry of the indication time period.
1 1. A label according to any preceding claim, wherein at least one of the electronic indicator elements is operable to have a coloured appearance.
12. A label according to any preceding claim, wherein two or more of the electronic indicator elements are operable to have an appearance of the same colour.
13. A label according to any preceding claim, wherein two or more of the electronic indicator elements are operable to have appearances of different colours.
14. A label according to any preceding claim, wherein one or more of the electronic indicator elements are operable to have a green appearance.
15. A label according to any preceding claim, wherein one or more of the electronic indicator elements is operable to have a red appearance.
16. A label according to any preceding claim, comprising a cover layer defining an opaque area and one transparent window area for each electronic indicator element, each transparent window area of the cover layer being generally aligned with a corresponding one of the electronic indicator elements so that the corresponding electronic indicator element is visible through the corresponding transparent window area of the cover layer.
17. An elapsed time indicator according to claim 16, wherein the cover layer is plain in colour and/or white.
18. An elapsed time indicator according to claim 16 or 17, wherein the cover layer has one or more symbols, characters, letters, numbers or graphical representations printed or otherwise defined thereon.
19. A label according to any preceding claim, wherein the label is flexible.
20. A label according to any preceding claim, wherein the label comprises a substrate.
21. A label according to claim 20, wherein the substrate is flexible.
22. A label according to claim 20 or 21 , wherein at least one of the plurality of electronic indicator elements, the electrical source, and the electronic controller is mounted on the substrate.
23. A label according to any one of claims 20 to 22, wherein the substrate defines one or more electrical inter-connections between two or more of the plurality of electronic indicator elements, the electrical source, and the electronic controller.
24. A label according to any preceding claim, wherein at least one of the plurality of electronic indicator elements, the electrical source, and the electronic controller is flexible.
25. A label according to any preceding claim, wherein the electrical source comprises a battery.
26. A label according to claim 25, wherein the electrical source is rechargeable.
27. A label according to claim 26, wherein the label comprises an inductive element for wireless recharging of the electrical source.
28. A label according to any preceding claim, wherein the electrical source is formed by printing.
29. A label according to any preceding claim, wherein at least one of the plurality of electronic indicator elements, the electrical source, and the electronic controller is rigid.
30. A label according to any preceding claim, wherein the electronic controller is programmable.
31. A label according to any preceding claim, wherein the electronic controller comprises a memory.
32. A label according to claim 31 , wherein the electronic controller is configured to store the predetermined time period in the memory.
33. A label according to claim 31 or 32 when dependent on claim 4, wherein the electronic controller is configured to store each of the intermediate predetermined time periods in the memory.
34. A label according to any preceding claim, wherein the electronic controller is configured for wireless communications with an external apparatus.
35. A label according to claim 34, wherein the electronic controller is configured for uni- or bi-directional wireless communications with the external apparatus.
36. A label according to claim 34 or 35, wherein the electronic controller is configured to wirelessly receive a trigger signal from the external apparatus and to initiate measurement of the elapsed time on receipt of the trigger signal.
37. A label according to any one of claims 34 to 36, wherein the electronic controller is configured to wirelessly receive a value of the predetermined time period from the external apparatus and to store the value of the predetermined time period in the memory.
38. A label according to any one of claims 34 to 37 when dependent on claim 4, wherein the electronic controller is configured to wirelessly receive a value of each of the intermediate predetermined time periods from the external apparatus and to store the values of the intermediate predetermined time periods in the memory.
39. A label according to any one of claims 34 to 38, wherein the electronic controller is configured to wirelessly transmit a signal to the external apparatus on expiry of the predetermined time period.
40. A label according to any one of claims 34 to 39 when dependent on claim 4, wherein the electronic controller is configured to wirelessly transmit a signal to the external apparatus on expiry of each of the intermediate predetermined time periods.
41. A label according to any preceding claim, comprising an environmental sensor for measuring at least one environmental parameter, wherein the electronic controller is configured to repeatedly receive measured values of the at least one environmental parameter from the environmental sensor.
42. A label according to claim 41 , wherein the electronic controller is configured to repeatedly adjust the stored predetermined time period according to the measured values of the at least one environmental parameter.
43. A label according to claim 41 or 42, wherein the electronic controller is configured to convey an alarm signal when a measured value of the at least one environmental parameter falls outside a corresponding predetermined range.
44. A label according to claim 43, wherein the alarm signal comprises a visual alarm signal.
45. A label according to claim 44, wherein the alarm signal is provided by the electronic indicator elements.
46. A label according to claim 44 or 45, wherein the electronic controller is configured to convey the alarm signal by operating the electronic indicator elements so as to provide a distinctive pattern or appearance.
47. A label according to any one of claims 44 to 46, wherein the electronic controller is configured to convey the alarm signal by causing the electronic indicator elements to change appearance or flash periodically.
48. A label according to any one of claims 43 to 47, wherein the alarm signal comprises an audio signal and the label comprises an audio device such as a speaker for conveying the alarm signal.
49. A label according to any one of claims 43 to 48, wherein the electronic controller is configured to wirelessly transmit the alarm signal to an external apparatus when a measured value of the at least one environmental parameter falls outside a corresponding predetermined range.
50. A label according to claim 49, wherein the alarm signal includes information relating to the location of the label.
