Whether we realize it or not, technology is changing how we live and some of our habits, bringing many benefits along the way.
Millions of people worldwide don’t leave home without their smartphones, from which they carry out daily tasks like accessing information, reserving tickets and shopping.
In fact, in 2017, retail e-commerce sales worldwide amounted to USD 2,3 trillion and e-retail revenues are projected to grow to USD 4,88 trillion by 2021.
Many of us take for granted that we can be in one country, order a product from the other side of the world and expect it to arrive on the doorstep as quickly as 48 to 72 hours later. Equally, many of us today don’t know what shopping was like before barcodes and radio frequency identification (RFID) tags ended up on everything from food items to clothing, but we do appreciate the resultant shorter queuing times at the checkout, where they are quickly scanned and totted up.
“The apparel industry is a great example of the broad use of technology based on internationally agreed standards”, says Henri Barthel, who leads the development of IEC and ISO international standards for barcode and RFID technologies.
But it’s not only consumers who are benefitting from these technologies, which are evolving in shape, size and function, to accommodate different products and different situations.
The tech that makes life and work so convenient
RFID plays a key role in streamlining supply chain management applications, as the digitization of industries advances. This simple, effective and low-cost technology is being deployed by automotive manufacturers, dairy farmers, hospitals, warehouse inventory managers and retailers, to name a few.
In our global world, there is a growing need for tracking and tracing solutions. Barcodes continue to evolve because they are versatile. As well as storing useful product information, they can be attached to almost any surface, are inexpensive to design and print, easy to use, reduce human error risk due to very low scanning error rates, and can be adapted to the scale of business as it grows. Some of the many uses include:
- Retail inventory management systems. These offer wireless, accurate, real-time access to inventory and enable automated reordering of stocks when they run low. Businesses save time and costs, since they require fewer employees who themselves need less training
- Self check-out machines. These allow customers to process and pay for shopping faster
- Warehouse management systems. These help manufacturers and retail giants such as Amazon to work faster and more efficiently as a result of accurate, quick, automated product scanning, tracking and picking systems, improved product-to-market times and streamlined costs
- Healthcare tracking solutions. Hospitals and medical centres use barcode labels to track medication, equipment and important patient details such as medical history and drug allergies so as to avoid the occurrence of medical errors. They also stop disease spreading by enabling users to know what equipment has been sterilized and is ready for use
- Electronic luggage tags. These provide improved baggage handling and tracking. A state of the art airport baggage handling system streamlines processes by combining barcode and RFID technology with artificial intelligence and a robotic arm. Customers use machines to check in their own luggage, while behind the scenes, robotic arms load the luggage from a central area onto ramp carts and containers as needed. This technology is being used at Schiphol International Airport in the Netherlands
Find out more about barcode and RFID technologies and the international standards being developed, how they will be used and who will benefit from them in the e-tech interview with Henri Barthel.
Picture above: museums use QR codes to give visitors more information about exhibits. Castel Lemon Grove Museum, Lake Garda