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Proposed GS1 Specification Would Link Bar-Code, QR-Code, NFC and RFID Data

The organization's working group is planning a summer release of its new spec, while EVRYTHNG, a software company co-chairing the group, is selling its own platform to manage data about a product in a single location, whether accessed via NFC, RFID or bar-code technology.
By Claire Swedberg
Mar 06, 2018

Global standards organization GS1 has a working group developing a specification that would enable a single Web identity for every product label, whether a 2D bar code, a QR code, a Near Field Communication (NFC) tag or an ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tag, or any combination of those technologies. The specification—under the development of GS1's Mission Specific Working Group—would enable access of a Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) for point-of-sale (POS) transactions, as well as for inventory tracking, consumer-facing information and other purposes from a Web address unique to each item.

Software company EVRYTHNG is co-chairing the Mission Specific Working Group to develop what it calls the GS1 URI (Uniform Resource Identifier). At the same time, it has released its QuickStart Online Tool, which can be used with the new proposed standard to create the digital identities of products that can then be accessed and managed by and for a variety of stakeholders, from consumers to brands and retailers. What's more, it can accommodate a simple bar-code scan at a point of sale, as well as NFC or QR code scans. This, says Niall Murphy, EVRYTHNG's CEO, enables automatic access to digital content across all of the technologies.

EVRYTHNG's Niall Murphy
EVRYTHNG says the specification will enable brand owners to use either 2D bar codes or QR codes, as well as NFC technology, to allow retailers, distributors, POS systems and consumers to access a single source of data for multiple purposes.

Currently, every bar-code label comes with a GTIN that allows it to be uniquely identified by a scanner at the point of sale. However, if stores, brands or manufacturers wanted to accomplish more, they would require more labels, and could end up collecting and managing data on separate platforms. For instance, NFC and QR codes allow consumers to use their mobile devices to engage with a product by accessing information such as the ingredients of a food item, collecting loyalty points or obtaining authentication proof. UHF RFID, on the other hand, provides brands and retailers with inventory visibility, but consumers are unable to access that information. In the case of brands, a company may want to authenticate its products with one tag, while another might be used to provide digital content to consumers.

With the proposed standard, Murphy says, a single tag could accomplish all of the above-named applications. Whether a bar-code scanner is being used at the point of sale, a QR code is being scanned, or an NFC tag is being read, the label would respond by linking the user to a Web address from which the scanner or reader could extract the GTIN identifier. That would then provide the data required for that specific transaction.

Therefore, a single label with an NFC tag built into it or with a QR code, for instance, could be used not only to gain information about a product, but also to enable a purchase. (QR codes are considerably less expensive than NFC tags, while the latter have the advantage of being embeddable, since they do not require a line of sight to be scanned.)

A consumer, for instance, would simply scan the QR code or NFC tag with his or her smartphone to access a Web address for that product item, which would include its GTIN and unique identifier for that product. The Web page for the item would then provide a service on the end user's mobile phone, to make a payment.

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