The once-humble barcode is being reinvented by new technologies, with numerous exciting new uses for SMEs now possible…

Cracking the code: how to take advantage of new barcode technologies

A technology that’s 40 years old – is being given a fresh lease of life. A binary ‘fingerprint’ that’s traditionally printed on products (to enable faster check-out, better inventory control and smarter analysis of customer habits), the barcode is now being used in dynamic new ways by a range of innovations, from wearables to apps.

Here are a few examples of how businesses are directly benefitting:

– In the healthcare industry, barcodes are answering the need for ever-greater tracking solutions, patient validation and inventory management. In addition, disinfectant-ready hardware for barcode printing and scanning is lowering the risk of infections spreading.
– For businesses that deal in age-restricted goods or services – for example, cigarette retail – a barcode on a customer’s ID can help them collect information for age verification purposes.
– For events companies, barcode technology does away with the need for printed tickets, speeding up crowd control and minimising the risk of fraud. Barcoded badges or wristbands are a fantastic alternative. A quick scan allows for instant entry and exit of an event, while also digitally storing an attendee’s contact information on a digital record, for future contact and CRM.
– The virtual ‘barcode shop’ has also taken off in some cultures. For example, global grocery retailer Tesco uses QR codes so its customers in Korea can scan images of goods in their virtual shops (sited in subways and metro stations) on a smartphone or tablet. The goods are then delivered to the shopper’s home.

But the major development a smart SME needs to be aware of is this: barcodes are no longer just for your use, as a business. Consumers are now putting barcode-scanning apps to increasingly-sophisticated uses, for their own benefit.

Central to this, of course, is the ability to instantly check a price, and compare it in real-time to rivals’, and the going market rate. This enables customers to ensure they’ve found a bargain. Similarly, consumers can now scan the barcode to access online reviews of a product, helping them to make informed decisions whilst still in a shop. Savvy retailers are using their own apps to help customers with both tasks, ensuring app and barcode link to provide price and product information.

Moreover, a range of third party apps now enable shoppers to do things such as track their food intake and monthly budgets, and even catalogue their purchases (ie music, books etc). For example, food shoppers following a certain diet can use their app and your barcodes to ensure purchases match the plan they’re following.

Moving on from apps, although wearables such as Google Glass have yet to fully take off, they and other devices in theory allow individuals to interact with barcodes with a simple verbal cue or a blink of an eye. Shoppers can therefore walk around a retail environment and access all kinds of rich content about its products, simply by looking at the humble barcode next to each one.


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