The Humble Beginnings of Barcode Technology
The very start of the development of a barcode system lay in the need for automation of grocery checkout systems in the United States of America. In 1948, on struggling with this idea, the president of a popular food chain, Fair Food, had tried to convince one of the college deans of Drexel Institute of Technology in Philadelphia to develop such a system, or at least initiate research into the same. The dean couldn’t see any light in the project and hence, declined. Bernard Silver, a graduate student of the same college, overheard the conversation and thought it doable. He lost no time in sharing the idea with his friend, Norman Joseph Woodland, whose efforts would later on become pivotal in the innovative growth of this idea.
Norman Woodland struggled to keep the dream alive for many years through personal research and development, through selling the idea to large corporations, but having little or no luck in convincing them. Woodland and Silver filed for a patent for a basic design they had come up with in 1949 and were awarded a patent for it 1952.
Woodland, on being unable to get a promotion for the idea from IBM, which he worked for at that time, sold the idea to Philco Corporation in 1952, which passed the property in the patent on to RCA via a sale transacted in the same year.
A chain of grocery stores by the name of The Kroger Grocery, volunteered in 1966 to have RCA test a product base on the original ‘bullseye’ code that had been developed by Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver. RCA had by then purchased the rights to the patent and were now in talks with the NAFC, National Association of Food Chains of the United States, about the possibility of automating grocery store checkout systems. An ad hoc committee to establish a Uniform Grocery Product Code was set up. The result of this was the development of an 11-digit Code for application on grocery items for identification as a means of check out automation.
Tenders were then sent out to develop scanning devices as well as for printing of barcodes that would meet both the industries requirements and the standards that had now started being compiled. Companies that participated in this milestone development included: IBM, RCA, NCR, Singer, and Pitney Bowes among many other industry players who saw a future in the production and supply of barcodes, barcode scanning machinery and other auxiliary barcode apparatus.
RCA had gained substantial confidence in their product by 1972 to enable them demonstrate the use of barcode technology in the grocery checkout stores, enabling them to pull crowds an gather a substantial following from a number of industry players.
Meanwhile, Computer Identics Corporation of the Unite States managed, in 1969, to install their item scanning machinery at the General Motors, Buick Plant in Flint, Michigan. This was used to identify and track the movement of motor vehicle transmissions inside the plant and as they were shipped out to clients all over the country.
The World Wide Appeal of Barcodes
Barcodes have not only added speed and efficiency to the checkout systems of retail outlets but they have also enhanced decision making for management and those with the responsibility of managing the business inventory. Confidence is increased by such a system as knowledge of the status of stock held by the business is crucial in forecasting and turnover analysis. Items that are fast moving, obsolete or depleted can be acted upon swiftly leaving out the guesswork in decision making.
Not known to consumers of products sold at certain retail outlets and superstores, is the use of linking discount cards to the product database which gives the shop management and other affiliated companies and manufacturers the ability to profile consumer behaviors, which can be a potentially lethal weapon for use in targeted marketing campaigns. But all in all, this is another example of the power of barcodes and the innovative uses this tool can be put to increase business turnover and help in marketing and advertising of consumer products.
Use of barcodes in conjunction with UIDs or Unique Identifying Number is another application that is crucial to logistics companies. This package identification and tracking technology provides a link between items in transit and the database that stores information about the item being transported. This information will help both the company that is delivering the package and the customer be informed at all times on the location as well as the Estimated Time of Arrival for both to take any remedial action in case any problems do occur, such as delays, loss in transit, theft or breakage and subsequent non-delivery of goods.
Modern uses of Barcodes
Matrix (2D) Barcodes are the way to go nowadays an indeed in the future. About the same dimensions as a 1D or 1 Dimensional barcode, this 2 Dimensional barcode holds much more data and is almost programmable. Instructions on what operations it should carry out upon scanning by way of a reader or smartphone can range from sending an sms text message to opening up an internet/web browser and leading you to a website that will offer you more information on the product or item to which it is tagged.