Lines that Count

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I don't know if glam rock, leg warmers and jackets with shoulder pads make you think of the eighties, but they do bring back memories for me. Another thing that I connect to that era is barcodes. Which is kind of surprising if you realize that modern barcode technology dates back to 1948, but was only commercialized around 1966.This makes the same technique that we still rely on almost 60 years old, and it's far from gone, even with newer solutions - such as RFID - peeking their head around the corner.

Of course, all the slim and broad lines and numbers mean nothing without some barcode verification equipment to read the codes and let the system know what product is being scanned. Each time a code is read, a hand held or static reader sends the data to a central system and stock is updated. This can be used to track incoming (deliveries at the warehouse) as well as outgoing (sales passing the register) goods and be tied to automated order processing, making the margin of error much smaller.

You probably wonder why a technique that's over half a decade old still stands in this day and age of new technology and constant improvement? Barcode verification is all over the globe and not all that easy to replace, even if one really wanted to do so. Sure, you could move to the emerging RFID technology - where each item separately can be uniquely identified - but apart from a need for a huge investment, there are quite some concerns about the tracking of goods and people when turning to RFID. From a business and economic point of view, RFID gives one the ultimate tracking ability, but when it comes to privacy, barcode still has the upper hand, and I don't see that changing in the next 5 to 10 years.

In that regard, one of the limits of the barcode system - the need for short distance interaction between the barcode itself and the barcode verifier - serves as a benefit, and not a disadvantage.

Initially developed as a tool to automate and facilitate business, one cannot neglect the impact barcode has made on our everyday life. Some people even go as far as having a barcode tattooed on them, whether it be as a statement of their uniqueness and non-conformity or because they like the beauty of the concept.

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This page contains a single entry by ServMe published on October 9, 2007 10:52 AM.

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