Lucia Ruiz Simon |
Madrid (EFE).- Half a century ago, 16 representatives of mass consumption made a decision in New York that would be the beginning of a revolution in world trade: the design of the code to identify products.
Thus was born the barcode that today is read 6,000 million times every day.
The proposal, which follows the idea of Morse code, quickly spread across the planet to become one of the inventions that have most transformed the modern economy, according to a BBC ranking.
A gum in the United States
It took a year to have the first practical application: Sharon Buchanan, a clerk at a supermarket in Ohio (United States) scanned a barcode for the first time, a pack of chewing gum that cost 67 cents.
The idea crossed the Atlantic very quickly and only three years later the European Article Numbering Association (EAN), a non-profit organization for the management of commercial standards, was founded in Brussels.
Today, GS1 is the non-profit organization that provides global standards for efficient business communication, with a presence in 116 countries.
“The barcode has transformed the economy and the lives of consumers themselves. Citizens demand more information about products and companies need more data to be more efficient and become more sustainable from an economic, social and environmental point of view, and the barcode is a great tool”, explains the director of GS1 Spain. / Aecoc, Pere Rosell.
Data and utilities: 6,000 million readings a day
According to the dossier prepared to celebrate this event, barcodes -there are several types- are used to identify, capture and share information about products, locations, companies and all kinds of data.
Its reading has become a daily act that is repeated up to 6,000 million times a day, as it is present in 1,000 million products around the world and used by two million companies.
According to Aecoc data, it reduces the resources allocated to the exchange of information between agents in the food chain by 60 percent and is also key to one of the most sought-after challenges: it reduces food waste by up to 40 percent.
How to read a barcode
A consumer has a difficult time interpreting the numbers and lines that make up a code and that transmits all that information if it is read with a laser.
Aecoc explains that the numbers, at first glance, do not provide information and have no meaning, they are the “equivalent to a person’s ID”, since the value of the code is the information contained in its database.
In the usual thirteen-digit barcode, its reading can be divided into three sections, the first to identify the GS1 organization that assigns it and the company that has requested it.
The following serve as a counter for the references registered by the companies and, finally, the control digit is the result of a calculation that allows the products to be uniquely identified.
The barcodes simply contain the numerical information as symbols to allow it to be read by scanners.
Where does it evolve?
After half a century, that code designed by the IBM engineer George J.Laurer has evolved in two fundamental directions.
The first, the development of more differentiated linear codes for use in warehouses or for logistics purposes.
And secondly, two-dimensional codes are spreading, with the development of some more designed for medicines and tobacco, and the open QR, which is called to be the future of barcodes at the point of sale, since being encoded with a URL with standardized information (GS1 Digital Link) allows the introduction of all types of information.
The barcode matures well in a globalized and digitized world, in which information, data and connection are the lifeblood that runs through the economy and world trade.