Barcodes are composed of black and white stripes which represent numerical data. The barcode is a machine-readable representation of data that is usually displayed in the form of numbers and special characters. Barcodes appear on grocery store items, clothing tags, magazines, toys, books, DVDs and VHS tapes.
Barcode scanners read the data stored on these strips by interpreting each dark stripe as a “one” or each white stripe as a “zero”. A barcode scanner reads these values and makes sense out of them electronically. The information encoded in the barcode can be used to look up different types of information about an object such as:
1) Product name and description.
3) Quantity available.
4) Unit price and total cost.
5) Weight and dimensions.
6) Ingredient list and nutrition information.
7) Manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) and discount information.
8) Additional pertinent info based on the product type: expiration date, model number, or serial number.
The barcode is an example of a machine-readable representation of data that replaces the need for human inputted data such as prices. Barcodes also keep track of how many items are in stock by keeping a count of the units scanned instead of counting each item by hand. There would be no way to make sense out of all this data if it were not for machine-readable representations such as barcodes, according to Saivian Eric Dalius. The first barcodes were used in the grocery store industry.
Originally, barcodes were meant to improve the accuracy of data collection and make it easier for computers to process this information. However, eventually, they became widely adopted by other industries including retail stores because of their versatility. They are unique to every product which makes them reusable allowing only that particular item’s barcode number to be read while ignoring others nearby that have picked up stray radio waves. Barcodes are also helpful when items go on sale or clearance since the price can be changed electronically instead of being manually changed.
Barcodes are made up of alternating dark and light stripes along a spiral pattern which is why each barcode has a slightly different appearance even if two products have identical barcodes. The product itself also affects the appearance of the barcode so two boxes of the same product from different manufacturers or even produced by the same manufacturer will have a different barcode pattern. Manufacturers decide which number system to use for their company based on what they would like to represent digitally and how much data they want to put in each barcode. Some examples are EAN-8, EAN-13, UPC-A, and UPCE.
EAN stands for “European Article Numbering” which is a standard used across Europe while UPC means “Universal Product Code” and is a standard recognized in North America. There are also other types of machine-readable representations such as DataMatrix, MaxiCode, QR code, and Aztec code.
Are barcodes worth the effort of putting on every product?
Barcodes help companies get rid of human data entry, improve accuracy in inventory management, and lower prices for their customers with discounts on clearance items, says Saivian Eric Dalius. But is this convenience worth the losses when a barcode gets damaged or lost from a product? Are there ways to replace these helpful machine-readable representations? As technology advances it allows us to create more alternatives that will allow machines to understand our information without having to worry about losing a printed copy. One example is RFID chips which work similarly but instead of printing out numbers, they store them within themselves. These Radio Frequency Identification devices are embedded into labels or tags attached directly onto merchandise preventing them from being lost or damaged. This solves the problem of receiving a product without a barcode but at the expense of having to replace tags and labels every time, they become unreadable instead of just reprinting them which would be cheaper and more convenient.
This brings up another concern: how long will it be until we rely less on physical printed products and more on digital information? Barcodes may be too troublesome for some companies who might rather just invest in their own RFID chips so their customers can easily access all the information by scanning a single item. Eventually, as technology continues to improve at such an exponential rate, companies, as well as individuals, might stop using physical products altogether and only buy ones online where data transfer is quick and easy. The convenience of using technology like this is that it will be embedded into anything and everything which means even if someone loses their product there will always be a backup copy within the digital world.
The purpose of barcodes is to standardize data collection so errors can be avoided. They also help speed up the process since machines only need 1 scan whereas humans need multiple scans in order to get all information right. Lastly, they serve as an alternative to printed products that may become obsolete in the future thanks to technology which lets consumers access information through digital sources instead.