The Next Big Barcode Problem
Barcodes were invented to solve a problem. That is why they exist. Market research by Kroger led to the first retail scanning of a barcode in 1974. From there, every evolutionary step in barcode technology has been to solve the next problem.
Barcodes Solve Problems
UPC established itself as a viable solution, and other industries took notice. The military needed a similar solution, but required alpha-numeric encoding. The invention of Code 39 followed.
The next problem was the need to encode more data. UPC Addendum codes solved the problem for the book industry. They were also to UPC’s for coupons. Stacked linear codes such as PDF417 and GS1 Databar solved problems in airline boarding passes and government-issued identification cards. More recently, matrix or 2D codes such as QR Code and Data Matrix Code have emerged to solve problems in part marking and other specialized applications.
Barcodes Provide Security
Concerns about data security are giving rise to new developments in barcode technology. The response: development of digital watermarking and incorporating color patterns into barcode design. The demise of barcodes was predicted from the beginning. Machine vision, automatic item recognition and RFID seemed to threaten the future of barcodes.. Yet barcodes remain prevalent relevant, solving problems, finding new and useful applications.
What will be the next barcode challenge? How will it be solved? As always, there are differing points of view. For example, a variation on the digital watermark concept: barcodes are invisibly marked all over a consumer package. The problem? Speeding up checkout. But the cost of the solution is always a factor, as well as the validity of the problem. After spending the time it takes to browse the grocery store shelves for even a few items, it checkout really that much of a problem?
Barcodes Reduce Redundancy
Reader input is invited. What do you think the next big barcode challenge will be? How do you think it will be solved? Right now we think the biggest problem not the frontline. It is all the redundant handling of one’s purchases at the store and into one’s home. Once again Kroger is pioneering a solution: scanners on the cart. The customer scans and bags their purchases as they place them in the shopping cart. The transaction is completed incrementally and the items are handled just once.
What is the Next Challenge?
Other barcode-based solutions include using a 2D symbol to provide nutritional information or menu ideas on the food package. Standardized and easy-to-read sell-by or expiration dates on products is another challenge.
What do you think?