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Trust, ease of use and agility: Key factors for the success of Digital Product Passports

Updated: Feb 12

Just because data on circularity, repairability and environmental impact is made available in digital product passports, they won't automatically become a success with users (or the businesses providing the data). As with other IT-initiatives, they have to earn their spot.


To earn that spot, they need to be:

  • Trusted – actually in more than one way

  • Easy to use – both for end users and for those supplying the data

  • Agile and fast – who accepts waiting, these days?

Trust in the data presented

First of all, business users, the public and authorities need to trust the data to be current, verified (continuously, not only initially), from the correct and verified source and not possible to manipulate. Such trust is earned, is not to be taken for granted, especially not in the current age of "alternative facts", mistrust and disinformation campaigns.


For that to happen, the system has to be constructed with top security, verified by trusted entities and with transparency to disprove conspiracy theories.


Trust in product authenticity

Take into account that around 1 in 20 products sold in Europe is counterfeit. Add that counterfeiters cut every possible corner possible to drive costs down to a minimum, and it becomes obvious that you will need to make sure that the product in your hand is legitimate for the data to b e at all relevant. Without integrated product authentication, how can you trust that the data you obtain actually apply to the product at hand?


Ease of use, for both access and input

Easy, versatile and targeted access to the data should be a no-brainer, but is less easy to achieve. Consumers need to access certain data in their ways, business users other data in other ways and authorities yet other data in a third set of ways. The differentiation of which data can be accessed by which type of users and the verification of users belonging to which group is an "interesting" task.


Smartphone access for consumers, we suppose, but perhaps in differentiated ways. A full view for a specific item, supposedly, but probably there will appear targeted apps for selective data, we guess. "Is this product free from uncertified palm oil" for example. Or, "Is this product certified for responsible manufacturing and sourcing?"


Business users will probably need a wider range of ways to access the data. In smartphone apps, for sure, but also through integration in established systems for procurement, design and supply chain management, and in dedicated online applications as well, we expect.


Authorities, finally, need to be able to access all sorts of data and be able to doublecheck certificates, verifications et cetera to verify security and adherence.


But we shouldn't forget the ease of use also on the input side of it. Any difficulties or double work in inputting the data or in maintaining it will increase the risk of incorrect data in the system or in lack of continuous maintenance and verification of data or certifications, negatively impacting public trust. Automation of verifications and forwarding of updates through the digital data supply chain is of utmost importance, as are automatic alerts to discrepancies or expirations of validity.


Agility and openness, not centralisation

Finally, all of this has to be achieved without creating a humongous monolith of a system. With the multitude of actors in such a system, it needs to stay agile and decentralised for access speed and resilience. The data cannot be stuck in one place, nor can the routing of requests for information be dependent on a single resolver and the same goes for the verification of data.


Nothing you pull out of your hat overnight, right?


What are your thoughts on this? Please share?


Just because data on circularity, repairability and environmental impact is made available in digital product passports, they won't automatically become a success with users (or the businesses providing the data). As with other IT-initiatives, they have to earn their spot.  To earn that spot, they need to be: Trusted – actually in more than one way Easy to use – both for end users and for those supplying the data Agile and fast – who accepts waiting, these days?
Trust, agility, and communication – not only for skydivers.

Image by Mauricio Gralki on iStock


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