Using a Different Lens: Virtual Product Chains

Digital technology to track products in their life cycle

We now move past the innovative digital sorting and characterisation technologies that enhance a circular economy at the end of the loop, and instead take a look at digital’s ability to generate detailed information about, and track products across their life cycle. While the above looks at closing the loop from a post-consumption/user perspective, here we take a broader perspective, using a value chain approach. We should be able to monitor the life cycles of materials and products to enable the redirection of materials into their optimal route. Tagging and identification systems can provide part of the solution. Digital twins are used to model and optimise production systems. Their application in product chains is being explored. 


Blockchain technology allows tracking of materials across transactions and into new life phases. Accordingly, blockchain technology can develop a track record for products and their parts, providing insights in view of their repair and re-use, or recovery of their parts. This results in the necessary sharing of information to achieve a circular economy. The development of virtual product chains that mimic real product chain behaviour generates a need for data management and interpretation, and the set-up of data systems. Whereas data science already finds application in the field of manufacturing, there is a need to further develop its integration into circular and virtual product chains.

Debate at G-STIC 2018

By stressing the importance of communication and information systems, this session hopes to delve deeper into technology’s ability to generate collaboration and trust between, and within businesses. We aim to spark discussion around digital technology’s role in generating a secure supply chain with greater transparency, and what the roles of governments and businesses are in pushing innovative technologies like the ones introduced. Furthermore, we aim to investigate the ways in which complex digital concepts like blockchain and digital twins can be simplified to companies with less technical understanding, and consequently encourage them to go down the digital path.

During this session we will bring together representatives from Circularise, IBM, BAM, GiZ and TNO to present their technologies and projects currently at the forefront of innovation.


Posted By Karl Vrancken on 23 October 2018