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Bar Coding and RFID Enable Food Supply Chain Traceability and Safety

Posted March 22, 2012

In the early days of bar coding, an Efficient Foodservice Response (EFR) study identified $847 million in savings potentially available by expanding bar coding within the food supply chain. Since then, the U.S. Bioterrorism Act, European Union Food Law, and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) requirements mandate improved product identification and traceability. Today, technologies, techniques, and standards exist to help organizations throughout the food supply chain gain complete traceability for safety, compliance, and business process improvement.

Momentum is growing to implement whole-chain traceability, which includes internal and external visibility, from the grower, through the distributor, to the retailer. A key industry effort is the Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI), which strives to achieve supply chain-wide adoption of electronic traceability of every case of produce by 2012. Once fully adopted, PTI will improve the effectiveness of current trace-back procedures while enabling common standards for future traceability systems.

This white paper examines how the food industry can take advantage of bar code and radio frequency identification (RFID) technologies to improve safety, reduce operating expenses, meet compliance requirements, and improve efficiency. It covers:

  • How bar code and RFID support compliance with regulations such as the Bioterrorism Act , EU Food Law, and The Food Safety Enhancement Act (H.R. 2749)
  • Traditional uses and advantages of bar code data collection
  • Emerging technologies and standards, including Reduced Space Symbology (RSS) bar codes, Electronic Product Code (EPC) RFID technology, and the GS1 Global Traceability Standard (GS1 DataBar).

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Barcodes Could Reveal Your Food’s Credentials

Posted July 27, 2009

BarcodeFood[1]Most manufacturers already use barcodes or RFID chips to track their products. With the help of cheap cellphone and Internet access it is becoming possible to collate data from remote locations around the world and make it available to consumers in grocery stores.

In many cases, are open to the notion that transparency about the source of their food is good for business. The idea is to develop a system to prove to customers that crops are not grown on land recently occupied by tropical rainforest.

In remote regions where farmers don’t have access to computers, they can use cellphones to record the time and place the crop was harvested into an online database. Tracking systems like this should also make it easy to calculate the distance that goods travel to reach stores, allowing consumers to estimate the greenhouse gas emissions racked up by the transport of their food. Heiner Lehr of FoodReg says, “The technology is there. If a big retailer puts itself behind this, it could happen very fast.”

Original article: Barcodes could reveal your food’s credentials

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Increased capacity of GS1 DataBar has potential for new functionality

Posted June 29, 2009

New barcodes lead to new possibilities. GS1 DataBars store more data than a standard barcode and give it potential for much greater functionality.

Look closely at recent supermarket coupons, and you may see some new markings on them near the traditional bar code: sets of neat black bars stacked in two rows. The new symbols, called GS1 DataBars, can store more data than traditional bar codes, promising new ways for stores to monitor inventory and for customers to save money.

One use of the symbols will be in sophisticated coupon offers that combine deals on multiple products, said Jackie Broberg, who leads coupon control management at General Mills in Minneapolis. Another use is already helping to streamline operations for a common speed bump in the checkout process: loose produce. During the past three years, for example, the Loblaw Companies, the big Canadian supermarket chain, has gradually switched to scannable, miniaturized DataBar labels pasted onto some fruits and vegetables. The system also prevents cashiers from mistaking organic vegetables for less expensive, conventionally grown ones.

Continue reading: The Bar Code Is Taking a Leap Forward

RedLaser – UPC Scanner for iPhone That Works

Posted May 15, 2009


130509095859SS1[1]One of the reasons we haven’t seen an accurate barcode scanner for the iPhone is due to its lack of a decent lens with auto focus. Some developers have tried work arounds, like ScanLife, which went out of its way to create its own proprietary simple codes the iPhone lens could actually scan, but this app doesn’t work with the standard UPC and EAN we see on almost every product in our local stores, thus pretty useless.

Occipital, a startup based out of Boulder, CO., today has released RedLaser, a new iPhone app that can scan standard UPC barcodes simply with an iPhone camera.

Here’s what it does – let’s say you find a DVD you’re interested in checking out prices of, turn it around and on the back you’ll find the UPC bar code. Yes, the one your friendly cashier usually scans. Load up your RedLaser app, carefully frame up the bar code, and scan. RedLaser then sends that information to Google product search and sends back results right to your iPhone. Simple as that. You can then click through to see Amazon results.

Jeffrey Powers, Co-Founder of Occipital explained the product works with basically any name-brand item including electronics, games, hardware and office supplies. Groceries scan well but aren’t usually in the database at this point. RedLaser will soon have support for books. I tried it on several of my DVD’s and CD’s and got 100% accuracy.