51. A label according to claim 49 or 50, wherein the external apparatus is configured to emit, transmit, display, broadcast, and/or disseminate a further alarm signal in response to receipt of the alarm signal.
52. A label according to claim 51 , wherein the further alarm signal is visual and/or audible.
53. A label according to any one of claims 41 to 52, wherein environmental parameter may comprise at least one of temperature, pressure, humidity, pH, vibration, shock, orientation and location.
54. A label according to any preceding claim, wherein the label is configured such that the electronic controller initiates the measurement of the elapsed time in response to connection of the electronic controller to the electrical source for the first time.
55. A label according to any preceding claim, comprising a first label part and a second label part, wherein the first and second label arts are detachably attached to one another.
56. A label according to claim 55, wherein the label is configured such that separation of the first and second label parts for the first time causes the electronic controller to initiate the measurement of the elapsed time.
57. A label according to claim 55 or 56, wherein the label is configured such that separation of the first and second label parts for the first time causes the electronic controller to be connected to the electrical source.
58. A label according to any one of claims 55 to 57, wherein the first label part is configured for attachment to a first object and the second label part is configured for attachment to a second object.
59. A label according to any one of claims 55 to 58, wherein the label is configured such that the electronic controller automatically initiates the measurement of the elapsed time in response to relative movement between the first and second label parts for the first time.
60. A label according to any preceding claim, comprising a switch arrangement, wherein the label is configured such that operation of the switch arrangement causes the electronic controller to initiate the measurement of the elapsed time.
61. A label according to claim 60, wherein the switch arrangement is configured for manual operation.
62. A label according to claim 60 or 61 , wherein the switch arrangement is operable mechanically.
63. A label according to any one of claims 60 to 62, wherein the switch arrangement comprises a normally-open or normally-off switch arrangement.
64. A label according to any one of claims 60 to 63 when dependent on any one of claims 55 to 59, wherein the switch arrangement comprises a first switch part provided with one of the first and second label parts and a second switch part provided with the other of the first and second label parts.
65. A label according to any one of claims 60 to 64, wherein the switch arrangement comprises a pair of electrical contacts and an electrically insulating activation member, wherein the electrical contacts are mechanically biased towards one another and the electrically insulating activation member is removably inserted between the pair of electrical contacts so that removal of the electrically insulating activation member from between the pair of electrical contacts causes the pair of electrical contacts to move into contact with one another.
66. A label according to any one of claims 60 to 65, wherein the switch arrangement is electrically connected between the electrical source and the electronic controller.
67. A label according to any preceding claim, wherein the electronic controller comprises a microcontroller.
68. A label according to any preceding claim, wherein the electronic controller comprises a timer.
69. A label according to any preceding claim, wherein the electronic controller comprises an oscillator.
70. A label according to any preceding claim, wherein the electronic controller comprises a crystal oscillator or a microelectromechanical system (MEMS) oscillator.
71. A label according to any preceding claim, wherein the electronic controller comprises a clock crystal.
72. A label according to any preceding claim, wherein the label includes an adhesive layer for attaching the label to an object.
73. A label according to any preceding claim, wherein the label has a thickness of less than or equal to 1 mm.
74. A label according to any preceding claim, wherein the label has a length of less than or equal to 100 mm.
75. A label according to any preceding claim, wherein the label has a width of less than or equal to 10 mm.
76. A label according to any preceding claim, wherein one or more of the electronic indicator elements comprises a light emitting element.
77. A label according to any preceding claim, wherein one or more of the electronic indicator elements comprises a light emitting diode.
78. A label according to any preceding claim, wherein one or more of the electronic indicator elements comprises a light reflecting element.
79. A label according to any preceding claim, wherein one or more of the electronic indicator elements comprises a bi-stable display element.
80. A label according to any preceding claim, wherein one or more of the electronic indicator elements comprises a liquid crystal display (LCD) element and/or a cholesteric liquid crystal display (LCD) element.
81. A label according to any preceding claim, wherein one or more of the electronic indicator elements comprises at least one of an electrowetting display element, an electrochromic display element and an electrophoretic display element.
82. A label according to any preceding claim, wherein one or more of the electronic indicator elements comprises electronic ink and/or photonic ink.
83. A kit of parts for a label for indicating an elapsed time associated with an item, the kit of parts comprising:
a plurality of electronic indicator elements; and
an electronic controller,
wherein the kit of parts is capable of being assembled to form a label such that the electronic controller is configured to:
receive electrical power from an electrical source;
measure an elapsed time; and control the electronic indicator elements according to the measured elapsed time so as to provide a quantitative progressive visual indication of the time remaining until expiry of a predetermined time period.
84. A kit of parts according to claim 83, comprising the electrical source.
85. A container comprising a label according to any one of claims 1 to 82.
86. A method for indicating an elapsed time associated with an item, the method comprising attaching a label to the item, wherein the label includes:
a plurality of electronic indicator elements;
an electrical source; and
an electronic controller which is configured to:
receive electrical power from the electrical source;
measure an elapsed time; and
control the electronic indicator elements according to the measured elapsed time so as to provide a quantitative progressive visual indication of the time remaining until expiry of a predetermined time period.
PCT/GB2016/053586 2015-11-17 2016-11-17 Label for indicating elapsed time WO2017085488A1 (en)

