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Monday, May 3, 2010

Barcodes - a new way of life?

I recently posted a question about how bar codes are used in business. To my surprise I got a variety of answers I did not expect.  I thought I would hear about tracking assets, shipping, receiving, POS systems, but instead I got answers from companies that are using barcodes to track process, an artist who uses barcodes for his inspiration and new uses for barcodes by software companies.

I selected few of these stories to share with you. I hope you will be inspired by them, to explore how bar codes can be used in new ways.

Using Bar codes to track processes:

The first story comes from Cuisine Solutions a leading global manufacturer of frozen entrees and sauces. The company barcodes not only their assets but their actual processes. They produces more than 400 food products, each based on a different recipe. When an employee scans a barcode on a work order, it shows all the items required for that step in the product’s recipe. The employee then scans the pre-measured and barcoded raw materials for the step to ensure that the product contains the right ingredients. In addition notes Ron Zilkowski, CFO “The barcode data also enables the company to improve its products’ traceability and monitor production.”

Using bar codes to market products

The second story comes from a company who created “the world first web enabled cocktail napkin!” The company is calling its invention the ScanNap™. ScanNap is using QR codes in a new way. Their web enabled napkin is capable of launching, delivering and embedding any of your online digital content - from a traditionally printed paper napkin, directly into the consumer’s hand-held mobile device, for just pennies per unit.  For example, we can deliver: digital coupons, promotional codes, exclusive offers, iTunes media file downloads, e-book reader downloads, mobile apps, mobile web sites, non-profit donation pages, streaming audio files, streaming video trailers, social media invitations, event calendars, online order forms, blog invitations, newsletter subscription registration pages, GPS enabled digital location maps, SMS text messages, e-mails and yes - it is even capable of initiating a telephone call directly from the users handset, without the need to dial.  ScanNap™ works on any web enabled camera phone with a code reader. They also have a solution for older phones. Read more about their solution.

Bar Codes for Medical, Health and Everyday Wellness

The third story comes from Paula Patrice of PPweb Technologies, the innovator behind NutriSleuth, an iPhone app scheduled to hit the App Store in late May. In partnership with dietitian Valerie Daley, they created a professional-grade Medical mobile application that determines if you can eat everyday foods. Create and save dietary Nutrition Profiles on your iPhone, then use the phone’s camera to scan the UPC barcode on a product, quickly determining if a food meets your dietary choices, no WiFi access needed.
Paula Patrice describes this scenario: "Mom is grocery shopping for her family. Her husband has a heart condition, her daughter has diabetes, her son has peanut and dairy allergies, and she personally just wants to eat a low fat, high protein diet. Mom picks up a box of crackers- are they safe? A quick scan of the UPC barcode on the package and NutriSleuth gives her a reading: a Red Light showing a conflict with her son’s profile. There’s no need to read the ingredients, she puts the box down and moves on…"
Within seconds of scanning a UPC barcode label, the NutriSleuth app searches a database of +200,000 name-brand grocery store products and delivers instant results. Each user can set severity levels for a multitude of nutritional requirements, including serious medical conditions, and the iPhone application instantly “translates doctor’s orders” about that product into a visual “yes or no”.

I have an inside scoop on this app and will keep you posted with more information when it becomes publicly available.

Using bar Code as Visual Art

Our last story comes from the artist Scott Blake.  The artist uses barcodes in his art. He uses bar codes in a variety of ways. One of them is the creation of portraits made out of barcodes that are then scanned by the individual looking at them. The bar codes then sends the user to various websites with information about the piece that is presented. It gives a new meaning to interactive art.
I recommend you visit his site to learn more about this innovative artist and his very intriguing art. You can purchase barcode art from his site as well.

Mr. Scott Blake's use of barcode made me think about using it in an educational setting. Imagine giving students a picture and handing them a scanner. The students can now truly interact with and explore the subject. Just a thought for the next startup maybe.....

Using barcodes in the traditional way

Vibrant Graphics. The company has been in business for almost 20 years. They wanted to phase out all our their barcode work using the newer technology of digital printing. To their surprise they found out that many of their most loyal customers wanted the "old" barcode labels.  Sarah Emlund, Marketing specialist and customer support explains:
"These labels aren’t glamorous like our digitally printed product labels, but there always seems to be a need for them, even almost 20 years later, and they are complex in their own way." She concludes "For me it shows that old technology still has a place in an ever-changing world, and that barcode labels continue to be extremely functional in our industry."

I agree with her assessment. As you can see barcodes have many uses. Using old technologies or brand new ones. Barcodes do a great job in almost any aspect of our private life and in business.

To learn more about barcodes and how they are being used click here.


Scott Blake said...

Thanks for showing an interest in my Barcode Art.

The Label Lady said...

You are very welcomed! I find your art very interesting with lots of possibilities.

chrisaswain said...

I'm interested in creating a product somewhat similar to the NutriSleuth one mentioned above, but I'm not sure where to find a database of products that includes the ingredients and label information. Would you be able to point me in the right direction?

The Label Lady said...

The only place that I am aware of that has the most information about UPC barcodes and products will be the GS1.

FoodEssentials Mission said...

Hi, Just saw the post about the database question. has a database of exactly this. 170,000 products (soon to be 250,000) with the ingredients, allergens, additive and nutrient properties.

You can see it demoed in the FoodEssentials Scanner application which is similar to Nutrisleuth but with a more powerful database (it has taken us 5 years of professional nutrietional research to build). The application is available in itunes now at only $0.99

check it out at:

If your interested in talking about licensing the database or would like more info about the application, please feel free to contact me at

Anton Xavier

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