One Product Identity, Many Tagging Technologies


Today, consumers expect end to end traceability, authenticity and engaging experiences from consumer product brands — from packaged goods to apparel items to pharmaceuticals. How do consumer brands deliver on these expectations? Not only deliver on expectations, but manage them throughout a product’s life cycle?


Over the past year product digitization has become the norm rather than the exception. Increasingly brands are turning to digital identities to track and trace products through the supply chain. Where it gets complicated — and what you will learn in this blog — is in the number of different tagging options brands now have when digitizing products. Choosing the right one can be overwhelming.

Let me guide you through the range of tagging technologies and their applications so you can make the right choice for your business and your customers.


Did you know that the Internet of Things was coined to describe a world in which every single product in the world is connected to the Web with a tagging technology like RFID? With more than 4 trillion consumer products being made, shipped and sold across the globe each year, the need for digitization and end-to-end supply chain traceability continues to grow in importance. The recent pandemic has only heightened this need. The ability to track and trace a product through its entire lifecycle is no longer just a supply chain issue for consumer brands, but a business requirement.



Why Digitization?

Brands need end-to-end visibility and transparency across sourcing, production & distribution to run operations with agility, resilience, and control. The digitization of product items provides for the collection and integration of granular data across each stage of the supply chain. Data can be organized in the EVRYTHNG Product Cloud for application with real-time analytics & intelligence. The result is more responsiveness to changes in sales channels and customer needs, shorter turn-arounds between design and delivery, optimized transportation, and routing production to where materials may be.


The key to achieving end-to-end visibility and transparency is the ability to interoperate with myriad partners and technologies across the supply chain.  At a strategic level, this means choosing the right digitization and tagging technologies to allow collaboration throughout a product’s lifecycle journey.


Historically, the aggregation and sharing of data hasn’t been quick, easy or cost-effective — especially at scale. By turning each product item into a data generating asset with a digital identity, brands can disrupt the status quo and lead with business strategies influenced by real-time data intelligence.


Now that we’ve clarified the need for product digitization let’s jump to the more complex discussions of: 1. the format of these product identities and 2. the types of tags that should hold them.



Choosing the right format for digital product identities


While the world’s original tag, the good old one-dimensional (GS1) barcode did the job for more than 45 years, it is no longer relevant in a mobile-first global economy. With eCommerce growing at an unprecedented rate, digitized products provide a mechanism for brand owners to scale dynamic direct-to-consumer engagements across a complex set of product lines, brands, markets and channels. A critical enabler in this dynamic is GS1 Digital Link which upgrades the ubiquitous one-dimensional barcode so that every product item can now be smartphone-interactive, transact with point-of-sale systems and connect on the web — all with one digitized code on the product.

Essentially this standard provides a structured web address (aka URL) for each and every product, one that’s compatible with the already very wide spread GS1 identification system. The difference being that a Digital Link is fully integrated with the Web, unlike traditional GS1 identifiers like the well recognized GTIN (product identifier) that appear in 1 dimensional barcodes.


As an example, the following URL is a compliant GS1 Digital Link:


This Digital Link contains both a GTIN (Global Trade Item Number – 860080001300) and a serial number (445).


EVRYTHNG Active Digital Identity™ and the GS1 Digital Link


Consumer brands can now literally create products “born digital” with a web compatible digital product identity at the time of manufacture. Digitizing products at scale brings immediate transparency to both brands and consumers — helping achieve sustainable circularity goals while combating parallel trade, counterfeiting and other brand integrity threats.



Choosing the right type of tag to host a digital identity


Which physical tag, sometimes referred to as a data carrier, is best for your brand to use to carry its digital product identities? As hinted before, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to this question. All tags have pros and cons.

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