Happy Birthday and Thank You, Barcode.

Barcodes – tiny rectangular symbols resembling a piano keyboard and carrying a wealth of information. Every single product that we buy has one associated with it. As a company dedicated to the collection and organization of any and all product-related data, we wanted to take a moment to appreciate this technology.

There are so many technologies we take for granted in our lives, like electricity. It’s so ingrained into the fabric of our existence that it’s almost hard to step back and acknowledge the magnitude of its impact. When these technologies malfunction, they stall our day-to-day routines. The barcode is another under-appreciated technology, given that it is the centerpiece of information in the world of commerce.


Photo: via WIRED

The barcode recently celebrated its 40th birthday. On June 26, 1974, at 8:01 a.m., Sharon Buchanan used a barcode to ring up a 10-pack of Juicy Fruit at the Marsh Supermarket in Troy, Ohio. And then the world of commerce changed forever. That pack of gum now sits proudly in the Smithsonian Museum.

Barcode technology itself has been around for much longer. In 1948, Bernard Silver and Norman Woodland filed a patent for their data-reading technology. Essentially, they invented a system that automated data collection, making it time efficient. The barcode turns information into code that is then read by a scanner. When you take the time to think about it, it’s really cool and magical, like all world-class technology.

So, this is technically the anniversary of the UPC code – a specific type of barcode and the heartbeat of all commerce. The UPC code was designed by IBM engineer George Laurer, who was assigned with the task of developing a universal code to help grocery stores, and that could be used across different industries. The 12 digit code transformed the way stores did business, increasing productivity, revenue, and efficiency. Till today, it is the most reliable identifier providing information about products.

Nowadays, even our phones are equipped with technology to read barcodes. Barcode recognition enabled apps let consumers look for products online, find the best available price, deals, read reviews and make an informed decision. Consolidated product information can be used in myriad ways to provide shoppers with a seamless and delightful shopping experience.

Companies today are investing a lot of resources into developing mobile POS systems and other technologies that are making shoppers’ lives easier and the checkout process faster. We are entering a customer-centric era of commerce where shoppers want the right product at the right place at the right time at the right price and through the right channel.

As commerce becomes pervasive, it’s nice to look back and celebrate what started it all. And at the same time, be pumped about what lies ahead – what technologies are being invented right now that are shaping our collective future? Here’s to a whole new world of exciting innovations!

  Download the Pervasive Commerce White Paper

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *