Digital watermarks are imperceptible patterns embedded into printed or recorded material. Devices with more sensitive “eyes and ears,” like smartphones can detect the unique ID within the pattern and link the item to the Internet — like a QR code. Because the watermarks are hidden within other printed material, like product packaging or photographs, they don’t take up space the way a QR code does. Lucky and Seventeen magazines link items on fashion pages to the retailer’s website for purchase, without bogging the page down with several QR codes. “This gets really interesting when you start to think about the shopper’s journey,” says Ed Knudson, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Digimarc. “Our technology can enable retailers and brands to more deeply engage with smartphone-carrying consumers at every touchpoint along their path to purchase.” Knudson believes the most powerful retail force will be when retailers and brands adopt the watermarks in consumer packaging. This means that a customer can scan anywhere on the package using their smartphone and find information — drug interactions for over-the-counter medications, nutritional information on food, etc. It also means that, when tied in with new POS imaging scanners, a clerk only needs to wave the product past the scanner, rather than hunt for the barcode on the package.