Starting with The Beatles, NFC Links Digital and Physical with Microgroove

By Claire Swedberg

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The NFC+Blockchain solution was launched with rare Beatles slides to connect owners of the slides with more of the band’s content.

Bridging the digital and physical world, software and application company MicroGroove is offering a blockchain-based solution, with NFC technology, to link a physical product with immutable digital content about it. For music lovers, that means accessing content about their favorite band or artist, a backstage pass or concert tickets, by tapping their phone against a collectible item like a vinyl record.

Microgroove has a 20-year history in music and software experiences, but more recently focused on combining physical and digital data.

They debuted their NFC-based solution “NFC+Blockchain” with Web3 company OneOf which released recently-discovered vintage slides of The Beatles in February 2023. Each vintage slide contained a minted NFC tag attached to its acrylic frame. When the NFC tag is scanned, viewers see an image of the digital certificate of authenticity in the blockchain, proving it is genuine.

RFID Journal Live

Two Decades in Software Services

The Beatles slides sale is one of a variety of applications for the technology, Microgroove officials predict.

The company’s founders launched the idea of experience-based processes for the music industry, while employed at Microsoft, working with the Windows group, to advance technology with major record labels.  When the initiative at Microsoft came to an end, “we started Microgroove to continue our work in providing creative technology to the music industry,” said Phil Coady, company’s president.

Their primary business is in providing bespoke engineering solutions to customers in the music industry and beyond. About two years ago, Microgroove began developing a way to use physical items with an NFC tag to leverage both physical and digital worlds.

Microgroove’s minted-NFC tag comes with the company’s blockchain traceability and authentication solution. Companies can bundle a physical object with a blockchain counterpart and the coupling is immutable, said Coady, allowing for a new degree of physical object provenance.

STMicroelectronics Tag and API

With the solution, Microgroove leverages STMicroelectronics NFC tag families as well as STMicro’s developer API, both of which were developed and refined over the last couple of years, explained James Barlow, ST Micro’s director of business development and technical marketing.

Microgroove developed an iOS- and Android-based mobile application to configure tags, which were flashed, minted on the blockchain and delivered to customers configured and ready for installation. However, accessing the blockchain data linked to the tags typically does not require an app for consumers or collectors.

Microgroove is finalist in the RFID Journal LIVE awards in the category of Best Use of Disruptive Technology to Enhance a Product or Service or Improve Business Operations.

When a product such as a slide, album or ticket is tagged, Microgroove can “mint” each individual tag on the blockchain. Using its background in enterprise software solutions, Microgroove built out a cloud-native solution that enables blockchain authentication and token-gating digital content.

How it Works

That tag can be embedded or affixed to any physical product, from a slide to a record or packaged product. The goal is for a consumer to interact with both the physical product and the digital counterpart as users do not require an app, said Coady.

Companies providing the NFC-enabled product can then offer content to link to a tag read. That can be anything from video or music to website or loyalty access.

“Whatever is possible on the Internet is also possible with our NFC+blockchain,” said Coady.

By reading a valid NFC tag with their smartphone, a user can then unlock the digital counterpart to the physical object.

Applications Beyond Music

Other Microgroove customers include a spirits distiller that has applied NFC labels to special bottles that can “unlock” club privileges and unique digital entertainment content. Users could, for instance, access video of the distillery process of the exact spirits in the bottle they are holding.

Another space Microgroove is working in is sports collectibles, giving companies the ability to provide authentication as well as enabling bundled digital experiences that go with the physical object, such as a football jersey.

Microgroove also has completed an international food traceability project that leverages NFC tag reads as well as blockchain data management to create and access immutable data records about the movement of food through the supply chain from farm to table.

Marrying the Physical to the Digital

Whether music or other applications, said Coady, it’s important to understand that each individual tag is minted on the blockchain which provides authenticity and uniqueness to the tag.

“Our whole impetus has been ‘can we make something that’s physical plus digital, something that is greater than the sum of the parts’,” said Coady.

Microgroove can white label the NFC tag and provide the tag to companies for their own branding, along with the API. Those customers then might leverage their own IT department to put together the solution they want. On the other hand, some customers prefer a cloud-based service in which Microgroove manages the content and access on the blockchain for that company.

Future Plans

In the future, Coady sees the technology as an enabler for other product tracking and management, such as the unique identifiers that will be required on some products related to a Digital Product Passport (DPP) in Europe.

In the long term, Coady said, “we would like to see the evolution go beyond just low volume collectibles into goods that have a compelling reason for a digital counterpart and authenticity.”

By having a physical and digital product, as well as blockchain protection of the data, Microgroove officials argue that it provides intrinsically safe experience for companies selling products, and those buying and using them.

“It’s important that that data can be trusted,” said Coady.

Key Takeaways:

  • Microgroove is offering an NFC-based, blockchain solution in which a physical object is linked to immutable data about it, online.
  • Using the STMicroelectronics chip, the tag enables both public and private data features, with information protected online with Microgroove’s solution.