On the Demise of Barcoding

 In 101

MEMO TO EVERYONE who predicted the death of barcoding, whether because of the rise of RFID technology, automatic product recognition, Near Field Communication or (fill in the blank): Barcode technology is anything but dying.

Witness the collaboration which is taking place between GS1 and the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA). GS1 Global is the worldwide supply chain standards organization which currently manages the system of product barcodes for nearly two million companies and the scanning of billions of products around the globe.

OMA is the mobile standards organization, working on developing standards for the scanning of barcodes on mobile devices. The very existence of this group says a lot about the life expectancy of bar codes. They obviously believe that bar codes are an important part of mCommerce and mAdvertising. The collaboration of OMA and GS1 clearly benchmarks the future importance of bar codes.

At the present time the scanning of bar codes on smart phones and other mobile devices is the wild west; there are no standards for the bar codes to be scanned by mobile devices; there are no standards for the scanning capabilities of those mobile devices , either in terms of the data capture opto-electronics  or the data processing applications; no standards that intelligently link mBarcodes to trusted content.

The 2013 study on designer QR Codes conducted by Dr. Kevin Berisso, Director of the Automatic Identification and Data Capture Lab at the Russ College of Engineering and Technology,  Ohio University pointed out the need for standards.  His study concluded that over 50% of the QR Codes scanned by a wide variety of smart phones fail to decode. See the white paper at http://www.ohio.edu/industrialtech/aidc/activities/upload/Designer-QR-Code-White-Paper.pdf

Standardization of mobile devices and smart phones as well as the barcodes themselves will give consumers better access to accurate and trustworthy information. How important is this?

In 2011 over 50% of Americans with smartphones used their device to do product research while shopping and 20% of them scanned a barcode to do this, vs. 13% who used their device to do price comparisons.

As of September 2012 European smartphone owners scanned QR Codes twice as often as in the previous 12 months.

The Mobile Barcode Trend Report for the 2012 holiday shopping season found that scanning with a mobile device increased by over a million scans over the previous year.

What can we conclude from all of this? Clearly there is no indication yet of the demise of barcoding. Earlier we have written about how the use of barcodes is on the rise in other sectors, most notably in healthcare, pharmaceutical trace and track, and in food safety. With the rise in importance of barcode technology in mobile applications, one can only wonder where bar codes will be used next.

The development of standards for mobile devices and for the intelligent linking of barcodes to trusted content will definitely help to assure the success of mobile barcode scanning, but the barcode images themselves must also be compliant to standards. As in the retail supply chain where barcodes have been used for decades, all the WMS and ERP technology in the world fails if the barcode—which is the glue that holds it all together—fails.



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