Top Connected Products of 2021

Top Connected Products of 2021

Our roundup of some of the most innovative connected products of 2021.

September 25, 2023

In our increasingly digital and connected world, technology provides creative ways for people to learn, communicate and live easier. Continued demand for a contactless economy in 2021 fueled more widespread use of quick response (QR) codes and near field communication (NFC) tags everywhere from restaurant menus to store checkouts.

As there’s a continued shift toward touchless economy, innovative brands have implemented the same technology and tools to create connected products that inform, connect and provide unique value to consumers’ lives.

Here are some of our favorite connected products and unique uses of QR codes and NFC tags in 2021.

1. Yubico NFC Security Keys Authenticate and Protect Your Accounts

This “key” plugs into your laptop or other electronic device and protects your accounts from Gmail, Salesforce, Outlook, and more with passwordless, strong two factor, and strong multi-factor authentication.

“Register easily with hundreds of services. Once registered, each service will simply request you to insert and tap your YubiKey to gain access during login. Simple, convenient, and secure.”

2. Travel IDs and Official Documents Go Digital 

Apple worked with eight states — Arizona, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Oklahoma and Utah — to allow residents to “seamlessly and securely add their driver’s license or state ID to Wallet on their iPhone and Apple Watch.”

Meanwhile, the State Information Technology Agency (SITA), the IT provider for air travel, collaborated to create the Australian Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) app. Travelers can auto-populate passport data and obtain electronic Australian visas.

3. Ekko: Eliminating Takeout Waste with NFC-Enabled Reusable Food Containers

Consumers can order takeout from partner restaurants and indicate they want their takeout in a reusable Ekko container. Customers pick up their food in the reusable container, take it home, and rinse and return them to a drop location within a week.

At the drop box, consumers push a button and place the bottom of the container on the lid to scan it. They then place the container inside the box, and can be on their way!

4. Bilibili: Lighting Up the Sky With a Drone QR Code in Shangai

“The illuminated QR code, effectively a billboard advertisement in the air, was part of a light show put on by Chinese video-streaming company Bilibili on the first anniversary of the China release of the Japanese role-playing game Princess Connect! Re:Dive.”


5. Self Shopping with VeeVe’s Completely Contactless NFC Shopping Carts

Using NFC-powered carts, customers can check in with their phone number, place their bag in the cart and place items inside. The cart automatically detects and tallies items, adding prices as customers shop. Consumers then tap to pay or insert their card and can be on their way.

VeeVe recently partnered with grocery chain Albertson’s to trial the AI-powered carts in select stores.


6. Woolmark Prize for Sustainability Transparency

This year’s theme of “Less is More” at the International Woolmark Prize awards focused on “sustainability, supply chains and future-proof designs.”

Blue Bite worked with finalists — including winner Matty Bovan — to transform garments into connected products. This created the opportunity to deliver transparency at every step of the product journey.

This was just one of many connected product projects Blue Bite powered last year.

7. BMW Eliminates the Need for Physical Car Keys or Fobs with Digital Car Keys

“With the BMW Digital Key, customers can easily unlock and lock their BMW simply by holding their smartphone next to the handle of the driver's door. The engine can also be started when the mobile phone is placed in the BMW wireless charging compartment.”

8. eBay Ensures Products’ Authenticity with Sneaker Authentication Powered by Blue Bite

“With a thorough independent authentication process and the help of near-field communication (NFC) technology, consumers and sellers can rest assured they’re getting the real deal when sales are made on the site.”

“Upon receiving their product, customers can tap an NFC tag or card (depending on the product) to see personalized information about their item. They’re immersed in a Blue Bite digital Experience, which shows them everything they would want to know about their authenticated item.”

eBay first launched the program for sneakers and has since expanded to also provide the authenticity guarantee for handbags and watches.

9. Woodland Cemetery Keeps Late Des Moines, Iowa Residents’ Stories Alive

“Modern-day QR codes dot dozens of historic grave sites all across Woodland Cemetery telling the stories of some of Des Moines' earliest residents.”


10. Makeup Shopping Goes Contactless with Virtual Try-Ons at Woolworths

“The new digital beauty experiences, Virtual Try On and Virtual Consultations, are designed to help consumers reinvent their beauty shopping experience at home and gain more confidence before making a purchase. Virtual Try On gives customers the opportunity to try on hundreds of shades of lipsticks, eye shadows, and mascaras.”

Consumers can tap NFC tags throughout the store with their phone to and shop, virtually “try on” and even order products to their home. The program is currently available at Woolworths locations in Cape Town and Johannesburg in South Africa.


11. Houdini Moves toward a Circular Economy with Connected NFC Zippers

“By simply touching their mobile phone to YKK’s NFC-enabled zipper pull, Houdini customers can instantly access a world of experiences, services, knowledge sharing and content.”

The digital experience aims to educate consumers with product care guides and share ways they can “co-create circular ways of life.”


These 10 connected products from 2021 are just a handful of ways innovative brands are embracing technology and moving toward a more connected, circular economy.

We’re excited to see what new ways companies will use technology to create more smart and connected products in 2022!


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