Happy 40th, barcode!

swiftsureJuly 1, 2014 – June 26 was barcode’s big day. Forty years ago an Ohio grocery store scanned a tagged pack of Wrigley’s gum, making it the first time a barcode using modern UPC standards was used in a retail transaction. In 1974 that barcode cost more than the pack of Juicy Fruit.

Barcode and asset tracking have come a long way since then, with RFID enabling affordable, sophisticated automated data capture solutions used for everything from conducting inventory and tracking supplies and equipment to providing access control for people and vehicles.

Automated data capture and asset management technologies increase accuracy and efficiency as well as reduce costs at libraries, hospitals, airports, universities, manufacturers, event venues and public and private organizations. Unlike barcodes, RFID tags can be “seen” out of line-of-sight, and hundreds of items can be read at the same time using fixed location or handheld readers.

“RFID in the supply chain provides many opportunities for improving supply chain operations,” Pedro Reyes, an RFID expert and author, said on Baylor University’s Web site. “Visibility of inventory throughout the channel is improved and processes are performed faster. Thus, there’s great potential for lead time reduction and reduction in uncertainty.” Reyes is associate professor of operations and supply chain management in Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business and director of the Center for Excellence in Supply Chain Management.

What’s ahead for barcode and RFID technology? “When we look to the future, the future is really limitless,” Ryan Eickmeier, senior director of marketing, communications and government relations at GS1, told the CBC News Network. GS1 is the nonprofit group that designs and manages global supply chain standards.

Happy anniversary, barcode!