Blogthng

Author Dominique Guinard (CTO & Co-founder)
Published

Since its launch a month ago, we have seen quite a bit of interest around the new GS1 Digital Link standard: the standard connecting all things to the Web! However, standards are always complex beasts and grasping their full powers requires reading lengthy documents.

To help the community understand the powers of the Digital Link, we started by writing a whitepaper. The white paper was well received as a great way to grasp the concepts and use cases of the Digital Link, but how do you get started with experimenting? How do you build prototypes and demonstrators with the new standard today that will convince your team it’s valuable? How do you explore the hundreds of data fields available without having to read the entire standard document?

We had the same problems, and we’re happy to announce that we’ve just released a series of tools that are ideal for quick experimentation and discovery. They don’t replace our enterprise-grade support for the GS1 Digital Link in the EVRYTHNG platform but offer a set of open source tools that allow you to experiment with the Digital Link, independent of the platform you choose to use (although we clearly suggest you use EVRYTHNG as we simply have the best Digital Link support out there 🙂 ).

The tools are written in Javascript and consist of two main parts: a Digital Link Generator and a Digital Link Verifier. The Generator lets you dynamically generate a Digital Link by exploring all the hundreds of available data fields (called AIs or Applications Identifiers in the GS1 world) and generating the corresponding QR code on the fly. It also creates a default consumer landing page for your newly created Digital Link, which you can always upgrade to a fully-on experience with the EVRYTHNG platform should you wish to do so.

The other part, the Verifier, checks if a Digital Link is valid according to the standard. This may seem trivial, but it really isn’t, as there are more than 400 rules to be checked. Should your Digital Link be invalid, the Verifier will let you analyze which part isn’t quite standard compliant.

These tools are directly available on https://digital-link.evrythng.com and can be used for experimenting, testing and demonstrating. Moreover, they’re available on GitHub should you want to build new features on the code or embed some parts in your own application.

We hope you’ll enjoy them, and we’re looking forward to the wonderful things you’ll build on top of the Digital Link tools. Now is the time to give billions of products a standard Digital Identity!

PS: A big thank you to the whole Digital Link Working Group at GS1 for their help and feedback on the tools.

Author Perraine Bradley (Director of Product)
Published

The announcement of the new GS1 Digital Link standard – overseen by our CTO and Co-founder Dom Guinard – was a watershed moment for the consumer goods industry as a whole. Whether you are a brand, a packaging company, a logistics firm, or a service vendor, this new standard is likely to have an impact on your business in one way or another.

Hi, I’m Perraine, Director of Product, and my focus is on building out the core features of the EVRYTHNG platform. Part of this set of core features is the GS1 Digital Link. If you haven’t already, you can read our previous blog about the GS1 Digital Link to get a better understanding of what it is. I’ll also give a brief example below.

What is the Digital Link?

In simple terms: the GS1 Digital Link standard defines how to put your packaged goods online. It supports all existing GS1 Application Identifiers, and our Day 1 feature set covers the most important of those identifiers — you can see this page for more information.

Here’s an example of how you’d go about converting a barcode to a digital link. In this case, I’m using an imaginary pair of EVRYTHNG Sneakers – Serialized Edition.

This is a hypothetical EAN-13 barcode on the box of our sneakers:


If I scan that with any 1D or 2D barcode scanner (e.g. Point of Sale, or an app on my Android device, or the native iPhone camera), this is what the hardware and software will see:

0860080001393

Pretty obvious, right? And that’s all. It’s just a 13-digit number. If I want to know what that number means, then whatever application I am using has to know what an EAN-13 represents. If I’m a consumer I guess I could Google that code and see what comes up, but am I going to? No.

Now, here is the GS1 Digital Link equivalent of that barcode generated using our built-in QR code creator:


If I scan this code with any 2D scanner, it sees:

https://tnrfw.tn.gg/01/860080001393

If I use offline Point of Sale software, I can still get the EAN-13 code and register a sale. But it also gives me a Web address. This means if I scan it with a mobile device I can go to that address and get, for example, a Product Information page:


And if I’m scanning this object in the supply chain with a custom app, accessing that link could provide traceability information:

So you can see the dual benefits of the GS1 Digital Link:

  AND  

In the next section I’ll introduce the exciting new capabilities that we’ve added to the EVRYTHNG Platform in support of the GS1 Digital Link.

