Mister Beacon Episode #182

One of the IoT’s Latest Buzzwords: Digital Product Passports

December 26, 2023

This week on the Mr. Beacon Podcast, we sit down with Dominique Guinard, VP of Innovation at Digimarc, for a conversation that marks his fourth appearance on the show. Recording live from the Sustainable Packaging Summit, Dominique sheds light on the concept of Digital Product Passports (DPP).

We dive deep into the genesis of DPP, an initiative spurred by the European Union's ambitious commitment to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Discover how DPP has the potential to empower consumers to make informed and sustainable choices by providing them with crucial information about the carbon footprint of the products they purchase.

As Dominique emphasizes, Digital Product Identities are transitioning from a "nice to have" to a "must have" in response to evolving laws and regulations. While this movement started in Europe, it is anticipated to ripple across the Atlantic, impacting American brands as well. The early adopters of DPP? Apparel brands, spearheading the charge towards a more transparent and eco-friendly future.

Learn about the various DPP standards, including the GS1 Digital Link, which enable web-accessible identities. Gain insights into how DPP has the potential to combat "greenwashing" – providing a means to authenticate transactions and verify sustainability claims by companies in the future.

Join us in this episode as we navigate the evolving landscape of sustainable practices, digital innovation, and the transformative power of Digital Product Passports. The future of conscious consumerism is here, and Mr. Beacon is your guide to staying ahead of the curve!


  • Steve Statler 00:00

    Welcome to the Mr. Beacon podcast. This week, we are interviewing a friend of the Mr. Beacon podcast, Dominique Guinard. And we're talking to him about the phenomenon of digital product passports. DPP, it's it's a concept, it's the subject of some legislative drivers. It's closely associated with the idea of having serialization platforms visibility into the provenance of a product. There's a ton of use cases that are really disruptive that all relate to DPP. And it's buzzword that's being used in all sorts of conferences about IoT. So Dominique is the VP of Innovation at a company called Digimarc. We've had, we've featured them. And we have, there's an episode where we describe their digital watermarking technology, really amazing, visible digital watermarks. Dominique was one of the founders of a company called everything he's been on the podcast three times before. He's very active. On the in the GS1 standards community. And the past episodes are great introductions to the concept of digital link, the EPCIS, two dot o standard, which is a way of exchanging metadata that relates to products and syncing events, its subject in its own right. And then the very first time I met with Dominique was actually in London. And I interviewed him about this book, which I highly recommend. It's practical, it's hands on, it's all about how to use raspberry pi and getting your hands to see with web, web services, and the Internet of Things. So enjoy the interview. The Mr. Beacon Ambient IoT podcast is sponsored by Wiliot, bringing intelligence to every single thing. So Dominique, welcome back to the Mr. Beacon podcast, this is the fourth time you've been on, you are a tremendous subject matter expert on many things. But in the past, we've talked about digital link and EPCIS and your book, but this time, it's talking about DPP digital product passports, and I want to tap into your massive brain and get the lowdown on what, why, and how of DPP and maybe it maybe we should just start off with a quick overview of what is a digital product passport.

    Dominique Guinard 03:02

    So what exactly digital product passport is going to be is still being defined. And that's very important to say, right? I think everything we'll say, during this discussion is subject to changes because there is no regulation written in stone yet, in terms of what DPP really going to be, but the conversations are really happening now. And generally DPP came out of, of, of the Green Deal framework of the European Commission, which looks at making Europe carbon neutral by 2050. And they're doing this attacking this in many directions. And I have a lot of respect for that effort, because I think it's you know, it's a genuine effort to achieve these, these goals. And one of the one of the sub packages is to think about a digital product passport for products that are actually entering and sold in the European market. And the idea there is really to give product sustainability credentials, that can be used for all kinds of purposes, for consumers to know more about the products and to be able to make a greener choice. Just like we make healthier choices today, we should tomorrow be able to do greener choices, but also for governments to be able to have full audit trails in terms of sustainability credentials of products, customers, it's really for all kinds of stakeholders. Yeah, I think it's important for multiple reasons.

