SharpEnd Helps Brands Achieve Full Potential of IoT Technologies

After publishing an article about connected packaging in Big Picture magazine earlier this year, I was introduced to Cameron Worth, the founder of the SharpEnd “Agency of Things™” in London. The SharpEnd agency works directly with global brands to help them maximize the opportunity that emerging “Internet of Things” technologies can provide.

In addition to developing strategies, creative, prototyping, and pilot projects, SharpEnd can help brands scale up successful programs.

“Smart packaging is our bread-and-butter right now,” said Worth. SharpEnd also helps brands evaluate and test technologies for retailing, experiential marketing, and the connected home.

A New Type of ‘Agency’

When discussing SharpEnd, Cameron Worth hesitates to call it an agency. He doesn’t want SharpEnd  confused with a traditional advertising agency that plans campaigns, writes catchy slogans,and buys advertising space.

Cameron Worth, SharpEnd

SharpEnd helps brands choose emerging technologies that fit the technographics of their target market.

“We start with the consumer value proposition and why a brand would want to implement a certain technology in the first place,” says Worth. In the smart packaging space, Sharp End develops prototypes for several types of connected packaging that the brands can evaluate in private.

If a test program is successful, SharpEnd can help clients make the business case for converting a test project into a large-scale deployment.

“We can work with the brand’s existing providers to help them scale up,” says Worth. Working with packaging manufacturers and converters, SharpEnd employees can help test whether a certain technology concept fits in with existing manufacturing and shipping processes. For example, they have studied how the performance of an NFC chip is affected after it goes through a heat tunnel.


When SharpEnd was founded in 2014, it may have been the first company to promote itself as an IoT (Internet of Things) agency. Worth describes SharpEnd as “an activation partner” for the fast deployment of emerging marketing technologies.

“A massive transformation of opportunity is underway,” says Worth. “We have a responsibility to make sure that people are making the most of these opportunities.” He believes brands must understand the full possibilities of a new technology in order to get the most out of it creatively.

SharpEnd currently has offices in London and Stockholm and plans to open a U.S. office before the end of 2018. SharpEnd clients include Unilever, Pernod Ricard, British American Tobacco, Nestle, and Pepsi.

One connected packaging project SharpEnd is currently working on is a scale-up of a project for Malibu-brand rums and cocktails. Last summer, Malibu applied NFC chips to over 45,000 bottles distributed to 1600 Tesco stores. SharpEnd recommended “near-field-communications” technology because it doesn’t require the consumer to download an app to activate it. They used a printed neck-hanger on the bottle to encourage consumers to connect with the online content.

SharpEnd also demonstrates how “smart spaces” and “smart ordering” can create memorable brand experiences. For Malibu, SharpEnd created a virtual-reality experience for retailers that was much more engaging than a PowerPoint presentation. The immersive brand world contained ads, gifs, recipes, and even retail guidelines. The smart ordering project involved a connected coconut-shaped drink cup.

Sharp End shows brands how the Internet of Things can be used to create memorable brand experiences. For Malibu, they turned an empty cup into a connected marketing opportunity. Users of the connected Malibu coconut cup simply twisted the NFC-enabled base to order another a drink. Servers use the Coco-Nect app and Bluetooth Mesh networking to see where they should deliver the drink. (Photos: SharpEnd)

Malibu Coco-Nect app


In researching my article, “Connected Packaging as a Marketing Channel,” I learned that brands are curious but cautious about emerging technologies such as augmented reality, NFC, embedded smart codes, conductive inks, and printed electronics.

Early attempts to use QR codes to connect consumers to digital content failed because the “interactive experience” detracted from the consumer’s overall experience with the brand. Instead of connecting to content that was updated, useful, or engaging, the first QR codes often connected to static, boring websites that didn’t display properly on the consumers’ smartphones.

With the right combinations of technology and creative content, brands today can avoid those issues.

As SharpEnd demonstrates, packaging isn’t the only object that can be connected.  Perhaps other forms of Internet of Things connections can generate more immediate sales results (e.g. “smart ordering.”)

From what I have observed over the years, major new technologies (e.g. wide-format printing, the internet, cameraphones) didn’t really take off until some determined, creative people demonstrated killer applications that could achieve large-scale success.

For example, analysts have discussed the potential of “mass-customization” of consumer products for years. But it didn’t catch the attention of major consumer brands until HP and Coca-Cola teamed up to prove that packaging can be customized and personalized on a global scale.