Using GS1 Digital Link on the EVRYTHNG Platform

We’ve added the ability to generate GS1 Digital Links within our dashboard so that when you create a new unique item (we call them “thngs”) you can create a GS1 Digital Link in url form and QR code form (which you can print onto your items). This combination will connect your product to the Web and activate it throughout its lifecycle.

You’ll also have the ability to create a redirection to your thng’s Digital Link, which allows you to dynamically control where a URL points to based on a set of business rules.

For example, your QR code could point to different web pages depending on the country it was scanned in, or the age group of the user, or even if a consumer scanned your product as opposed to a member of your supply chain. And all of these interactions are captured on the EVRYTHNG Platform for you to view and analyze.

You can read our detailed whitepaper to understand the full power of the Digital Link.

We’re excited about what the future holds

At EVRYTHNG, we’ve been looking forward to – and preparing for – the point where every physical product is connected to the Web. The GS1 Digital Link brings us one step closer. We’ve learned some valuable lessons about how and why you would want to give your products unique web addresses, and how serializing and authenticating every item unlocks the ability to track things throughout the supply chain and in the hands of your consumers, along with offering value added services that would have been impossible up until now.

Using the GS1 Digital Link on your products enables you to:

  • Track the unique journey of individual items through the supply chain
  • Register transactions at point of sale
  • Offer great direct-to-consumer experiences through the best marketing channel of all — your products!

There’s a lot more on the roadmap, and we’re excited to share more with you as this standard develops. Stay tuned!

For more technical information on the GS1 Digital Link and the rest of our API, be sure to visit our Developer Portal: https://developers.evrythng.com/docs/gs1-digital-link-integration

Author Dominique Guinard (CTO & Co-founder)
Published

We are very excited to announce the ratification of the GS1 Digital Link standard (aka GS1 Web URI), a simple but game changing revolution for the trillions of barcode enabled products across the world. In short, the GS1 Digital Link upgrades barcodes to: 1) be scannable out-of-the-box by consumer phones; 2) be seamlessly connected to the Web by embedding Web addresses instead of just numbers; and 3) ensures there is one standard barcode to address any application vs. a proliferation of barcodes for different applications.

Now is the time for every thing to get connected to the Web! We co-chaired the GS1 Standards Development Work Group that defined this new specification and look forward to sharing more detail in this blog.

At EVRYTHNG we are firm believers in the power of standards: global standards are hands-down one of the best ways to proliferate game-changing innovation at mass scale. Those following EVRYTHNG might recall that in 2015 we contributed the very first draft of the Web of Things standard at W3C which was used as a basis for the upcoming W3C WoT standard. Since then this standard has been widely adopted by big players including, Mozilla.

While the W3C WoT standard allows devices to seamlessly connect to the Web, it overlooks the vast majority of “things” in the IoT — things or products that are not devices such as, Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG), Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) and apparel products.

Consumer product brands are at the core of what the EVRYTHNG IoT platform supports. Our very first application back in 2012 was about giving whiskey bottles a unique digital identity on the Web to allow digital gifting. Since then we have connected close to a billion serialized CPG and apparel products to the Web. And while this is all great — in order to facilitate mass scale adoption — we needed to move beyond an EVRYTHNG proprietary innovation to an open standard. Thus our leading the charge with GS1 to create a new standard allowing every unique product to automatically connect to the Web with a digital identity.

GS1 is the global standards organization responsible for the trillions of barcodes seen on the products we use every day. As a GS1 Solutions Provider, we decided it was time to approach the standards organization with our idea to create a new standard to support Web-based digital identities for everyday consumer products. Thankfully we were greeted with agreement and in turn, were asked to co-chair the working group that developed the new standard. Fast forward a year, dozens of working sessions, prototypes, field tests and we are very happy to announce that the GS1 Digital Link standard has been ratified!

Reading this blog, you are either already one foot out the door on your way to implement GS1 Digital Link for your next product release or you are scratching your head wondering what’s all the hype?