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GB201520230A GB201520230D0 (en) 2015-11-17 2015-11-17 Label for indicating elapsed time

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GB2361064A (en) * 2000-04-08 2001-10-10 Glance Tech Ltd Data logging device which determines lifetime of a product
US20030099157A1 (en) * 2001-11-26 2003-05-29 Pitney Bowes Method for displaying an environmentally modulated expiration date
US20040156418A1 (en) * 2002-10-17 2004-08-12 Wayne Debord Perishable product electronic label including time and temperature measurement
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US20060227669A1 (en) * 2005-04-11 2006-10-12 Pennaz Thomas J Layered label structure with timer
US20070089433A1 (en) * 2005-10-20 2007-04-26 Smurfit-Stone Container Enterprises, Inc. Methods and systems for monitoring a shelf life of a product stored within a container
US20120274470A1 (en) * 2009-12-11 2012-11-01 Sandvick Warren J Food safety indicator
US20130221114A1 (en) * 2012-02-27 2013-08-29 L&P Property Management Company Mattress Age Indicator
US20150235169A1 (en) * 2013-12-30 2015-08-20 Chromera, Inc. Intelligent Label Processing System

Patent Citations (9)

* Cited by examiner, † Cited by third party
Publication number Priority date Publication date Assignee Title
GB2361064A (en) * 2000-04-08 2001-10-10 Glance Tech Ltd Data logging device which determines lifetime of a product
US20030099157A1 (en) * 2001-11-26 2003-05-29 Pitney Bowes Method for displaying an environmentally modulated expiration date
US20040156418A1 (en) * 2002-10-17 2004-08-12 Wayne Debord Perishable product electronic label including time and temperature measurement
EP1688805A2 (en) * 2005-02-08 2006-08-09 Cordis Corporation Medical product expiration alerting
US20060227669A1 (en) * 2005-04-11 2006-10-12 Pennaz Thomas J Layered label structure with timer
US20070089433A1 (en) * 2005-10-20 2007-04-26 Smurfit-Stone Container Enterprises, Inc. Methods and systems for monitoring a shelf life of a product stored within a container
US20120274470A1 (en) * 2009-12-11 2012-11-01 Sandvick Warren J Food safety indicator
US20130221114A1 (en) * 2012-02-27 2013-08-29 L&P Property Management Company Mattress Age Indicator
US20150235169A1 (en) * 2013-12-30 2015-08-20 Chromera, Inc. Intelligent Label Processing System

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