NAFEM Data Protocol Frequently Asked Questions

What is the NAFEM Data Protocol (NDP)?
The NAFEM Data Protocol (NDP) is a set of rules that describes how commercial kitchen equipment can communicate with computing devices. NDP allows real-time information flow to address critical needs:

  • Asset Management
  • Food Safety Monitoring
  • Energy Management
  • Labor Management
  • Product/Inventory Management

A fryer, for example, can communicate with the manager’s laptop or handheld device to relay information such as energy consumption, cook cycles and shortening temperature. The fryer can also receive commands to make adjustments in temperature, cook cycles and other operating essentials. In addition, when the fryer’s heating element nears the end of its lifecycle or operates below specific set points, the unit can send an alert directly to the service center. The result is first call fix servicing and reduced equipment downtime – facilitated by the service provider’s ability to access exact information on the model and replacement parts – before the heating element fails.

As a non-proprietary protocol, the NDP enables different pieces of kitchen equipment to communicate in a similar fashion. This gives operators the power and flexibility to select interchangeable equipment and software to suit their unique needs.

Why was the NAFEM Data Protocol (NDP) developed?
In 1999, major U.S. restaurant chains recognized the potential efficiencies of the online kitchen and asked NAFEM to lead the development of an industry-wide communication protocol. Working together to develop an all-industry solution, the team of manufacturers and operators created the NAFEM Data Protocol (NDP), a standard based on existing, open Internet Protocols (IP).

What are the benefits of using the NAFEM Data Protocol (NDP)?
The NDP provides a set of rules that describes how commercial kitchen equipment can communicate with computing devices. This allows operators to automate management processes and maximize productivity.

The NDP allows operators to:

  • Automate maintenance and service schedules
  • Enable troubleshooting and diagnostic capabilities
  • Monitor energy consumption and reduce costs
  • Maximize product quality through consistent preparation
  • Monitor trends and collect historical and real-time information
  • Reduce equipment downtime

Manufacturers gain:

  • Intelligent products that offer increased operational efficiency
  • Flexibility to apply NDP through integrated controls, bolt-on appliances or gateway adapters
  • Ongoing training and updates through NAFEM
  • Opportunity to offer service diagnostics
  • Ready-made, proven equipment technology that meets an industry standard for increased connectivity and conserves company resources

What does Version 3.0 offer?
Version 3.0 provides flexibility for manufacturers and operators while maintaining the original intent of providing a standardized data structure. Previous versions required the use of Ethernet as the transport or connection method. The new version allows other connection methods, so long as they are non-proprietary and the essential details are publicly available.

What are the main technical differences of Version 3.0?
Version 3.0 requires continued conformance to the published NAFEM Data Protocol V3.0 data structure, including data packets and document lists which are maintained by the equipment manufacturer. Specific requirements include Equipment Identification, Equipment Output Data, Packet and Parameter lists. The data transport method is now flexible, based on the operator’s needs. Data transport options include: Ethernet, LonWorks, ModBus, Power Line, USB, Zigbee or other open, non-proprietary transport methods, as long as the proper full disclosure documentation is publicly available.

The V3.0 Base Application Notes describe transport methods. As some transport methods may introduce security concerns, the manufacturer and operator should work together to adequately address these concerns in the application documentation. Equipment requiring complete backward compatibility should continue to use NDP V2.0 and the Ethernet, data transport method.

Why is using NDP compliant equipment important?
The NDP assures compatibility when operators are specifying equipment to connect their foodservice operation.

Does the NDP add cost to the equipment?
NAFEM does not monitor equipment costs. Product prices should be explored with each individual manufacturer.

Are NDP compliant products certified?
NDP compliant products are not certified.

Can existing equipment use the NDP?
Original equipment manufacturers (OEM) and controls manufacturers offer many options to retrofit legacy equipment. In some applications, this solution may require a bolt-on device. Equipment requiring complete backward compatibility should continue to use NDP V2.0 and the Ethernet, data transport method.

What is the role of the Internet in the NDP?
The NDP fully embraces the Internet and uses a subset of the industry standard Internet Protocol (IP) suite. Equipment using the NDP has the capability to transmit data via the Internet providing the necessary communication hardware and software are provided.

Does the NDP work with front-of-the-house “ambience” systems, such as lighting, sound or HVAC?
When considering FOH systems, two points should be taken into consideration: First, there may be existing protocols within these control systems that should be identified and considered; second, the NDP is flexible and could be linked to such devices if needed. In order to link BOH or FOH systems, objects and other protocol requirements must be standardized.

What happens to NDP compliant equipment if the network goes down?
The NDP does not operate as a “control” system. Equipment functions independent of the network, so if the network goes down, equipment continues to operate normally.

It appears NDP compliant equipment may be connected to a manager’s computer. Does this mean point-of-sale (POS) systems may be connected too?
A back-of-the-house (BOH) system using NDP may or may not be linked to the POS system. Realizing the possibility of a fully integrated restaurant where near-real-time data from the POS system feeds data to equipment over an in-store network, NAFEM worked with the Association for Retail Technology Standards (ARTS) to develop a technical specification for linking POS and commercial kitchen equipment. Details may be found at – ARTS Protocol Converter.