Either which way, I’d like to provide a little more context. To start, please meet a GS1 barcode as it appears on trillions of products, scanned 5 billion times a day.

This barcode has been providing great services to supply chains across industries for 44 years but in the age of IoT, it has two major shortcomings: it is not scannable nor understandable by billions of consumer phones.

Specifically, mobile phones cannot decode 1D barcodes without installing a special app. However, they can widely read QR codes. As an example, since iOS 11 was released all iOS devices can decode QR codes using the default camera application — meaning GS1 standard identifiers can be adapted to 2D barcodes such a the QR code.

This said even while able to scan GS1 compliant (QR) codes, readers still can’t understand what’s encoded in the code. In other words: they have no idea what to do with the series of numbers it contains (usually known as a GTIN in the GS1 world). How do I get authoritative content and services for this code? The new GS1 Digital Link standard resolves this issue by turning all the information contained in the code (and more) into a Web address or URL (aka Web URI). This is truly game-changing because mobile phones and literally every software client in the world, support URLs and know how to use them to access content.

Putting it all together, please meet a GS1 Digital Link Web URI:

Which can be encoded in an on-pack QR code:

Now, go ahead and scan this, either using your iOS camera app or any other QR code reading app on your phone. This will redirect you to a Web experience chosen by the brand. The brand has dozens of options ranging from the provenance of the product, allergy information to rewards, and more.

Brands can also choose to create static redirections or they can make them fully dynamic linked to a specific context (e.g., user demographic, location, time, etc.) using EVRYTHNG’s patented Redirector technology.

This allows consumer product brands to deliver relevant content directly to consumers via a single standards-based code serving multiple applications rather than individual proprietary codes for each application. The power of GS1 Digital Link doesn’t stop here. The new standard also has the power to replace the well-known 1D barcode as more and more Point of Sales (POS) vendors and supply chain partners begin to support it. We are already working with a number of POS vendors and supply chain partners to test this upgrade and will keep you posted. In the meantime, have a look at our detailed whitepaper to understand the full power and structure of the Digital Link.

In Summary: A New Digital Ecosystem
The new GS1 Digital Link standard works with a 2D barcode (e.g., QR code) or NFC tag on packs or labels. Now, every product can have its own digital identity and Web address, upgrading the traditional 1D barcode used on trillions of products for point-of-sale with the new ability to support smartphone interaction, supply chain tracking, authentication and many other applications. EVRYTHNG’s IoT platform, in combination with GS1 Digital Link, make it possible for any product to very simply deliver dynamic digital services directly to consumers based on scan context, and to gather and apply data intelligence for brands, manufacturers and retailers at unprecedented scale.

Quite literally one new standards-based code has the potential to replace all previous codes. We are very excited to be the first platform to support the new GS1 Digital Link standard, read our documentation to get started today!

Author Dominique Guinard (CTO & Co-Founder)
Published

We started experimenting with the blockchain about two years ago when we were invited to join the Blockchain Research Institute (BRI) to lead the Blockchain and IoT research. A big part of our work for the institute was to research the impact the blockchain, and more generally Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLT), will have on IoT, producing an objective research report looking at opportunities, strengths and challenges of the blockchain for IoT.

Our report was published in November 2017 to the members of the BRI. However, in order to disseminate knowledge beyond members, the BRI has a rule that reports are made accessible to the world under Creative Common license six months after their initial publication.

We’re now happy to provide you with a full copy of our blockchain and IoT report, which can be downloaded here. However, since the report is 38 pages long, let’s summarize the crux of it here.

The report starts by providing order to the IoT chaos and defining what makes a typical IoT project: connectivity, identity, sensing and/or actuation.