    Steve Statler 04:39

    And later on in this conversation, we'll we'll talk about one of my environmental heroes, Mike Berners-Lee, younger brother of Tim Berners-Lee, who invented HTTP and the Mosaic browser and all that sort of thing. Mike Berners Lee is a professor of climate science at Lancaster University.

    Dominique Guinard 05:00

    In the UK?

    Steve Statler 05:01

    In the UK. And I was talking to him about, I mean, he's written a couple of amazing books, 'How Bad is a Banana?' is one of them, basically the carbon footprint of everything. It's kind of an encyclopedic almanac type reference book. And it helps you become literate in terms of, we have financial literacy, you kind of know that it's probably not good to spend buy a lot of champagne unless you have a good income, and maybe you can buy other things that are going to be lower costs, but we tend not to know what the carbon footprint is. Bananas, good or bad, is kind of one of the central questions should you be washing you're drying your hands with paper towels or the air dryer? That kind of stuff? And the answer is, actually, that's almost irrelevant, because other things is just so much more impactful. Don't waste your time. Think about your travel your flights, these are the things that make a difference.

    Dominique Guinard 06:05

    It's like should I turn off the water while I brush my teeth? It is so besides the point, I mean, I didn't know about him, and I will definitely check him out. My personal source of inspiration is called Project Drawdown. I don't know if you know about this project, but it's basically I think, 200 scientists that created a foundation that looks into what are the solutions we have today, to the climate change problems. And and it's basically a very positive book in the sense that it shows we have hundreds of solutions at hand. And it's really data driven in terms of what's the impact of this and that solution, this problem. So book, you should really check it out. I will and I will check out.

    Steve Statler 06:46

    So to finish off my Mike Berners-Lee's story, he believes that empowering consumers with knowledge of the carbon impacts of the products they're consuming, is one of the most important things we can do. I was pitching to him without my day to day job employer and how we can make things more efficient. And he said, forget about it, there's the rebound effect. As soon as you make it more efficient, it's going to be cheaper. And when it becomes cheaper, people will use more of it. And basically, we've got a terrible record of just consuming more and more as we make things cheaper. But what he's hopeful about is the power of the consumer and their wallet and their purse. And how if you tell them that this banana has got a lower carbon footprint than this one that these peaches that were kept, it's not just about the travel, it's about how long they've been kept in a cold store. That's one of the biggest things out of season fruit and vegetables are one of the worst things for the environment. But we don't know, you know, maybe we have trained ourselves to look to see, well, is this coming from Chile? Or is it coming from down the road, we don't necessarily think about all the other things. And so we need the data. And so obviously, a digital product passport would give people consumers the information that they need to vote with their wallets. And then when they vote with their wallets, then the whole supply chain ends, it ends up getting reconfigured and the right incentives drive the right behavior. And then maybe we won't end in a state of oblivion. That's that's kind of the logic. So I see DPP as being positive from that perspective. How is this different from what your company, you know, everything now Digimarc have been doing for years, it seems like you have been assembling the metadata for digital product passports for a long time.

    Dominique Guinard 08:57

    Well, yeah, that's right. And many other companies have, I think, what's really different is that it is going to become a regulation, it is going to become the law. And personally, that's the moment I've been waiting for, for almost forever, for my entire career at this turnkey moment where digital product identities are no longer something that's nice to have, but are a must. And here a must for a pretty good cause. So I'm really thrilled about the potential of this regulation. It's gonna be hard companies will like it at times will hate it at times. But I think ultimately, it really has the potential to change things fundamentally to your point before, right, starting with consumer information, but also going way above and beyond that, you know, b2b as well so that companies can understand the footprint of working with Company X or Y in a much better way. Today, all of this information is completely invisible. To your point about fruits, we just, you know, we just don't know we just don't realize the impact of a particular fruit versus another. It's, it's immensely complex. So it's all about surfacing this data.

    Steve Statler 10:14

    And I think, you know what, whenever you work, start thinking about how you work towards this ideal of informing consumers about the carbon footprint, you suddenly realize how complicated it is, there's this thing called scope one, scope, two, scope, three emissions, which we've talked about in other episodes. But basically, the scope three includes all of the suppliers that are feeding into, say, a retailer. And so you may know the amount of the emissions that your company is incurring from the fuel consumption and the transport, but you need to know all of the elements down the supply chain, it seems like with the DPP, you have a much easier way of rolling up those those numbers to give you something that is meaningful and accurate.

