Barcoding and Blockchain Set to Revolutionize Retail
The North American produce market is undergoing a massive product traceability process redesign to dramatically improve produce safety for consumers. The proposed changes involve redefining what and how barcode data is used as well as an effort to introduce blockchain technology for produce traceability. Food recalls have been on the rise in the US over the last many years. So, the move to better track produces’ path from farm to market has become increasingly important.
The Produce Traceability Initiative is sponsored by GS1 US, the Produce Marketing Association, the United Fresh Produce Association, and the Canadian Produce Marketing Association. Their goals include helping the produce industry maximize effectiveness of current traceback procedures. To do so, they have proposed developing a standardized industry approach to enhance the speed and efficiency of traceability systems for the future.
Beginning with barcode data, there will be new information to allow for more direct traceability. In addition, blockchain technology will be used for more granular insight to tracing the path of produce from growth to store shelves. With the scan of Barcodes users can validate the information about the product. This will better ensure that high-quality produce is reaching store shelves.
Possible Affected Barcode Symbols
There are a variety of barcode symbols possibly in use with grocers and supermarkets that might be affected. One is the UPC-A. It encodes 11 digits of product information data along with a trailing check digit, for a total of 12 digits of barcode data. The 11 product digits are further divided into three logical categories.
The UPC-E is a variation of the UPC-A but allows a more compact barcode by compressing out unnecessary zeros. Then there is the EAN-8 barcode, also popular in retail. It is derived from the longer European Article Number (EAN-13) code. The main purpose of the EAN-8 barcode is to use as little space as possible.
To learn what other barcode symbols might be used in this initiative, see Dynamsoft’s Barcode Resource page for an overview of various barcode symbols.
Brief Overview of Blockchain Technology
Essential to the produce initiative is blockchain technology. As some people now know well, blockchain technology has had its most success in the financial sector. It is an ideal technology to record and trace practically any and all transactions that occur.
One can think of blockchain technology at its core as a special kind of database. First is the block part. When someone enters new data, it becomes a new independent block. For the produce initiative that wants to create traceability end-to-end, this can be the plant seed provider scanning their barcode to denote they are the seed provider shipping to ACME, Inc. ACME, Inc, might then scan a barcode to denote a segment of seeds being planted in plot C, for example. These get recorded each in their own block.
Now for the chain part. The blocks are chained together as chronological data. So, the chain part creates order and provides insight to otherwise disparate data. It can be made so that each of these blocks, once created, cannot be deleted or altered. This is important to ensuring traceability. So, in the case of produce traceability, visibility into the complete chain of produce can help growers and governments single out where a contaminated source of food might have come from or where it is going.
Some overarching benefits of using blockchain technology for traceability might include:
- It enhances operational efficiency in distribution, transport, and logistics processes
- Experts have a better ability to react faster to an incident or crisis and to conduct more targeted recalls
- It can allow to authenticating the origin of seeds, infant produce, or resellers and distributors, by capturing its supply chain journey
- It increases transparency between business-to-business and business-to-consumer transactions, and therefore enables more product trust
Future Applications Might Be Abundant
It is arguably just a matter of time before such traceability is considered for various other food products. It can also be extended beyond food into other retail sectors. For example, applying such traceability would be beneficial to food safety in meat processing. After all, in the US alone millions of pounds of meat are recalled annually over safety concerns.
Beyond food, consumer electronics would also be suited to such traceability. Companies that sell consumer electronic products often source components from a variety of original equipment manufacturers. Traceability systems can help in tracking faulty components to their source. This can help companies take corrective measures, again for consumer safety..
It is estimated the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recalls around 400 products annually. Among the biggest reasons for recalls include products causing poisoning, fire or burn, choking, and other safety concerns. The creation of traceability initiatives in consumer electronics, appliances, clothing, and much more is thus likely also ideal to pursue. It can provide an opportunity to transform product safety across the whole retail industries.
How Dynamsoft Barcode Reader Fits In
The Dynamsoft Barcode Reader SDK is proven enterprise-grade for the barcode component of product traceability. It is widely used worldwide, including by some of the largest known organizations. Dynamsoft Barcode Reader enables developers to easily implement reliable 1D and 2D barcode scanning into their applications running on different platforms.
With the SDK, developers can rapidly enable users to read 1D and 2D barcodes from printed or digital Images - PDF, Tiff, JPEG and more. This is done by efficiently embedding the functionality in a web, desktop or mobile application using just a few lines of code to meet an organization’s needs. This allows for fast time to market.
For product traceability, another of Dynamsoft’s solutions to consider is Dynamsoft Label Recognition. It is an enterprise-ready alphanumeric detection and recognition SDK. It can precisely read alphanumeric characters and standard symbols from images of varying background colors, fonts, or text size. So, it is ideal in retail for uses that include price tags, inventory and pallet labels in warehouses, and more. It can help create an additional layer of information verification to go alongside barcode technology, and to record more details to blockchain.
Get started with a free demo trial download of Dynamsoft Barcode Reader.