NFC Forum eBook Offers Guide to Digital Product Passport

The EU’s requirements can be met with a data carrier on each product that consumers can access data throughout the product’s life

While companies and agencies grapple with how the European Commission’s pending Digital Product Passport (DPP) requirements will be met—and how data about each product will be stored and accessed—there’s another question to address around data delivery:

How is a product, such as a battery or t-shirt, identified, to access information about it?

To that end, the NFC Forum is offering an ebook to help companies that engage with NFC technology prepare for DPP compliance (starting in 2026) to not only meet mandates but gain value around sustainability or connectivity. The book is part of the NFC Forum’s road map to help educate users and developers.

The forum’s goal is to help companies consider the value 13.56 MHz NFC technology brings to the DPP based on its ability to be read by mobile phones, to store data offline, and be read in volume at sites such as recycling plants.

As product manufacturers prepare to make their products—and materials within those products—visible throughout the journey of their use and disposal, NFC is a viable option in several ways, according to NFC forum’s executive director Mike McCamon.

McCamon points to the easy access to data with an NFC-enabled smartphone, if an NFC tag is built into an item. NFC offers wireless charging and an extended range so that it can better accomplish some of the visibility demands that are coming as well.

Meeting DPP Requirements

DPP is an initiative that’s part of Europe’s Green Deal to achieve a circular economy. Each product will have a digital passport so that it can be tracked from the point of manufacture until the end of its life, or after it’s recycled.

A large percentage of DPP preparation efforts are centered around data management. Companies are determining how each product’s data is stored in the cloud, how it will be accessed, and what that data will look like.

The data carrier (a QR code, NFC or RFID tag) is the secondary question that is consuming less bandwidth so far, McCamon said. It’s a quest the NFC Forum is dedicating its attention to—since the tags provide benefits other identifiers might not, he pointed out.

NFC DPP Standard

The eBook is addressed to helping those who are already using NFC tags, or planning to do so, to position themselves to comply with DPP.

The NFC Digital Product Passport (NDPP) will be a standard where chips and tags can store a link to connect products to an online DPP. That could include simple URL links to online or cloud DPP data as well as full or partial DPP data embedded into the tag and therefore attached to the product. That ensures DPP data survives the full life and disposal of products.

“What we’re also defining is the specification that would allow you to store the data,” McCamon said, not only in the cloud, but also directly on the product because a typical NFC tag contains enough memory to store small pieces of information. That could be a unique ID for authentication, or even an expiration date.

Accessing Data Without the Internet

“The idea is that [a product’s] data doesn’t have to live only in the cloud it could live on the device and there’s some really interesting benefits for the market in that case,” McCamon said.

One benefit to storing data on the tag itself would be accessibility to permanent information that isn’t altered by someone accessing it online. That means, the authenticity of a product could be immutable. If a company that made the product went out of business, the product’s information could be lost in the cloud, but still stored on the tag.

Additionally, DPP data can be accessed even if a reader is offline.

A tag could store other details such as maintenance records, written to the tag and accessible by others with a smart phone or NFC reader.

“There’s a whole lot of benefits [with the use of NFC for DPP compliance] that I don’t think anyone ever explored because it wasn’t even on the radar,” said McCamon.

Reading NFC Tags at the Point of Disposal

Another benefit NFC provides for DPP is its ability to be read by mobile phones, without a line-of-sight, and to be read even at relatively high volume at a disposal or recycling plant.

“At the very end of its life when it goes into the trash or recycling ecosystem, we expect that there will be ways to retrieve that data,” said McCamon. QR codes would be difficult to scan in such an environment, requiring scanners and proper orientation to access the code.

Some companies may be exploring how high-capacity NFC readers that could be used in such an environment, reading tags in volume at a relatively long range. Such products may not be available on the market however, for another five to 10 years.

Keeping Efforts Sustainable

“Our hope is that by defining the specifications early we can expedite the use of DPP in consumer products down the road,” McCamon said, while the focus is on companies that may already be examining or launching NFC technology to track their products.

“We really want to focus on places where NFC is already built into an electronic product,” he said, rather than exacerbating a waste-stream issue by applying more electronics that wouldn’t otherwise be on a product.

“If you already have any NFC built into your product, we want to make sure there’s specifications available to you to easily comply with these regulations, because they’re coming,” he said.

The point of the ebook then, is to help start the conversation around NFC technology, how the data can be stored and accessed, to meet the coming circular economy, in Europe and worldwide.

Key Takeaways:
  • NFC Forum’s ebook addresses NFC use to meet Europe’s DPP mandate to help track a product or its components from manufacture to recycling or disposal.
  • Companies already using NFC tags can use the guidelines to stay a step ahead of DPP requirements, the forum says.

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