Retailers are now experimenting with a powerful new barcode standard capable of sharing much more information than the traditional zebra-shaded stripes seen on most consumer products, according to the not-for-profit information standards organization GS1 US.
The standard could also be used in warehouse and logistics settings, but GS1 is currently focused on the “point of sale” scanners used at retail stores and cash registers, said Carrie Wilke, the group’s senior vice president, standards and technology.
In a release at the National Retail Federation (NRF) trade show in New York this week, GS1 published a “Barcode Capabilities Test Kit” to help retailers evaluate their readiness to transition from linear Universal Product Codes (UPC) to data-rich 2D barcodes on product packaging by 2027. Companies can use the kit to measure their ability to process the new codes both with their “front-end” scanning hardware—such as those found in self-checkout aisles at grocery stores—and also the “back-end” software systems that process the data, Wilke said at the show.
According to Wilke, that target date is an optional timeline set by the retail industry in collaboration with GS1 US to equip consumers with more information about the products they buy. So retailers will not be required to change over to the new standard at any time. Rather, the project is a phased migration plan for implementing 2D barcodes, dubbed “Sunrise 2027 – A New Dimension in Barcodes,” which will guide brands through labeling transition considerations while further ensuring reliability of 2D barcode scanning.
Retailers that do choose to implement the new barcodes will be able to communicate far more data to consumers than a basic price tag, adding information on product sustainability, traceability, ingredients, packaging, and specific batch and lot numbers, expiration dates, and on-demand discounting, Wilke said. In addition, the new standard is easier for scanners to read than current UPS codes, which can be obstructed in conditions like steep angles, bad lighting, or wrinkled labels, she said.
“Global retailers, brands and solution providers have been moving toward the use of 2D barcodes to provide consumers with detailed product information and transparency,” Wilke said in a release. “However, there are many other supply chain benefits, including improved inventory management, recall readiness, sustainability, ethical sourcing, product authentication and brand trust. A single 2D barcode conveys limitless information in a machine-readable format and while the transition is a multi-step process, GS1 US will be collaborating with industry to align on capabilities for success.”
Join us at @NRFBigShow booth 4749! We are available to answer your questions regarding Sunrise 2027 and industry's move toward two-dimensional (2D) #barcodes. https://t.co/dR2EO3ybvQ #NRF2022 @ObjectMgmtGroup pic.twitter.com/psahEWfo9K— GS1 US (@GS1_US) January 17, 2022