Use of Barcode Tags
Barcodes have been an essential part of the selling business ever since they were first introduced in 1948 by Drexel Institute of Technology graduate Bernard Silver. They have brought numerous benefits to the business world, including—besides their original purpose of scanning information about products before ringing up their prices—being able to reorder supplies quickly and identifying those products which are seldom sold, thus preventing too many of them from accumulating. Now, barcode tags are becoming increasingly used for worldwide sales. Let us look more closely at these uses.
Point of sale
The point of sale is, of course, one of the most common places where barcode tags are used. It is probably the use that the average citizen is familiar with. The customer comes up to the cash register with all of the things that he wants to buy, the clerk scans each item in turn with the aid of a scanning machine, causing its price to enter onto the cash register, and the customer is given the total price to pay. Every company in the developed countries uses the system.
For inventory purposes
Bar codes are used for far more than just point of sale. Business employees frequently use them to keep track of inventory. Each time a new shipment comes in, the items are scanned one by one and entered into the books.
Time tracking is a third area in which bar codes display their value. Each employees time card has a bar code stamped on it which can be read each time that person clocks in and out. The information automatically goes into the business computer, so there is no need to record it on paper—a clear indication that the “paperless office” is now becoming a reality. Over 90 percent of all the products that are manufactured abroad carry a bar code.
Barcode tags have many other uses in addition to those discussed above. They can be used to track people as well as things—hospitals often use bar codes to track their patients. Rental car companies use them so that they know where every one of their vehicles is at a given moment, post offices on registered mail and ticket sellers to allow holders to enter the arena. Hyperlinks to websites can be embedded in bar codes, and in 2008 airlines began sending them to their passengers’ mobile phones so that they can board with electronic passes. People have even begun using them in their works of art!
Advances in the use of bar codes
Up until a point all bar codes consisted of one-dimensional structures on tags. More recently, however, the two-dimensional bar code has been developed—it can store more data per unit area than a linear code can. The most modern of these consist of a series of bars and spaces stacked one on top of another, hence the name “stacked codes.” Such codes can contain over 3,000 characters on an area no bigger than a postage stamp! Then there are matrix bar codes, another variant of the 2D type. With them, one can encode, not just the information on the particular product to which they are attached, but an entire packing list! Today’s bar codes can also be read from across the room. They can also be scanned by code readers embedded in mobile phones.
A new format, known as the GS1 or Reduced Spaced Symbology system, has been developed to allow for greater storage density. Bar codes that are compatible with this system can be scanned and converted into useful data by a computer. “Omnidirectional” bar codes are also being worked on—they allow data to be encoded through analysis of recurring patterns in shapes.
Bar codes are among the most ingenious and invaluable resources ever devised by man. Their uses, as well as the technology used to make them, will continue to develop in the future.
The Article Was Written by:
Alex Hudson is a technical advocate writing on a variety of topics including: property ID labels, product reviews, barcodes tags from Camcode, and business decisions.