Because SharpEnd can help brands with everything from strategy to creative execution and technology selection, the “Agency of Things” seems well positioned to help accelerate the adoption of connected packaging and other Internet of Things applications. Check out SharpEnd’s work by visiting Offers Alternative to Traditional Art Licensing

If you would like to sell more of your designs, art, or photographs, now is a great time to check out everything that’s possible through Their “set-your-own-price” alternative to traditional art licensing gives you greater control over how much you can earn from the sale of your images. is global print-on-demand marketplace that allows design enthusiasts to choose which images they would like to have printed on more than 25 different products, including framed prints, metal prints, wood prints, greeting cards, T-shirts, hoodies, tote bags, duvet covers, men’s apparel, women’s apparel, throw pillows, shower curtains, beach towels, smartphone cases, and more.

Custom tote bag with starfish image by Katherine Young
Tote bag printed with image by Katherine Young-Beck

Pixels handles all the details associated with printing, matting, framing, packaging, shipping, insuring, and customer service. Orders placed through go to one of 14 production facilities in 5 countries around the world. This makes it easy to print and ship your products to customers anywhere in the world. For example, if a buyer in Germany orders a product decorated with one of your images, the product will be printed and shipping a facility in The Netherlands.

The Pixels site, which attracts 5 million unique visitors per month, typically receives a surge or orders in November and December from holiday gift givers.

You Set Your Own Prices

Unlike licensing deals in which the publisher sets the price and dictates the amount of royalties you will receive, lets you set the price for the products made with your images.

As a seller, you will see a base price that covers production and fulfillment costs for each item. The amount you add as the mark-up will be the selling price. When the product sells, you earn 100 percent of the markup amount.

You can also choose which of your images you will permit to be printed on which products. For example, a high-resolution nature photograph that looks spectacular as a large metal print might not look the same on a beach towel or duvet cover. was founded by Sean Broihier, the self-taught programming whiz who started the Fine Art America platform in 2006. complements the Fine Art America site by appealing to a broader base of customers who may be interested in photo merchandise, fashion apparel and accessories, and home decor items.

Sean Broihier was one of the first e-commerce entrepreneurs to enable all living artists to sell their artwork online. He said the “set-your-own-business-model” has been a big driver of the growth of the platform: “It has always been my opinion that artists should be able to set their prices as high or as low as they want to.” If an art publisher chooses to sell a canvas print for $50 and offers artists a 10% royalty, the artists shouldn’t have to decide whether or not they are willing to accept $5 for the sale of their art on the prints.

Multiple Options for Sales and Marketing

Over the past 11  years, Broihier has really listened to the concerns of artists and photographers who sell their work on the site. So he has continuously developed tools that enable you to adapt to all the different ways that art is now discovered, promoted, and purchased.

For example, here are just a few of your options. You can:

  • Sell Pixel’s print-on-demand products through your own Shopify store.
  • Sell print-on-demand products through your own branded storefront hosted by
  • License individual images and set your own terms for royalty-free and rights-managed licenses.
  • License images for streaming to digital displays.
  • Connect directly with buyers who express interest in buying one of your originals.
  • Print sample products for display at art fairs or in your studio. You can also print sell sheets that show potential buyers how your art will look of various products and explain how they can order them.
  • Publish news releases, blog posts, e-newsletters, and e-mail marketing programs through
  • Run automated marketing campaigns on Facebook and Twitter

You can even use an iPad app as a sales tool. If a potential buyer of your art wants to preview how it might look on their walls, your can use the augmented reality interface on the iPad app.

The Pixels app takes the guesswork out of buying art online. After the customer the size of the print and how it will be matted and framed, the buyer can view an actual-size preview on their own walls. They can even see what the finished product will look like from different angles within the room.

Everything the viewer sees is perfectly to scale. For instance, a 24 x 36 inch canvas print will appear on the wall at exactly 24 x 36 inches. As the individual walks around the room, the app uses the iPad’s video camera and a unique tracking algorithm to keep the image perfectly positioned in the desired location on the wall. also has deals with retailers such as Deck the Walls, The Great Frame Up, and the Framing and Art Center to sell artwork at more than 150 retail locations in the U.S. and Canada.  Plus, has special programs available for large-volume buyers in the hospitality and design fields.

Special Features

If you want to see the types of art that buyers purchase through the each day, you can see it. also publishes real-time comments and reviews from customers who are (and aren’t) totally satisfied with the ordered products.

