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Video edited by Damian Joseph
It was a bottle of Hungry Jack that gave Jon Cameron the idea for a new generation of bar codes. The 43-year-old chief executive of Pop! Technology was microwaving the syrup and noticed the label came with temperature-sensitive ink that changed color to tell when the bottle’s contents had warmed enough for use. He thought, why not apply that ink to universal product codes? Pop—the name refers to “point of placement”—prints a temperature-sensitive tag next to the regular UPC. This extra code can be reversible, changing color based on the temperature of the product at the time being, like that Hungry Jack bottle. Or it can be irreversible, changing only once in response to some temperature increase or decrease. With irreversible ink, mishandling of perishable products including chicken and medicines becomes much easier to detect: Once the product has been exposed to unsuitable temperatures, the color acts as an alert.
Though Cameron secured the patent for Pop’s technology in 1999, Pop was only formed in 2004. Now that the company is finishing up beta testing, though, he says clients are a-calling. Cameron has already secured $1 million in funding, with another million on the way. He says Pop will make roughly $1.2 million this year, with projections of $5 million by 2009. With that revenue Cameron plans to expand his operation from three employees (including himself) to four sales teams, turning up the heat—and perhaps changing the color of Pop’s own UPC, too.