We then look at what the challenges of today’s (centralized) IoT are and how the blockchain could come to the rescue. We also examine what challenges blockchain bring:

  • Resilience & Durability. Too many connected products are not built in a sustainable and durable way, leading to many IoT gadgets that will cease to work as soon as their manufacturer decides or goes out of business. Blockchains are not controlled by a single entity but by all (or some, depending on the implementation) participants in the network leading to a distribution of control that could help tackle this challenge.
  • Global trust. How can we ensure IoT products and centralized platforms can be trusted to manage data securely and will not abuse or modify the data? Thanks to consensus mechanisms and the immutability of ledgers, blockchains are more trustworthy than centralized systems and could provide a way to verify some IoT data (e.g., transactions or identities) in a trustable manner.
  • Interoperability. The IoT still is a fragmented world of Intranets of Things running incompatible protocols (for good and bad reasons). The blockchain could potentially help by creating global value exchange networks. However, in its current state the blockchain is as fragmented as, if not more fragmented than, the IoT space: new blockchains appear on a daily basis and are largely incompatible with one another.
  • Scalability. How can you scale centralized platforms to billions of connected things sending trillions of updates on a daily basis? The blockchain could potentially help resolve these challenges by fostering decentralization (i.e., reducing the pressure on centralized platforms). However, today’s widespread blockchains (e.g., Bitcoin, Ethereum) scale orders of magnitude less well than centralized IoT platforms.

We also discuss blockchain specific challenges such as massive energy consumption, slow throughput, lack of regulation or challenges with complying with regulations (e.g., GDPR), or relative immaturity of the solutions. Then we look at innovative solutions that could provide concrete answers to these challenges in the future.

Finally, we equip the reader with a framework to understand when to use and not to use blockchain in an IoT context and propose an implementation pattern that looks into hybrid solutions: the core of the idea being to continue connecting things to the IoT via centralized platforms and start propagating some of the data to blockchains or DLT (a pattern we implemented in production with our Blockchain Integration Hub).

Very few technologies have developed so rapidly and have had the impact of blockchains and DLT. The potential of these new systems is a clear hint that they will revolutionize a number of markets, including IoT. However, Rome wasn’t built in a day! The blockchain space for IoT has moved past its peak of inflated expectations and is now proceeding more carefully, realizing the lack of maturity and focusing on those challenges that we really need to solve in order to future-proof the technology. The community is now also putting effort into understanding where the technology can truly help, and where it cannot. We hope this report will provide the keys to understanding the state of the blockchain and how to start experimenting with the blockchain for the IoT and the supply chain while minimizing risks.

Author Simon Jones (SVP Enterprise Sales, Europe & Asia)
Published

We’re excited to bring the power of product digitization to Asia — the manufacturing hub of some of the world’s biggest brands. Today, we’ve announced a partnership with AccelerAsia, along with a new regional office in Singapore, to enable us to meet the rapidly increasing business demand in the region.

Product digitization gives manufacturers greater control and visibility into the supply chain — arming them with the product-driven data and intelligence needed to combat real issues in today’s market and protect brand integrity. We’re talking:

  • Counterfeit products
  • Gray market imports
  • Food safety
  • Sustainability
  • Recycling
  • Consumer digital premiums

Brands need a simple, scalable solution that is future proof — that will work with whatever supply chain software they already have invested in, as well as new technologies that are already on the way, like blockchain.

EVRYTHNG collects data throughout each individual product’s lifecycle from the sourcing of ingredients to consumer purchase to recycling. This is particularly relevant in Asia where counterfeiting and gray market issues are a growing threat to consumers and manufacturers, alike.

Why Asia?
Beyond being a manufacturing hub, Asia is ahead of the curve in the adoption of mobile technologies. Thanks to apps like WeChat, WhatsApp and Alipay, consumer interaction with QR codes is commonplace, with over 100 million daily scans and over $5.5 trillion of contactless payments annually.

Product digitization — which allows consumers to scan packaging and labels on items for provenance, authenticity and rewards — is perfectly suited for the mobile-first Asian market.

The reality is a disproportionate percentage of consumer product lifecycles begin in the Asia region. This combined with advanced consumer behavior means that adoption of a digitized product ecosystem will be high and consumer product brands will realize a return-on-investment much faster.

About AccelerAsia
AccelerAsia is a business development firm that helps cutting-edge technology companies from Europe, US and Israel enter the Asian market. According to Frank Bomers, Partner at AccelerAsia, “Asia is digitizing at a breakneck pace, and in many ways leapfrogging from the pre-industrial to the IoT era — technology adoption that took decades in other markets sometimes takes just months in some of Asia’s megacities.”

You can learn more about our expansion into the Asia region here.

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