Analog nameplate

Analog nameplate

| Michael Rudschuck
2022-02-16 short info

Digital nameplate: Foundation for „Industrie 4.0“

Analogue nameplates will soon be a thing of the past. Gone will be the days when technicians had to struggle to decipher illegible nameplates. Digital nameplates are on the advance.

At the international standardisation level, two standardisation proposals have already been submitted to the IEC and are currently being worked on.

Dr. Michael Rudschuck

What are the challenges and aims for digital nameplates?

Digital nameplate: Foundation for „Industrie 4.0“

Digital nameplate: Foundation for „Industrie 4.0“


Today, the declaration of product approvals has taken on a scope that makes it very difficult to map all the required information on a nameplate.

However, in the age of „Industrie 4.0“, all relevant information should be made available in a paper-free, digital format and therefore be available from anywhere. However, a networked information and communication infrastructure as part of „Industrie 4.0“ is not yet being used for nameplates. For this reason, the number of markings often no longer fits on a traditional nameplate.

A key aim of digital nameplates is to make statutory device markings available in an electronically legible form. In the long term, traditional nameplates should be replaced with an electronic identifier. There is also the need to provide further device information when using a modern information concept such as the administration shell from „Industrie 4.0“.

Comparison of traditional and digital nameplates

Traditional nameplateDigital nameplate
Device information can only be accessed locallyDevice information can be accessed from anywhere in the world

Information can only be viewed when up close

Information can be viewed on any display

The amount of information is limited due to the size of the nameplateThe amount of information is digital and therefore practically unlimited
Information is static and cannot be adapted if necessaryInformation is dynamic and can be adapted if necessary
Required documentation about the life cycle of single componentsSimplified documentation about the life cycle of single components

Standardisation proposals for digital nameplates published at IEC

Digitalisation is advancing with great strides. Major changes have taken place in recent years, especially in the industrial environment: Mechanical and plant engineering is highly networked, manufacturing is increasingly autonomous, and AI is also making its way into digital production halls.

What is striking, however, is that classic nameplates have not yet become obsolete. They can still be found everywhere on parts, components, and systems. In the course of digitalisation, however, it is necessary to provide nameplates in digital and machine-readable form - behind the actually so simple concept of the digital nameplate is the previously mentioned and profound digitalisation concept that forms the basis for „Industry 4.0“.

Due to the different requirements for a digital nameplate, there are currently two types that are being worked on internationally in two standardisation projects at IEC.

1. The digital nameplate as unique product identifier

This type of the digital nameplate provides a unique identification of the product by means of a globally unique URI (Unique Resource Identifier). Complete product documentation with automated access to all information and services for the product and its use along the entire life cycle can thus be made available to manufacturers and users via the Internet.

This version of the digital nameplate is described in DIN SPEC 91406, which is being further developed by IEC/TC 65/SC 65E in IEC 61406 as an international standard.

Digital nameplate as product passport

Digital nameplate as product passport


2. The digital nameplate as product passport (DPP)

The second type contains the essential product identification in digital form on the nameplates. In this variant of the digital nameplate, the information can be read directly from the digital nameplate via a smartphone, tablet or other reading device. Information is immediately available to the user without an Internet connection.

This variant is described in VDE V 0170-100. The pre-standard is the basis for the future IEC 63365.


„analogue“ nameplate

Digital nameplate as Unique Product Identifier

Digital nameplate as DPP

Number of characters, information content

Limited by physical size

Limited by the information capacity of the technology (QR code, RFID chips etc.)


Reader required


Yes, e. g. Smartphone or Tablet

Yes, e. g. Smartphone or Tablet

Internet connection required




Possibility of updating




Need for long-term operation of a suitable data infrastructure


Based on IEC 63365

Based on IEC 61406 and underlying services

*Depends on the technology: For RFID chips or device interfaces, an update might be possible.

The use of digital nameplate for explosion protection

Traditional nameplate

Traditional nameplate

| DIN VDE V 0170-100

Initiated by manufacturers of flameproof equipment and operators of electrical systems in explosion-prone environments, the “Digital Nameplate” project was started. On the one hand, this was motivated by the desire to be able to accommodate increasing numbers of identifiers on equipment, as a lot of information is required, especially for explosion protection. On the other hand, this was to be able to electronically manage information about the equipment.

The aim of the standardization is to showcase digital solutions as alternatives to current plaintext labelling on nameplates or product packaging. A machine-legible identifier can be used by the device manufacturer during production to automatically control the flow of material, which today is often done using a barcode. The product can be electronically reviewed during export by customs authorities, for example. The operator can clearly identify the product as soon as the goods arrive. During operation, the service technician or a responsible organization is also able to electronically review the product for the approved application. The data from the machine-legible nameplate can be transferred directly into an ERP system for error-free inventory. Therefore, all device data is available to the operator digitally.

In the long term, the traditional nameplate should be replaced with a digital nameplate. In this case, the legally required marking should be. For a higher level of acceptance, a minimum amount of markings in plaintext must be applied to the device.

Explosion protection must meet the most stringent statutory documentation. For this reason, the standardization for an electronic nameplate has been driven forward as a pilot project on the part of DKE in the expert panel DKE/K 241. But even if the standardization is driven forward by this area, the concepts that have been developed are universally applicable and can therefore be transferred to practically all sectors of the industry and expanded.

DIN VDE V 0170-100 was created as a result of the standardization in the expert panel DKE/K241. The publication of the standard is expected to be published in the first quarter of 2020. The standard is also planned to be submitted internationally to the IEC.

As a result of the standardisation work of the DKE/K241 committee, VDE V 0170-100 was created, from which IEC 63365 will be developed.

Integration into the world of „Industrie 4.0“

Integration into the world of „Industrie 4.0“

Integration into the world of „Industrie 4.0“


The digital nameplate can be seen as the basis of digitalised value creation processes in terms of the „Industrie 4.0“ concept. With the digital nameplate, information about the product and its life cycle can be clearly assigned and further processed. In addition, the product can be identified in operation and the corresponding information can be used to control industrial processes, e. g. production, maintenance, etc.

With regard to a uniform data concept, the concept of the Asset Administration Shell (AAS) was specified. This enables uniform access to the information assigned to a product (or more generally to an "asset").

The administration shell is organised in different sub-models. Each individual sub-model describes an aspect of the product. Thus, different sub-models come into play for different use cases or life cycles of a product. The digital nameplate forms a central part of the management shell of the respective product in the lowest and most important hierarchy level.

Every product with a digital nameplate and the associated nameplate management shell thus becomes an „Industrie 4.0“ component. Depending on the design of the nameplate, the management shell can be directly connected to the product or stored in external databases.

Further, higher-level sub-models of the management shell contain additional information about the product. For example, there could be a sub-model "identification", where the manufacturer can enter further information on the identity of the product that goes beyond that required in the conventional nameplate (e. g. the product family, the date of manufacture or the batch number). A "document" sub-model is also conceivable, which can be used, for example, to retrieve certificates and certificates of conformity.

In close cooperation with the DKE/K 241 committee, integration into the „Industrie 4.0“ world is being driven forward by the DKE/K 931 committee.

DKE/K 931 with its working groups manages the preparation and support of standardisation projects to define fundamental properties of automation. The focus here is on models, system architectures, structuring of the information inventory and provision of uniform descriptive and linguistic means.

Editor's note:

The standards listed in the text can be purchased at VDE VERLAG.


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