Barcode technology gets digital makeover
F orty-two years after the first barcode was scanned at the POS, GS1 updated its barcode technology standard in an effort to make barcodes more ubiquitous and secure. More than 1 million companies are members of GS1, a global body focused on product traceability throughout the supply chain. Its evolving global standard helps organizations reduce business risk, improve efficiencies and comply with varying regulatory environments, GS1 stated.
The new standard for barcode scanning is based on laser and infrared beaming technology that facilitates barcode scanning at the POS. The technology translates black-and-white areas within a barcode into a series of pulses and pauses, transmitting the information to the scanner at a rate of 1,000 times per second, using a process similar to Morse Code.
“The technology interprets the line length of each bar and blinks the LED at the same rate as the scanner would see if it read the barcode,” said George Garrick, President and Chief Executive Officer at Mobeam Inc. “The scanner doesn’t know if it’s reading a barcode or LED.” Currently, Mobeam is the only provider of the GS1-certified, patented technology.
No additional hardware, software needed
The GS1 standard maintains existing barcode best practices, which include masking numerical identifiers to make it more difficult for barcodes to be duplicated. Barcode beaming technology is invisible to the human eye; fraudsters would need a technology capable of decrypting an infrared beam in order to duplicate a barcode, Garrick stated.
The newly updated GS1 barcode beaming standard includes the following enhancements:
- Common digital identifier: Digital barcodes share the prefix 8112, which notifies the scanner not to expect a paper coupon.
- Protection from fraud, duplication: Connected devices used to beam barcodes will not display the barcode image on their screens.
- No required upgrades: All barcode beaming technology must work with existing hardware and software, eliminating the need for any upgrades to existing POS infrastructures. “All that is needed is to simply add the 8112 category to an existing barcode library,” Garrick said.
- Retailer-agnostic coupons: The newly modified standard enables consumer product goods companies to issue and redeem mobile coupons not associated with a specific retailer's loyalty card. Previously, consumers were only able to use paper retailer coupons at issuing retailers. The new mobile format can be securely redeemed via connected smart phones at a variety of venues.
Bright future ahead for LED barcodes
Garrick noted that barcode beaming technology is compatible with all digital wallets; he anticipates digital barcode adoption to grow in parallel with other emerging payment schemes. Mobeam is compatible with Samsung Pay, making the secure processing of digital coupons at the POS accessible to more than 400 million Samsung smartphone users.
Mobeam revealed that more than 45 million beaming transactions have taken place since the company launched Beep’nGo, a general purpose mobile app that can be used at any barcode-compatible venue. The free app enables its users to securely store digital versions of barcodes within connected devices, the company added.
“Gift cards, coupons and loyalty and membership programs are all based on barcodes,” Garrick said. “It may take years for digital coupons to achieve majority market share, but people generally follow the path of least resistance, and we have seen a steady increase in use.”
Mobeam has seen growing interest in digital barcode technology among retailers, consumer product brands and payment companies that deploy and support mobile manufacturer coupons.
"The successful modification of this GS1 standard is of landmark significance for brands, retailers, mobile device manufacturers, payment app developers and, of course, shoppers everywhere," Garrick said. "Brands and retailers can now greatly expand their marketing capabilities, while more effectively reaching mobile-centric millennials and staying ahead of today's evolving shopper expectations.”
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