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Microscan Introduces Visionscape Smart Camera to Electronics Industry

Posted May 4, 2009

Smart_Camera[1]Microscan, a global technology leader for precision data acquisition and control solutions, announces the new Visionscape® Smart Camera that combines technologies from machine vision and auto ID into a singular PCB inspection solution that is powerful, low-cost, and easy to use.

The Visionscape® Smart Camera can perform as a cost-effective alternative for inspecting boards for misaligned or missing high-value components and connectors, such as heavy or odd-shaped connectors with a high misplacement rate. A single Visionscape® Smart Camera positioned over a conveyor or bench top can verify the accuracy of components and placement, or alternatively identify any errors prior to reflow. More cost-effective than AOI, this quick and simple quality inspection checkpoint enables savings, quality assurance, and line throughput.

The Visionscape® Smart Camera series combines a compact form factor with the broad applicability, versatility and proven performance of Visionscape® machine vision software. Designed for use in a range of applications, the Visionscape® Smart Camera provides a cost-effective, easily deployed solution for manufacturers to monitor quality, control processes, or identify and trace parts on production lines.

As a flexible solution, Visionscape ® Smart Cameras can be used for quality inspection, device metrology inspection, and full traceability. They stand alone in their support of Track, Trace, and Control processes with full blown optical character recognition (OCR), optical character verification (OCV), and full reading of any barcodes or 2D symbols including the most difficult direct part marks (DPM). The advanced technology used in this system includes high-end machine vision algorithms and state-of-the-art high-speed multi-core dual processor smart camera technology. This fast and powerful system is not only simple and easy to use, program, and operate, but also totally transportable across a wide variety of applications throughout the factory – all at a fraction of the cost of traditional AOI solutions.

As a portable one-piece unit, the Visionscape® Smart Camera is easy to handle for placement and install in over-the-belt or bench top inspection applications. Any job changeovers can be done quickly through user-friendly software. With a solid-state design and no moving parts, no maintenance is required.

Adding Track, Trace and Control can improve outbound product quality by several percentage points simply by catching potential problems before it is too late. The built-in communication protocols and I/O features make this system a snap to interface with any PLC, PC-based, or networked MES system currently in use within the factory.


Barcodes may be key to our health

Posted April 30, 2009

BarcodeFood[1]When an outbreak of food borne illness from salmonella or E.coli contamination happens, it scares consumers and farmers alike. That’s partly due to the fact that finding the source of the bacteria can take weeks, months, even years.

Spinach, jalapenos, peanuts, pistachios are all foods that share a bad reputation due to outbreaks of bacteria like E.coli and salmonella. But some food safety experts say their problems could be solved by using barcodes.

“This is not rocket science and there are companies in the U.S. who are doing that kind of tracing system today. It’s just not required. Its not mandated,” said Caroline DeWaal, Center for the Science in the Public Interest.

DeWaal says barcodes are used for different farms and manufacturers anyway, so why not connect them from farm to fork?
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“If this barcode had a code that FDA standardized and made recognizable across the industry, the agency could more easily trace these products,” said DeWaal.

Outgoing FDA director David Acheson agrees.

“We get piles of records — it’s pieces of paper, it’s invoices. And we bring them back here and it literally is a paper and pencil exercise. And I think one of the challenges right now that we all have to face is what can we do to make this more automated?” explains David Acheson, FDA.

The answer might be to look to overseas where they’re already doing it.

“Tesco which is the third largest retailer in the world actually has a bullet proof system over in Europe and it’s going to come here,” said Phil Lempert, market analyst.

Lempert says everything the company sells is connected to a computerized barcode system.

“In a matter of seconds you’ll know everything about that product: what truck it was on, who were the names of the employees that were working in that field that day, when it was produced,” said Lempert.

But when a food borne illness breakout occurs, we look to the government for help. Establishing such a barcode tracking system will cost millions if not billions of dollars, something the government would prefer the food industry pay for.

“I would not see the federal government paying for that. The industry needs to step up to the plate and seriously look at what could they do to introduce these systems? Now I don’t think that comment will be popular because it’s going to cost,” said Acheson.

Barcodes may be key to our health

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Facial Barcodes Help Us Identify People

Posted April 28, 2009

Barcoding Facial Recognition.

Natural ‘barcodes’ of information, built into human faces for recognition of other people, may also help improve face recognition software, according to a study.

Faces convey a vast range of information about people, including their gender, age and mood. For humans, the ability to locate a face is important as this is where we pick up many of our cues for social interactions.

While recognising a person’s face is a complex process, the first steps to processing visual information in the brain are thought to be more basic and to rely on the orientation of features such as lines.

By manipulating images of celebrities like Chris Martin and George Clooney, Steven Dakin from University College London (UCL) and Roger Watt, professor, University of Stirling, showed that nearly all the information we need to recognise faces is contained in horizontal lines, such as the line of the eyebrows, the eyes and the lips.