    Dominique Guinard 11:11

    Indeed, yeah, and I think one thing that I'm hopeful that DPP will enforce is or will facilitate is interoperability and basically sharing of this data because it's a multi stakeholder problem that requires data exchanges, in a world, in the world of supply chains, where today, so little data is being exchanged. And I think it's just one important aspect about DPP it's not only about carbon footprint, it's also about other ways to improve, you know, the the environmental footprint of, of products by for instance, there's a strong emphasis on reuse recyclability, on being able to replace parts of products. dpph should cover also electronic products, where there'll be a mandate for electronic product suppliers to basically offer ways of repairing products and changing spare parts. I think that's also a very good step.

    Steve Statler 12:14

    And what what is the state of the legislation? Do you have a sense of that?

    Dominique Guinard 12:18

    Yeah, I mean, so it's a bit hard to give a definitive answer on first of all, not affiliated with the European Commission. So I don't have the exact data. But there is a core regulation called the SPR. And that core regulation is pretty much finalized and being discussed by the different member states, and should be signed pretty quickly, I'd say within 2024, we'll see that core regulation sign now that core regulation, again, the SPR is basically the common factor across the board of all verticals, that DPP will, will impact. It doesn't say for instance, if you are an apparel company, here's what you have to do. Here's the data you have to provide. Here's the identifier you need to have on your shirts. But it says everything that's common across all industries. And then there'll be delegated acts on a per vertical basis that will be written in the next few years that will really say, Okay, well, specifically for a parallel this is the kind of things you'll have to think about. For other sectors, there'll be another delegated act transversal transversal. To this, there's also there are also a few other regulations that are now being modified to refer to the DPP. So that's, for instance, the case of the construction product regulation, which is already in force to basically allow more circularity and more recyclability in the construction product industry. Now, this regulation is being modified, there's a draft that's been that's actually referring back to DPP. So there will be a lot of other regulations that will now refer back to DPP. And so for these transversal regulations, it might go a bit faster, because the regulations are already in place. It's just a modification.

    Steve Statler 14:12

    And I've heard with car batteries, that was one of the aspects.

    Dominique Guinard 14:16

    Yeah, that's one of the first. That's one of the first ones. Again, here. It's there's There are also additional regulations that are referring to DPP. So pretty similar to construction products, regulation. So yeah, these are some of the sectors where it's gonna go the fastest.

    Steve Statler 14:33

    So is there anywhere that people can go to to get a sense of what the data elements are going to be that need to be maintained as part of a digital product passport?

    Dominique Guinard 14:44

    Yeah, there are a few sources. I mean, there is the European Commission had a great idea, which is to basically also launch a kind of project a side project with different partners that which only goal is to promote what DPP will be like and to incubate for DPP will be like that project is called Surpass with, with several partners across Europe. And so that's a great source, in terms of terms of finding the data about what DPP is shaping up to be like in terms of the data formats, that's not defined yet that's going to be defined in the delegated acts. And there are several working groups that are working on this. With Digimarc, we're part of the GS1 circularity, Mission specific work group that's looking at how can GS1 standards contribute to the DPP is not the only one. But it's it's an interesting place to start. But again, this data format is something that's not defined yet.

    Steve Statler 15:45

    Yeah, I can imagine GS1 could have a major part to play in, in that. So I think so we don't know the exact schema that's going to be put in place. But I don't think that means we have to do nothing, right? It's not like waiting for that what what what should companies and professionals be doing to get ready?

    Dominique Guinard 16:13

    Digital identities for products, that's a given, right? That's something that's already in the SPR. And that's something that's that you need to have as a brand, you will need it in the future. So you better start thinking about it now. And we see that very much in some of the sectors where we work apparel is an example where all brands of a significant size are now seriously thinking about, okay, we need digital identities on our products, ideally serialized, because that's for sure going to be part of the ground layer is going to be unique digital identities and accessible digital identities. I think they're the European Commission was pretty wise in already specifying things like this digital identities need to be consumer accessible needs to be easy for consumers to get information from. So I think that's where standards are going to be striving, thriving. Because, yeah, that standards obviously, allow for easier access and more interoperability.

