Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The 3 All-Time Greatest Barcode Innovations

by Nate Schubert


Let's face it, barcode technology isn't something that will generally make it to the top of the list of the world's greatest inventions. The truth of the matter is that most people don't notice the bevy of barcodes that surround them on a daily basis, and understanding how barcodes actually work is a knowledge bestowed on the few rather than the many. In spite of these somber realities, it remains that barcode technology is one of the greatest inventions of all time because of what it can do, and the advances its' existence has helped to usher in since its' inception.

In short, a barcode is a visual representation of specific data that you wish to encode. The data encoded within a barcode will usually consist of numbers, letters or even functions such as tabbing and others for scanning data into applications for database management, for example. These barcodes may then be read by barcode scanners that output the encoded data from the barcode to wherever the cursor is located on the computer screen. If the barcode scanner has a portable memory capability, the scanned data may actually be stored on the scanner itself for later bulk transport into a database, which can be quite useful in field work or large work areas. It may not sound exciting, but this simple idea has helped make possible some of the most significant changes in society. Following are 3 of the best barcode innovations to date.

UPC Barcodes Revolutionize Retail Point-of-Sale Businesses

The first UPC barcode was scanned from a pack of Wrigley's Gum at an Ohio supermarket in 1974. This moment marked the beginning of the hugely effective Universal Product Code. This created a standard that allowed retail product identification with a barcode scanner. UPC barcodes increased efficiency in retail environments, speeding up checkout lines and making shopping experiences more convenient for consumers. The use of UPC barcodes and scanners also decreased human error which certainly resulted in significant financial savings.

Using Barcodes in Logistics and Transportation

We live in a modern society where goods are transported great distances to locations throughout the world. Humanity is no longer limited by our inability to travel long distances in short times, and we have developed several effective means of travel. Transporting goods and other materials is a part of everyday business, and the amount of goods and materials that are en route to destination warehouses, stores, businesses and homes is truly astonishing. Barcode technology has integrated very nicely into the logistics and transportion industries, allowing an easy means of keeping track of items, quantities and last-locations. Barcoding goods and products with industry-specific barcodes allows companies to keep better track of the location of their goods, which saves a great deal of money on lost goods while allowing organizations to gain greater insight into their own process of logistics, and possibly improve that as well.

2D Barcodes: The Dawn of a New Era

There is some debate over whether 2D barcodes such as QR will have a lasting impression on society. Capable of encoding upwards of 800 characters in a single symbol, QR is able to encode a great deal more data than a standard linear barcode. Some of the most creative uses of QR Codes are to encode web addresses that can actually send a smartphone user to a specific internet location or page, or an easy means of transferring business card or other contact information via smartphone. These marketing tactics have seen a somewhat sputtering success and while many individuals may not fully realize the potential of the QR code on a movie theater poster or a restaurant menu, marketing agencies seem to believe there is a definite future in this cutting-edge barcode/communication technology hybrid.

What does the future hold for barcode technology? That's a very difficult prediction to make. RFID technology has come on strong in recent years, but the costs of integration may outweigh the benefits in a still-ailing economic environment. For now, it appears as though traditional barcodes are still firmly entrenched in their position as the technology that minimizes human error while maximizing efficiency, speed, effectiveness and satisfaction across any market or industrial niche'.

2 comments:

Bradley Frankel said...

The UPC barcode is making a bit of a comeback due to the ease in which consumers can now access product information from their mobile phones. Companies in the forefront of this consumer empowerment revolution include "RedLaser" (price comparison), "OpenLabel" (a public label for every product) and "GoodGuide" (researched ratings in various environmental categories)

Adam said...

It might be an understated invention in comparison to other technology, but barcodes are really a part of all types of retail. From inventory to shopping to access on mobile devices, barcodes keep popping up. In reality, they are certainly a major invention and have changed the face of retail.