Further analysis revealed that these features could be simplified into black and white lines of information- in other words, barcodes.

Dakin believes the research may have implications for improving face recognition software, for example, for use at an airport where police may need to locate a suspect in a crowd on CCTV cameras.

The ability of such software to recognise individuals has improved vastly, but is still poor at the first step: locating faces in complex scenes.

“Exposed skin on our forehead and cheeks tends to be shiny whilst our eyebrows and lips and the shadows cast in the eye sockets and under the nose tend to be darker,” said Dakin, an opthalmalogist. “The resulting horizontal stripes of information are reminiscent of a supermarket barcode.”

Supermarket barcodes were developed as an efficient way of providing information: straight, one-dimensional lines are far easier to process than two-dimensional characters such as numbers.

In a similar way, our faces may have evolved to allow us to convey effectively the information needed to recognise them, said an UCL release.

Barcoding Billboards to Save Homeless Critters

Posted April 23, 2009

Toronto-based has integrated photo-enabled barcode technology into its wildlife protection OOH campaign. The eye-catching billboards featuring wild animals marooned in city settings were launched two weeks ago around Toronto.

One of the billboards in the campaign features Microsoft’s Tag High Capacity Colour Barcode (HCCB) technology, which gives smartphone users direct access to the organization’s website by snapping a picture of the barcode on the billboard, which is located at Eglinton Avenue and Markham Road in Toronto. is a philanthropic enterprise of Toronto agency Holmes & Lee that helps nonprofits raise money in a cost-effective manner, so more funds go directly to the causes. The general website links users to six different charities and non-profits pertaining to wildlife, giving a platform for concerned individuals to start informing themselves on the issue.

“We aggregate for different charities that happen to operate in the same space, in this case it is wildlife protection,” Peter Holmes, president of Holmes & Lee, tells MiC.

Retail Surgery: Preparing for DataBar Technology

Posted April 23, 2009

databar[1]We have heard that a new type of barcode is being introduced. When is this happening and what do we need to do to prepare for it?

A: Global standards organisation GS1 has been working on the introduction of its DataBar (which is about half the size of a normal barcode) for several years. The DataBar will exist alongside present barcodes, rather than being a replacement for them.

The new barcode standard was due to become an open global standard in 2010 – meaning that all retailers would have needed equipment that was capable of scanning them by then. However, GS1 has revised this date to 2014 to give retailers more time to adopt appropriate scanning technology.

GS1 UK solutions manager Tim Brown says: “Scanners supplied from 2000 onwards generally can scan the DataBar.” So most major UK retailers will already have scanners at their tills that are compliant with the standard. However, he says retailers should still check, as their systems might require an upgrade or need the functionality turned on.

However, UK retailers are already investigating how they can best use the DataBar because it carries more information than a traditional barcode. Information on batch or serial numbers, expiry dates and price can be encoded in a DataBar.

Retailers that choose to adopt the new barcode earlier than 2014 can benefit if they introduce functionality to their EPoS systems to make use of this extra data.

Brown said that Wal-Mart is already using the DataBar on a lot of its fresh produce in the US, and Tesco has investigated its use on fresh produce.

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Barcode scanning with the new iPhone?

Posted April 22, 2009

Barcode scanning with the iPhone?

When iPhone 3.0 comes out later this year, we’ll see iPhone apps tied to special-purpose accessories.

Imagine a universal remote that lets you use your iPhone to control every box in your home-entertainment system. Or a portable RFID- and barcode-scanning module that turns your iPhone into a tiny store clerk — or comparison shopper — letting you find and buy stuff just by waving your phone at it.

These are just two suggestions from readers for accessory-powered iPhone 3.0 applications — or, to use the term we coined, dongleware. We put up a call for suggestions, and you responded with loads of great ideas. We figured, what better way to give wannabe-millionaire developers ideas — and get what consumers want in return? Win-win.

iPhone 3.0 won’t be launching until summer, but developers can get plenty done in two or three months. To help speed up the process, here are your top-voted ideas in a nice and tidy list. Drum roll, please.

Barcode/RFID/Magnetic-Stripe Reader
This idea got the most votes — an accessory that acts as a barcode scanner and maybe triples as a magnetic-card and RFID tag reader.

Here’s how it could be useful: It would essentially turn the iPhone into a miniature checkout stand. The barcode scanner would register a product’s price, and then customers can simply swipe their credit card into the magnetic card reader. Similarly, the radio-frequency identifier would scan products containing RFID tags, such as library books, and send that information to the iPhone. In theory, the iPhone app transfers the data via the internet to complete the transaction.

Wouldn’t it be interesting (and a little weird) to see iPhones or iPod Touches at the checkout counter of every store?

This could also make a great tool for consumers to do on-the-fly comparison shopping while they browse brick-and-mortar stores.

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