You can also join online communities of like-minded artists.  The site includes more than 1900 groups dedicated to topics such as office decor, self-promotion, historical buildings, the Adirondacks, orchids, and photographs edited to look like paintings.    

If you would rather spend your time creating more art than worrying about how to get it reproduced, promoted, and sold, can help.

The site was set up to power sales everywhere artwork is bought and sold: “It doesn’t matter if you want to hang your artwork, carry it, wear it, license it, or stream it.” Millions of buyers all over the world decorate their homes and accessorize their lives with Pixels products

Packlane Serves Creative Entrepreneurs Who Want Custom Packaging

If you sell your own branded products online, consider custom packaging. It can set you apart from competitors and make a big impression on your customers.

According to a 2016 eCommerce Packaging Study by Dotcom Distribution, the quality of your packaging can play a role in fostering customer loyalty. In their survey, 40 percent of the respondents said they would be more likely to purchase from an online retailer again if the product they ordered came in gift-like or premium package.

Thanks to companies such as Packlane, you no longer have to be a high-volume seller of products to afford great-looking packaging.

Packlane custom boxes

Whether you need a few small cartons or large printed shipping boxes, Packlane can help you create full-color, customized packaging that will get your customers excited about what’s inside.

In addition to ordering as few as 10 boxes, you can choose the graphics, the size and type of box, and the type of materials used.

When it’s time to re-order new boxes, you can adjust the design to include seasonal messaging or update your branding. You won’t risk being stuck with hundreds of boxes with outdated graphics.

Types of Boxes

Packlane offers three main styles of boxes: a classic carton, a mailer box, a shipping box. Each type can be sized to snugly fit your products. You won’t have to stuff a box that is too big with extra material to keep the contents from shifting around.

Types of Materials

When you place your order, you can choose to print the graphics printed on stocks ranging from thin, flat paperboard to thick corrugated graphics. You can specify whether you want your graphics printed on brown Kraft paper or a crisp white paper. The brown paper is fine for simple graphics with muted colors. The white paper is ideal for bright colors and designs that include images.


Design Tools

The website includes tools that make it easy for you to create and preview your design in 3 dimensions.

Or, you can request a 2D dieline for the box style and size you choose. A dieline is flattened outline of the box design that shows where the folds and cutlines will go. Just follow the Artwork Guidelines, and Packlane will take care of the rest.

For quantities from 10 to 2,000, you can get an instant quote. (If you need larger quantities, you can request a quote.)

Design Training

To help creative entrepreneurs get the best results from their packaging, Packlane has developed a free 36-minute Skillshare course: Packaging Design for Creatives and Entrepreneurs.

The video series discusses  box styles, design considerations, production and finishing techniques, dielines, RGB vs. CMYK color, how to use Illustrator, and tips for creating or uploading your design on the Packlane website.

Additional Insights

On the Packlane blog, you’ll find interviews with some of the entrepreneurs who have ordered boxes from Packlane. Michael Kushner, of Stefans Head explains why he is using custom-designed boxes to ship his company’s limited-edition T-shirts.

Another Packlane customer is a start-up that sends a curated selection of Paleo-friendly snacks to subscribers every month. He says, “A professional image is extremely important to start-ups. Custom packaging sets us up for success from the very beginning.”

The Packlane blog also contains tips such as How to Choose the Right Packaging for Your Product.


HP Latex 110 Printer Can Help Creative Entrepreneurs Make New Products

Getting into the printing business is easier than you think. Creative entrepreneurs are using the latest generations of wide-format inkjet printers to develop all sorts of innovative decorative and customized products.

In fact, the new HP Latex 110 printer was specifically designed for “print-prenuers” seeking easy, affordable entry into large-format printing. The 54-inch HP Latex 110 printer can help you jump-start a new printing business from your home, design studio, or small, rented facility. You can use it for low-volume printing of products such as indoor and outdoor banners, posters, stickers, canvas photo prints, or wall murals and decorative decals.

In addition to selling to local clients, you can develop an online store to expand your reach.

HP Latex 110 wide format inkjet printer

The printer uses six colors of third-generation, water-based HP Latex inks to produce professional, high-resolution prints up to 1200 x 1200 dpi.

Unlike the solvent inks used in many outdoor sign printers, the HP Latex inks are odorless and require no special ventilation. HP Latex inks contain no Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) and meet high market standards, such as UL ECOLOGO® certification.

HP Latex inks are a popular choice for printing custom wallcoverings because UL GREENGUARD GOLD Certified HP Latex Inks meet standards for low chemical emissions into indoor air during product usage.

