Also Known As

“On-product markers,” “data carriers,” or “physical tags”

Functionality in Traceability Systems

Adds a physical marker onto a good, which can then be tracked throughout the supply chain and/or store information about the good. This technology can be used to link a physical good to digital records and to create a digital identity (or a digital product passport) for a good.


Tags involve attaching a physical marker – such as a barcode (machine readable code appearing as parallel lines and numbers), quick response (QR) code (machine readable code designed to be scanned by a camera), near field communication (NFC) tag (short-range wireless technology that allows enabled devices to communicate with each other), or a radio-frequency identification (RFID) tag (technology that uses radio waves to identify objects tagged with wireless devices) – to a traceable good or its packaging, in order to allow data to be linked to that specific good and to support the creation of a digital identity. When used with Digital Chain of Custody Platforms or technologies like Blockchain, tags can help to streamline and automate the process of product tracking and collecting relevant traceability information.

Tags are often used to track finished products throughout the transportation, warehousing, and retail stage of the supply chain. Some tags can be embedded within a final product and function as data carriers for numerous types of product and production-related data. They can help establish digital product passports (or digital product IDs) that enable supply chain actors and end-users to access information about and manage the lifecycle of a particular product. However, tags can also be used to track upstream products and product components, and in these cases, tags can typically be removed from the good, unlike Additive Tracers. The examples featured here focus on examples of tags being used to initiate traceability in upstream stages, including the processing stage, of supply chains.

As with Additive Tracers, tags must be applied to a product or good, and they require the cooperation of upstream suppliers and supply chain actors. The organization GS1 has established traceability standards for the use of tags such as barcodes and RFID tags.

Associated Traceability System Element

Tags support Product Tracking methods by linking a physical good to digital chain of custody records and by providing physical verification to traceability models that rely on transactional and site verification.

Supply Chain Characteristics Feasibility Considerations

Since the upstream application of this technology requires cooperation and coordination with supply chain actors, this would be best suited to a supply chain where upstream suppliers are known and willing to engage in and support the process of applying and tracking tags. The implementation of this technology would not be feasible in a supply chain where knowledge of or access to suppliers is limited or non-existent.


Batch tracking using QR codes
WWF, TraSeable Solutions, Viant, Sea Quest (Fiji) Limited, Sealand Processors (Fiji) Limited.
Tags, including RFID and QR codes

Additional Resources