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Retail Technology, Retail technology News

Happy birthday to the barcode

Happy birthday to the barcode
Wednesday April 3 2013

Global supply chain standards organisation celebrates one of the most enduring technology innovations as it marks its fortieth anniversary in retail today

Forty years ago today, grocery industry leaders in the US made a game-changing decision to select a single unified standard for product identification. 

Now known as the ‘GS1 Bar Code,’ its familiar beep is heard more than five billion times each day in shops, cafés and hospitals worldwide.

The humble barcode actually celebrated its 60th birthday last year, as its patent was filed in the US on in 7 October 1952. But it was not used until the technology to read its black and white stripes became available over 20 years later.

In fact, the first ever product to be scanned with a barcode was Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit chewing gum in 1974. And the first self-scanning store in the UK was Safeway in Solihull in March 1995. Another little known fact about this optical machine-readable representation of data is that it appears invisible to scanners when printed in red on a white background.

Developing beyond the checkout

Global Standards One (GS1), the international non-profit association dedicated to global supply chain specifications development, said its Bar Code System of Standards now delivers a range of measurable benefits beyond reduced waiting time for consumers at the checkout.
 
GS1 UK claimed it also enabled 21% shorter lead times for warehouse operators, 42% lower costs for distribution centres and 32% fewer out-of-stocks for retailers, as well as saving the UK retail industry £10.5 billion every year.
  
Gary Lynch, GS1 UK chief executive, commented: “We’re delighted to be celebrating 40 years of standardised bar codes, but the true celebration has to be about what this first important collaboration then led onto – the most widely used System of Standards for tracking products across geographical and cultural boundaries in the world today.”
 
Looking to the future, GS1 said it was turning its attentions to how the barcode adapts to the rise of the savvy digital shopper, who increasingly has the desire and capability to research everything online before making a purchasing decision.