The prints come out completely dry, ready for same-day delivery. The inks have enough scratch-resistance to be used for short-term outdoor signs without lamination. Because so many different types of materials are compatible with HP Latex inks, you can develop niche products that will set you apart from competitors.

Priced at $9,325, the HP Latex 110 is designed for easy and intuitive operation. The system includes automatic maintenance and front-loading features, as well as online learning tools and software assistance.


The printer also includes access to free professional solutions like the Media Certification Program, the HP WallArt app, and the HP Latex Mobile app.

With the Media Certification Program, you can easily find media that has been certified compatible with HP Latex Inks from a variety of recognized media suppliers worldwide.

The types of materials available for use include self-adhesive vinyls, films, papers, wallcovering materials, canvas, and synthetics. (Fabrics, mesh, and other porous surfaces require materials that have a liner.)

The HP WallArt app helps your clients visualize how a specific decal or wall-mural design will look on their walls before the job file is set up and submitted.

The HP Latex Mobile app enables you to remotely monitor the printer, track job status and receive printer alerts on your smartphone.


The HP Latex 110 printer is the latest addition to HP’s extensive line of latex printers for small-, medium- and high-volume printing requirements. HP Latex systems range from 54-inch printers than can produce indoor-quality prints at 129 square feet per hour to 126-inch printers that can print high-quality indoor prints at 830 square feet per hour.


HP Latex Printers

HP Wall Art

HP Latex Mobile App

Entrepreneurial Designer Creates Super-Sized Cardboard Toy Food Trucks

Here’s a great example of an entrepreneurial designer who is capitalizing on the latest advances in digital printing on cardboard to create and sell a new line of fun, customizable products.

CardboardFoodTruckJust in time for Christmas, a designer-led start-up company called Famous OTO has launched the first in a series of supersized, cardboard toy trucks modeled after the increasingly popular food trucks.

The first model in the series in the OTO Ice Cream Truck, which sports a combination of photorealistic and hand-drawn artwork. Customers who order it through the OTO Toy website can have the truck’s license plate personalized with the child’s name.

Every step of the truck-making process, from product design to manufacturing, is handled in the US. OTO trucks are made entirely out of recyclable cardboard and are food-grade, certified non-toxic. The trucks are manufactured near Philadelphia, about two hours away from Famous OTO headquarters in Brooklyn.


Famous OTO is the brainchild of Swedish-born creative designer Måns Swanberg. When he’s not designing toys, Swanberg is busy directing projects at the New York-based production company, Blacklist.

Swanberg said the toys were deliberately designed to be eye-catching and inviting, and promote real-world interaction (away from the blinking screens of tablets and video games). When the Famous OTO team took product pictures in a public park, they were swarmed by enthusiastic kids who simply took over playing with the trucks.

“So many toy manufacturers seem to think they can get away with sloppy design just because it’s for kids,” says Swanberg. “I think the opposite is true. Kids like to see that someone put effort into it. They have strong, innate aesthetic sensibilities and that should not be underestimated.”


OTO-Toys to Launch Artisan-Focused Maker Space, an online marketplace with over 100,000 members worldwide, is converting the historic Bates mansion in downtown Tucson, Arizona into their new headquarters and an artisan driven maker space.

The new “Maker House” will be a community hub and education space for artists, artisans and creative entrepreneurs. It will also provide access to equipment that artists and makers might not have readily available in their home studios, such as 3D printers, vinyl cutters, kilns, screen-printing presses, paper embossers, and computer-guided sewing machines.

The Maker House will also include meeting rooms, communal workspaces, and a coffee bar. A 5,000 square foot courtyard hidden behind nine-foot walls can be used for outdoor concerts and other events. Watch for the grand opening of The Maker House in September.

“Moving into this wonderful historic space perfectly matches both the future of tech companies in Southern Arizona and our commitment to artisans and the creative entrepreneur,” said John Jacobs, CEO and Founder of

“I can’t imagine a more fitting space for a project that offers new collaborations for creative people,” said Tony Ford, the co-founder and COO of “Creating a physical space that mirrors the variety, diversity and collaboration of our online artisan community and joining that to the indie artist community in Tucson is a perfect way to extend the ArtFire brand.” was founded in Tucson in 2008 by entrepreneurs with a passion for handmade art and indie business. The site currently features 1 million items from 15,000 artists worldwide. More than 2.5 million shoppers visit each month.



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