TOKYO -- Unscrupulous traders who empty bottles of fine Japanese sake and refill them with cheap liquor will soon have a tougher time concealing their practices, thanks to smart tags.
The tags are part of a new system developed by IBM Japan and others to combat the circulation of phony sake in Asia and elsewhere. They are also seen aiding the government's "Cool Japan" strategy of promoting Japanese culture abroad.
Paper stickers embedded with smart tags devised by Toppan Printing will be stuck on top of sake bottles before shipment. Data from the tags will be read during inspections. Information on whether the stickers were torn -- and the bottles opened -- will be recorded in cloud storage.
Bottles will also include QR codes. Retailers and restaurants in places like China and Thailand can scan the codes with their smartphones and access cloud data to see whether the sake they ordered was opened.
Shata Shuzo, an Ishikawa Prefecture-based sake brewer famous for its Tengumai brand, and Masudashuzo, a sake company in Toyama Prefecture known for its Masuizumi brand, will offer support for the system's initial trial run.
Costs and fees for the entire system will be determined later but are expected to total roughly 50,000 yen ($403) for 1,000 bottles. IBM Japan will work to get support from the government and sake producers to popularize the system.