    Steve Statler 17:13

    This is interesting. So this provision about it must be consumer accessible, kind of, potentially, is going to break down some of the walls, the obfuscation, the hiding of data, which you know, in the past, you go, you've gone into a store, and I've told this story many times before, but I go to this organic food store near my house, it's called Jimbo's, and they have these little signs that say this was harvested this date from from this farm 34 miles away. And it's like, I'm spending a lot more money buying that, because it just makes me feel like I trust where it's coming from, and it's probably less likely to kill me, it's going to be taste better. And this is from a supply chain that is transparent. It just makes me feel good about the food that I'm consuming. Most consumers, most stores do not expose that information. And I think a lot of the time the supply chain is filled with actors that really don't want to share that information for maybe legitimate commercial reasons. They don't want to have the retailer doing and run past them. And do you see this potentially changing that?

    Dominique Guinard 18:39

    It's a problem I've seen throughout my entire career? That yeah, sharing data in the supply chain is definitely not a given. And yeah, definitely can change that. I think this is the power of regulations. This is really where regulators can help with problems that just the industry is not going to tackle unless they have to. So I think that's the exciting part of of DPP.

    Steve Statler 19:05

    So, reasons to be happy if you're in in Europe. What about the U.S.? Do you think this is just gonna be a no-op or be some repercussions in the U.S.?

    Dominique Guinard 19:19

    Yeah, I had a lot of discussions around that with customers and prospective customers who told me well we're in the U.S., we're a U.S. brand, it doesn't really matter for us. I always point back to the example of GDPR. And the fact that at some point US companies were like, well, GDPR is not affecting us. Well, it is because you're operating in the European territory and you have European customers, I think exactly the same is going to apply for DPP, basically the burden is going to be on the company putting the products on the European territory to provide the DPP. So, if you're a US brand and you do not want to address the European market, which I think is pretty big market, then you could get away without DPP. But as soon as you want to address the European market, you will need, you will need to adhere to DPP and I think ultimately, it's going to raise the bar. And I, you know, knowing us brands are always at the forefront of adopting technology, I think ultimately, that's going to be a worldwide deployment, or at least U.S., Europe.

    Steve Statler 20:26

    Yeah. And I wonder if markets like California are likely to look at what's happening in Europe and potentially copy it, there's a chance that that would be, it's hard to imagine there being USDP legislation, given that we can't even pass a budget. But, but I could see California as because they certainly responded to GDPR, they've got form, if you like, in terms of that.

    Dominique Guinard 20:54

    In apparel in fashion, that's an example where the U.S. has also, there are no fashion related or apparel related regulations in the U.S. as well, that are, that share pretty similar objectives with with what the DPP is likely to, to ask from apparel brands.

    Steve Statler 21:13

    So if I'm a product, if I'm Head of Innovation, or Product Strategist, the Head of IT in a product company, what are the standards that I should be looking at, in order to build an infrastructure that will help support DPP?

    Dominique Guinard 21:36

    So there again, there's nothing written in stone, the ESP er, is not mandating a particular standard over another one. And also, and, you know, fairly involved with JSON standards, so I'm probably gonna lean towards those, but I think it's, it's a safe bet. Some of them are pretty clearly a safe bet. The first one would be JSON digital link, because that gives you a simple standard way of creating web accessible identities for your products, you can go SKU level, which would be generic for all products of a particular kind, or you could go batch level, or you could go sterilized level, it's likely that the delegated acts, depending on the vertical will require different levels of sterilization. So that's great, it's web and able to that's fairly accessible, you can have it in a QR code, you can have it in a in a beacon in a Bluetooth beacon, or you can have it in a NFC tag. So that's one at the identity level, I think is a no brainer.

    Steve Statler 22:42

    So you basically have a URL that can be used to retrieve the information that describes the product for all sorts of reasons but not least of which to look at, where the products come from, and what's in it and how to recycle it. And all these other things can be in in that data structure.

