Barcoding – a history and the future

Many youngsters these days are not aware of how recent barcoding technology actually is. In the 1970’s a mere forty odd years ago, it would have been a rarity to see a barcode – anywhere.

Before the barcode, retail was not nearly as efficient as it currently is. Often, till assistants would have to memorise the price of every product in the shop, or products would be individually priced. Furthermore, it was almost impossible to keep tabs on stock levels in real time.

Barcodes revolutionised industry.

Barcoding in retail

Now when you pick an item and take it to the till, a barcode is scanned. The till is linked to a central database where all the barcodes for that shop (or even the entire shop chain) are stored. Information on the price of the product, the stock of the product and usually a description and or image of the product, is all stored in relation to the barcode. Upon scanning, the price is retrieved from the database and one unit is deducted form the shops stock list.

Barcoding makes it easy to increase prices and to reorder stock, that way if something has high demand and is selling fast, more orders can (sometimes electronically) placed and the store can consider raising the price.

Barcoding in car production

Barcodes are also used in many other areas, one example being car production. In car production, each car will be given a barcode. That barcode will often contain information such as the type of car that is to be made, how the car is to be styled, what colour the car is to be pained etc.

Parts that have been made for that car will often also be associated with the same barcode, to ensure that every bit gets to the right car.

The classic barcode is the one with lots of vertical lines, each of different thickness. Below is an example of a classic barcode.

A Random Classic BarcodeDespite the classic barcodes uses, many people believe that the future of barcoding lies with QR codes.

QR Codes

QR codes are like barcodes in that they are all unique, however the image itself can actually store some information. QR codes are common in Japan, however they are slowly making their way westward, and and not uncommon in Europe now.

If you go to your fridge or a cupboard and pick up half a dozen items, the chances are at least one of them will have a QR code. I found one on some cheese the other day 🙂

QR Code‘ stands for ‘Quick Response Code‘ as they can quickly retrieve information, just by decoding the pixels in the QR code/image.

QR Codes are basically a code (durr) containing some form of information, be it text, a URL, etc. When you run the image through a QR decoder, it will work out what data is stored in the image.

Confused? Okay, let me give you an example. Below is a QR code image. If run the image through a smart phone QR decoder or an online QR decoder, you should find that it contains the information ‘’. Why not try it out?

Technology Bloggers QR Code

When decoded this QR Code says ''

That information is stored in the actual image, and there is no need for you to connect to a database. That is why many people believe that they are the future of barcoding, as a barcode stores no actual data in the lines, just a reference to a counterpart on a database.

QR codes could store the name of a product and the price on that actual barcode image – although to deduct stock, they would need to be linked into the stock database.

In many countries, QR codes are being used in advertisements, and in some places, that are being used as the actual advert. This is to try and encourage people to decode the image and find out what it means.

So what do you think, are QR codes the future of barcoding? Could they both coexist, or will one emerge on top? What is your opinion of QR codes?

Over to you 🙂

21 thoughts on “Barcoding – a history and the future

  1. Barcode is one of the greatest inventions of mankind, which simplifies our lives. Importantly that barcodes are not introduced into the person, then we will as chips at the supermarket

  2. In Malaysia, the QR barcode is being used for cinema ticketing as well. Basically in our online booking, we were given a QR barcode on our smart phone. So, before we enter the cinema, we will just show the QR barcode, and they will scan and see if it approve our tickets. The requirement is, a smartphone like Blackberry, iPhone, or any Android phone. So it saves lots of paper but not for those who still sticking to traditional phone or symbian phone 🙂

    • Christopher (admin team)

      What a good idea! I here that in countries like Malaysia, Japan, and other Eastern (if you mind me calling them that) countries, this technology is much more widely in use.

      • Probably Asian people like to try new things while western countries prefer to retain the existing stable way. One thing I realize in my region is when they design something (especially software), they have full of unwanted features. Anyway, I’m okay with eastern or western thing, doesn’t sound racist or nationalist to me 😛

  3. I QR codes will become more popular as they can give more information about the product and this is what customers really want. But I know that in some places they don’t even have barcode yet.

    • Christopher (admin team)

      Really! No barcodes… only 40 years behind the rest of the world 😛

      Although I guess in third world countries (without trying to be too stereotypical) they probably don’t have the technology or infrastructure to support them :-/

  4. We used QR codes to ease inventorying the items in our office, as the law requests it. I’ve also seen it a lot on mobile websites, to be able to simulate a copy/paste of the URL to your mobile. It’s actually fun. You see a long, ugly URL that you just don’t want to type into your phone. But hey, you’re saved! Cause just next to it, there’s a nice QR code that you just have to scan with your mobile’s favourite QR app and… presto! you’re take to that URL.

    • Christopher (admin team)

      Sounds pretty cool Lucian 🙂

      Great to here that we are reporting on a current technology then 😉

      You tried decoding the QR Code on our sidebar yet?

      Thanks for adding a comment, you are now part of the dofollow, Technology Bloggers community!
      Christopher – Admin Team

  5. I’m not sure if QR will ever catch to the public, barcodes are too spread to get taken down, they’re like a giant. Producers and shops would have to change standards and that’s not an easy thing to do.
    I’m not saying barcodes are immortal, but it would probably take QR 20-30 years to overtake them, and i don’t believe anyone is willing to go that far.

    • Christopher (admin team)

      They already have taken over in the East Amit, they are just taking their time to get into Europe and the USA.

      I do see what you are saying though.

    • Christopher (admin team)

      Personally? No.

      If you do, why not write an article for us?
      Check out our ‘Write For Us‘ page for more info 🙂

      Thanks for the contribution to our commenting community!
      Christopher – Technology Bloggers Admin Team

  6. I’m still trying to figure out how to use QR codes for marketing purposes. I see them in magazines and print ads but I’m not sure how effective they really are. Most are just a mobile version of the ad you are already looking at while some offer more information but you can only view on your mobile device.

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