A Brief History of Barcode

A Short History

If you were born before the 1970s, you may remember a time where a checking out on a grocery trip means a cashier cashing you out per item based on a price tag on the product. This is process was the definition of manual and often resulted in long queues during busy hours. Barcodes began as a system to speedify this process and shorten customer wait times.

Thanks to developments in barcode throughout the 60s and 70s, the customer buying experience was simplified and as a result laid a foundation for development in retail technology and analytics.

What are Barcodes?

Barcodes are machine readable codes, composed of lines of various widths that form a pattern used to identify a product. Anyone is free to create their own barcode systems and use it for purposes such as product tracking or inventory management. However, only barcodes that comply with GS1 standards are recognized around the world.

What is GS1 you ask? GS1 is a organization that maintains global standards for barcodes around the world. This means that should your product be sold through channels other than your own, standard barcode scanners will have the ability to scan the code. This is what enables Coca Cola to create a generic barcode for their products without having to comply with the scanning systems of each individual retailer.

What does that mean for the future?

Having a commonly accepted standard of barcodes also allows for development in the areas of Product Content Management (having nutrition information tied to the barcode itself), Marketing Content Optimization, Smart Label Solutions and various other Grocery Based Solutions.

It allows manufacturers and retailers to embed certain information and tracking through the barcode on the packaging itself and opening an opportunity to either offer data or information to the person analyzing the product or through the interaction of the product handler collect,information on interactions with the product. As we know, with data comes great insights and having the ability to embed a data driven system around barcodes allow retailers to get a deeper knowledge of their customers.

So next time you stop by a grocery store during a checkout just remember that those fat and skinny lines on the back of the package are a bit more than just a digital price tag!