    Dominique Guinard 22:59

    Yeah. And plus, you can use it for other things, you can now use it for Point of Sales systems, sunrise 2027 is the objective that the industry has set itself on to allow the reading of digital links instead of 1d barcodes at POS systems. So this is definitely happening. So I think that's a real opportunity for brands to put in place a system that's not just going to fulfill a regulation, but also make their products future proof. And so I'm really excited about digital link, and its powers.

    Steve Statler 23:32

    And of course, we have a whole podcast on that that people can go back and retrieve but just say a little bit more about this sunrise initiative is this a GS1 initiative?

    Dominique Guinard 23:44

    It's a GS1 U.S. initiative primarily and then GS1 Global did relay it. And I think it was a super nice initiative to basically kind of motivates everyone around the GS1 ecosystem to start embracing the to the code because it has so much powers, including for regulatory reasons, but not only. And so they put a call out there for all the actors in the ecosystem to start testing to the codes. And it is POS vendors so point of sales vendors, scanner vendors, brands, retailers, everyone started testing things. And the tests have been pretty conclusive pretty good. scanning speed, re readability. using existing scanners is pretty good. It's primarily a software upgrade. So I think overall, the industry is getting ready for it.

    Steve Statler 24:44

    Very good.

    Dominique Guinard 24:44

    And of course our phones can read it readily today, right. So that's great.

    Steve Statler 24:49

    So getting back to my question about the you know, how do you get ready and what are the relevant standards and you know, very often legislation does not specify a particular standard but but it helps to think about these standards to get ready. So digital link from GS1 makes sense you need a think about the data carrier that you're going to use. Maybe it's a QR code, NFC, Bluetooth tag, ambient IoT, RFID. These are all different data carriers that can essentially give you the way of accessing that digital link. What about the exchange of data between parties in the supply chain?

    Dominique Guinard 25:39

    Yeah, so there, again, I had the chance to work another standard called EPCIS, GS1 EPCIS. And we had an another podcast about it. And I think that's an interesting one, because it's, it's kind of the lingua franca of the supply chain. And I don't think there are many other alternatives. And EPCIS used to be pretty outdated. And we worked on version 2.0, to basically bring it to the web. And it's likely also to be one of the core components of future solutions, because it gives you a way to capture supply chain events, including sensing data, which might be quite interesting for Wiliot, right, that that's part of the upgrade of 2.0. You can also capture sensing data. And it gives you a way to share this data amongst different suppliers and different partners, because it also specifies an API to share to share the data. So I don't think he's going to be required to use EPCIS. But I think it's it's the de facto standard for supply chain events so likely to be used as well.

    Steve Statler 26:42

    I mean, can you could you use EDI?

    Dominique Guinard 26:47

    You could. I suppose I'm also not a specialist of EDI, but EDI is more about specific transactions more replacing paper documents rather than full digital traceability.

    Steve Statler 27:02

    Yeah, it seems like those schemas are around, you know, advanced shipping notices, and it's not going to be as good a fit for the rich metadata that that is already contemplated within EPCIS. Yes, yeah. Okay, well, we've covered a lot. Is there anything that we should have talked about to get people ready to start drilling into this subject?

    Dominique Guinard 27:34

    Well, and maybe if I can go into another standard that I think would be interesting is I think with digital product passport, there's also a potential to resolve or at least reduce the greenwashing opportunities for brands or the greenwashing that's being applied by certain brands. And I think one thing that isn't really part of a core part of the discussions right now, but might be in the future in future versions of the DPP, is is about being able to authenticate transactions and the actors who perform transactions. So we've been working on a on a European research project called Road Circular, where it's about recyclability of plastic and food waste in the agricultural sector. And one of the requirements was, can we make certain sustainability claims verifiable, for instance, my product contains experts on bio plastic, but it's easy to make that claim. But unless you can verify it one way or the other, it's not that useful. And so that's where another standard could help the W three, see verifiable credentials, which is essentially a way of creating credentials for people and organizations. So that you could sign these claims. So now I'm saying that this product contains bio plastic? Well, I'm using my digital signature, which has been approved by a government. And I'm part of an organization that has been approved to make claims such as this contains bio plastic, and I'm using this to sign my supply chain event that says there is bioplastic in this product. So the verifiability of these claims, I think will be as we get more sophisticated, an important aspect.

