How Barcodes Can Help in the Fight Against Covid-19

Barcoding Technology Can Be Used to Combat Covid-19

Last Updated on 2020-10-27

Barcodes have long been used to track and manage inventories; however, the use cases for barcode scanning don’t end there. As the world continues to face the Covid-19 pandemic, innovators and governments of various countries have been trying numerous ways to contain its spread. Barcoding technology is one of them. From enabling contactless work environments to generating color-based ‘health codes’ to curb the Covid-19 spread, barcodes can revolutionize many processes amid the ongoing pandemic.

Different Ways Barcoding Technology Can be Used to Combat Covid-19

Healthcare

The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic has prompted healthcare companies to devise innovative ways to use barcodes. One of them is to amplify patient safety by making use of barcoding technology. Healthcare organizations are now preferring to use the information encapsulated within barcodes for staff and patient identification over manual verification.

Similarly, there has been a significant increase in the use of barcode reading apps to monitor and track the use of medical equipment, specimens, and medical supplies in the healthcare sector. For example, companies use on-site testing as a security measure when employees enter the workplace or self-test from home. The barcode information on the vial containing the test is scanned directly into a mobile application that identifies the specific employee’s test. If employees are required to send in the test, the UPS barcode info can also be scanned (into the application) to track the date the test was sent.

Covid-19 Testing
Specimen tracing with barcodes

One country has been using a color-based ‘health code’ system to help identify people’s movement and prevent the spread of COVID-19. Citizens are assigned a QR code that indicates their health status.

A QR code is the fastest way to retrieve information that is stored within a 2-dimensional barcode. A QR code has a square shape made of seven elements that can keep different types of information.

Covid-19 Testing with Barcodes
Covid-19 Testing with Barcodes (Mobile App)

The country has made the ‘health code’ system available on popular platforms such as messaging and payment apps. Citizens can obtain the health code by entering their personal information, such as their name, phone number, passport number, or national identity number on the sign-up page. Once the users complete the data, they answer further questions such as their travel history and contact with any suspected or confirmed Covid-19 patient in the last 14 days. Additionally, people identify any symptoms they have, such as fatigue, stuffy nose, fever, runny nose, throat ache, or dry cough.

These health codes allow people to self-assess and help track the movement of infection in public areas. People scan their QR codes whenever they enter a public place, so when a person is diagnosed with Covid-19, places they have been, along with all the people who have come in contact with them, can be identified.

Retail

As limited contact and exposure become necessary to protect both customers and employees, traditional bricks and mortar retailers have already started implementing solutions that use barcodes for customers and their staff’s health and safety. Several brands are now encouraging customers to scan the barcodes on the items they wish to purchase, with the app on their mobile phones. Customers can scan and select multiple items and add them to their mobile shopping cart. Once they have chosen all of their desired items, they can make the payment either at the payment station or within the app itself.

One very large retailer has opened its very first, cashier-less, full-size grocery store. The online giant has been working on the space since 2015. Once the customers step inside the store, they can scan a QR code using their mobile app at a turnstile. They can further add the items to their carts and leave the store once they are done. This process involves zero-human interaction. There will still be people appointed to stock the shelves and resolve customer queries at the store.

Scan tags on different products with mobile app
Customers can scan tags on different products with the help of mobile app

The ‘contactless’ trend is not only limited to bigger brands as corner shops, local grocers, and farm shops are all now adapting to the new demand for no-contact shopping and click and collect. While barcode scanning is being used for contactless purchases to provide for health and safety measures, retailers are deriving other benefits such as the ability to re-order based on customer purchases, faster in-site into inventory requirements, and increased customer satisfaction levels (CSAT).

Air Travel

Air travel businesses are realizing new ideas to prioritize the safety of people amidst the ongoing pandemic. Barcode scanning functionality on mobile devices is a flexible and fast way to reduce contact and support safer travel. Barcodes help support safer air travel at every stage of the trip through the airport, right from check-in to boarding.

Airport authorities scanning barcodes
Airport authorities scanning barcodes from a safe distance of 6 ft

To make the airport lounges completely contactless, most airports now allow scanning IDs and boarding passes at the entrance. With this, only approved passengers can enter the lounge area. Not to mention, authorities can also monitor and control congestion by keeping track of passenger flow and defining time windows.

Offices and Workplaces

As social distancing becomes the new normal, many organizations are now resorting to QR codes to allow employees a ‘contactless’ check-in to the worksite. This process helps reduce unnecessary contact at the front-end, thus keeping employees and visitors safe.

check-in app
Visitors can scan the QR code to check-in

Some organizations are using mobile apps that enable employees and visitors to scan barcodes at the check-in station. Once the barcode is scanned, they are redirected to a browser where they’ll be asked to answer a set of questions. Once all the items have been answered, the visitors will be given a unique QR code to scan and confirm their check-in.

Another way is to provide visitors with a unique URL in advance to save time. By doing so, they can begin the process before arriving at the workplace. Scanning the barcode can be done upon their arrival.

Conclusion

Whether it’s eliminating physical contact and interaction or assisting efforts with Covid-19 testing, barcode technology has proven to be a key player in the fight against Covid-19. Organizations should continue the Covid-19 fight by incorporating barcode technology within their workflows, to protect customers and employees and, at the same time, realize other advantages such as increased customer satisfaction (CSAT) rates or Net Promoter Scores (NPS).

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