Bar Codes Deserve Respect


Bar codes deserve respect.

Bar codes speed commerce, increase accuracy and efficiency. The use of bar code technology has saved the world hundreds of billions of dollars and tens of millions of hours of time.

Bar codes and RFID are penetrating every nook and cranny of the world of business processes. Health care, factories, retail, service industries, municipalities and others are investing in bar codes, QR codes and RFID technology and are reaping huge benefits.

Bar codes are changing the world – but does anyone care?

I was in a coffee shop last month, reading a good book on blogging. The waitress saw the book and asked if I wrote a blog. I told her I wrote about bar codes… she rolled her eyes  - ‘Oh yeah, that’ll bring them in.' That’s what I’m talking about – bar codes don’t get respect.

The bar code industry is NOT as glamorous as it ought to be. I want the niche to have a little glory, maybe a hint of panache. Je ne sais quoi, if you will. I want to whip out my business card (I have a QR code on the back of it) and have women swoon and gasp even. What I generally get is a polite yawn or people suddenly leaving (fleeing?) the conversation to refresh their drink.

A person doesn’t spend his life working with boringly straight black and white lines, or tediously monotonous little squares, unless they fervently believe bar codes are a force for changing the world. I believe it! Do you? Bar codes ARE changing the world!

How big are bar codes?

Barcoding is an industry in the tens of billions of dollars of sales annually – including equipment, applications, services, media, integration, everything.   Obviously not all technologies go on to achieve lightning fast penetration, like texting, Twitter, Facebook or Square. The progress of the bar code has been slow but steady and bar codes have penetrated much of the known universe and are spreading. Are bar codes condemned to be that ho-hum, invisible, yet indispensable middleware for all eternity? (Shudder) Are we destined to labor in obscurity? I can hear my eulogy now - “He did something with bar codes, which we all know are everywhere." (Sigh).

The respect bar codes deserve

It IS getting better – in the last couple years both the NY Times and WS Journal have run articles on bar code applications. Many television news shows will air a clip on a bar code application. CNN has some good bar code and QR code content on their website. But it’s not enough. I’m impatient and I want recognition for all we do!

How will we know when we are getting respect in this industry?

  1. David Letterman will do a  “Top Ten Things You Can Do With Bar Codes”  list.  It will get posted on YouTube and viewed over 50 million times.
  2. The President of the United States will do a press conference on a new White House RFID system and it’s incredible ROI, and claim credit for helping to reduce government waste. (Members of Congress will start putting QR codes on their business cards.)
  3. George Clooney will play a starring role in a movie about a reclusive yet mysterious Systems Integrator (SI). (The film will be shot in a European country). This SI will uncover a secret plot to assassinate the Premier of the country. The Premier’s smart phone has been rigged to explode when scanning a certain bar code – almost certainly this has been perpetrated by evil forces and bureaucrats opposed to increasing efficiency and reducing waste. Just as the Premier scans the triggering bar code, the SI will use a Bluetooth controlled widget to override the operating system of the phone, intercepting the decoded content and re-program it to something harmless. The Premier will never know how close he was to certain death. The SI will then mete out justice to the evil parties, and fade back into obscurity. (There’s bound to be several beautiful women in this film.)

The bar code industry is of course, chock full of men who look like George Clooney (and have abs like Daniel Craig for that matter) – we’re just taken for granted – like the bar code itself.




The fact is that bar codes are BIG! Bar codes are scanned billions of times daily and this (almost) 50 year old industry has legs. Bar code technology is better, faster, more reliable and more powerful than ever!

I’d go so far as to say the industry is smoking hot! How hot? If you add up all the searches on Yahoo, Bing and Google, that involve the terms bar code, RFID, QR code and point of sale, it’s over 100 MILLION searches per year and growing! That’s HUGE!

Am I impatient or off the wall? Last year, according to various sources, consumers acquired over 400 million smartphones. In 2012, shipments are projected to exceed 600 million. Worldwide, there are at least a billion devices capable of reading bar codes of some fashion.

Where is the bar code going in 2012?   It is going to continue to grow quietly and be used even more universally than it is now.

Are you in the bar code industry? Walk proudly!

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