    Steve Statler 29:21

    That will be awesome. Yeah, I can imagine that moves real business benefits to having that kind of quality information to back if you're selling a luxury product or something like that, then having that all or authentication method to test something would be really valuable. Since you've been on the podcast three times already, I'm not going to ask you about the music unless you have three songs that you want to talk about. I do want to talk about songs. I have another question.

    Dominique Guinard 29:58

    Let's go for the other question.

    Steve Statler 29:59

    The other question is, you mentioned in a very witty way during one of your presentations or panel discussions at this event that we're at that you were a vegetarian, and I'm like, vegetarian curious I would say I am definitely cutting down the meat in my diet. If there's an option to not eat meat, then that's what I'm doing. And I'm interested in how that's been for you how long you've done it. Why you? Why?

    Dominique Guinard 30:30

    Yeah, it's, it's an old story. And basically, it was 38 years ago, when I was four years old, I decided that I didn't want animals to be killed to eat them. So I decided to be vegetarian. I don't fully recall it, but my parents do. And yeah, that's since then I've been vegetarian forever.

    Steve Statler 30:52

    And how do you fight it like, if you're in Germany or somewhere like that?

    Dominique Guinard 30:57

    Well, it's actually quite easy. I think the country where I had the most challenges was, was France, probably because they have a culture of needs. That's very, very, deep. Otherwise, most countries are very vegetarian friendly, or they have become, it wasn't easy as a child. But nowadays, it's a trend and the sustainability aspect of being vegetarian. Beyond animal welfare is a real good reason today. We know the meat industry has such a heavy impact on carbon emissions. It comforted me in being vegetarian.

    Steve Statler 31:35

    Yeah, that's definitely been one of the drivers for me as well. And the health as well.

    Dominique Guinard 31:39

    Yeah. When I was 18, I didn't want to be vegetarian anymore, because I got bullied. And it was a tough time for vegetarians back then. So I went to my doctor, and I told him Look, I mean, I don't want to be vegetarian anymore. But I don't know how it works after having been vegetarian been vegetarian for such a long time. And I did a, I did a blood sampling. And he told me, I've never ever seen a blood like that. So please do not change anything.

    Steve Statler 32:05

    Really, because it was good?

    Dominique Guinard 32:07

    Yeah, it was so good. The cholesterol levels, the good cholesterol was great. The bad cholesterol was in existence.

    Steve Statler 32:13

    Yeah, that's definitely one of my drivers. My cholesterol was not good. And so I started biking to work. And the bike was actually inspired by Mike Berners-Lee, who's climate scientist, and he wrote a couple of great books. And in those books, he talks about the fact that taking an electric bike is the best way to travel, it's actually even more eco efficient than cycling. Because when you cycle you burn the calories, and especially if you have a meat diet, then you end up creating more pollution.

    Dominique Guinard 32:50

    So you have an extra bike?

    Steve Statler 32:52

    I have an electric bike. And I started off just cycling in two or three times a week. And then the mental benefits. I was just getting these, I got addicted to the endorphins. And I was like in a really bad mood when I was taking the car. And I felt great when I was cycling in and I was losing the weight and just virtuous cycle. So now I very rarely take my car in and so I'm saving money as well. That's great.

    Dominique Guinard 33:21

    Well, good for you. So next time we talk, you're a vegetarian, right?

    Steve Statler 33:26

    Certainly heading in that direction. Very good. Well, thanks, Dominique. I was enjoy the personal part of our conversations as well as the business side.

    Dominique Guinard 33:35

    Me too.

    Steve Statler 33:37

    So that was my interview with Dom, have you really enjoyed it as much as I did. Thank you so much for listening to this podcast. I always appreciate completed finishes. And I appreciate your sticking with us to the end of the show. That makes you really committed, he's special. And I would ask you as a friend of the show, to do what you can to promote it. Simplicity is to rate it or whatever the platform is that you're using to listen or watch, and tell your friends. If you have any suggestions, any requests, feedback, I'm really open to it. You can reach me at the Mr. Beacon website. And that's it. Until next time, be safe.