Much of the early development of barcode standards started in the early part of the 1970s. The Universal Product Code (UPC) symbol was selected by US industry leaders way back in 1973. This code is still in use today, and is known today as the GS1 barcode. The Uniform Code Council (UCC) was established in the US in 1974.
In the UK, the Article Number Association (ANA) was established in 1976. A European association, the European Article Numbering (EAN) Association came into being the following year and, in 1984, became EAN International as other countries joined. These bodies were the forerunners of the GS1 system launched in Europe in 1977.
By 1990, UCC and EAN International had signed a cooperative agreement to formalize and co-manage global standards, creating a unified presence in some 45 countries. It was in 2005 that these bodies became a truly global organization under the name of GS1. Industries covered by GS1 standards include retail (grocery, apparel), food service, healthcare, music and online trading (Amazon and eBay).
Today, the instantly recognizable . EAN/UPC . GS1 barcodes can be said to be used by virtually every retailer worldwide, not just at the point-of-sale, but throughout the whole distribution and supply chain, with more than 5 billion transactions worldwide taking place every day.
GS1 manages a number of different types of barcodes and standards, including:
The DataBar family
Another of the key original creators of barcode standards was AIM Global. AIM has actively led the way in industry standards for more than 40 years and has served as the international trade association and worldwide authority on automatic identification, data collection and networking in a mobile environment. Members come from manufacturers, distributors, resellers and end-users of barcodes, RFID, NFC and other mobile computing solutions.
AIM standards are the by-products of significant work by one or more of AIM’s technical committees. In more recent years, after a symbology has reached a certain level of popularity, the symbology has been submitted to be standardized by the ISO, who today have standards for many different types of linear codes that can be found reproduced on labels and packaging that include:
There are also ISO standards published for other linear barcode symbologies, such as:
In addition, there are ISO standards for 2D codes:
As can be seen, codes that are used in the label, packaging and related industries alone can be found in a wide variety of standardized types and formats and are used in applications as diverse as warehousing, storage, shipping, asset tracking, brand protection and security printing, point-of-sale, authenticity, inventory control, product and parts identification, stock taking and other areas.
In the automotive industry, barcode and RFID standards for automated tracking of parts through the supply chain were first developed in 1984 by the Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG), using a standard format called Code 39.
Today, a variety of software vendors provide automated barcode and label generation software designed to help suppliers comply with the industry’s common requirements.
There are also automotive industry barcode standards in use that have been developed by General Motors (GM1724), the Odette 'Global Transport Label', and the German Verband der Automobilindustrie VDA-4902.
One of the other key users of coding technology is the United States Department of Defense (DoD). Unique Identification Marking (UID) and Item Unique Identification (IUID), is a part of the compliance process mandated by the DoD and is a permanent marking method used to give military equipment a unique ID.
UID marking is mandatory for all DoD equipment with an acquisition cost of over $5,000, which is mission essential, controlled inventory, serially-controlled, or consumable. UID-marking is a set of data for assets that is globally unique and unambiguous. The technology used to mark items for the DoD is the square 2D DataMatrix ECC 200 Symbol.
In the health industry sector a special HIBC Barcode (Healthcare Industry Barcode) standard has been created. Healthcare products have special human safety requirements, are routinely monitored by government regulators, and are often 'purchased' indirectly (through insurance claims) for patients in hospitals and other healthcare facilities.
HIBC labels must satisfy greater needs than those commonly found in point-of-sale environments such as grocery check-out counters.
Today, millions of medical and surgical products worldwide bear the HIBC Standard label. In Europe, the standard is accredited by the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) and it is also referenced in various International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Standards related to labeling of medical and surgical products.
The US Federal Drug Agency requires a Unique Device Identification (UDI) on medical devices distributed in the U.S. This system comprises of the UDI code, application of the UDI to device labeling and packaging, and a related database (Global Unique Device Identification Database or GUDID).
The following pages set out information regarding some of the most important of the barcode standards bodies that have an impact on the world of labels.
AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY ACTION GROUP
This Group was founded in 1982 by a group of visionary mangers from Daimler Chrysler, Ford Motor Company and General Motors to provide a forum where members co-operate in developing and promoting solutions that enhance the prosperity of the automotive industry. Its focus is to continuously improve business processes and practices involving trading partners in the supply chain.
AIAG members play a key role in the development of new technologies, as well as the standards, guidelines and processes that govern their usage. Members work collaboratively to develop solutions to new challenges. A full list of relevant automotive/label industry publications can be found on the AIAG web site www.aiag.org.
CEN, THE EUROPEAN COMMITTEE FOR STANDARDIZATION
CEN brings together the National Standardization Bodies of 33 European countries and is one of three European Standardization Organizations (together with CENELEC and ETSI) officially recognized by the European Union and by the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).
The Committee’s activities cover air and space, chemicals, construction, consumer products, defence and security, energy, the environment, food and feed, health and safety, healthcare, ICT, machinery, materials, pressure equipment, services, smart living, transport and packaging.
The CEN website is: www.cen.eu.
ELECTRONICS INDUSTRY ALLIANCE (EIA)
The Electronic Industries Alliance (EIA) is an alliance of trade organizations that lobby in the interest of companies engaged in the manufacture of electronics-related products. The Alliance publishes standards that include the coding of outer shipping containers, consumer electronics group product and packaging barcode standards for consumer electronics, and global guidelines for electronics industry barcode labeling of products and packaging. See www.eia.org.
Global GS1 Standards, administered in the U.S. by GS1 US, are authorized for use by manufacturers to address requirements of the new FDA UDI (Unique Device Identifier) regulation. More information at www.fda.gov/medicaldevices.
GS1 is present in over 100 countries and is the official source for company prefixes used to create barcodes that:
identify items in the supply chain
are used in industry sectors including retail, healthcare and transport & logistics
Engaging with more than 25 industries, GS1 Standards provide unique identification of items and products, providing the link between an item and the information pertaining to that item. GS1 symbology (including the UPC-A, UPC-E, EAN-13 and EAN-8 barcodes) are the only barcodes allowed for products scanned at retail point of sale and are used to speed up data collection.
Key industries that GS1 works with . all of which are significant users of barcoded labels include:
To understand more about GS1 and learn more about their barcode standards visit the organization’s website: www.gs1.org.
HEALTH INDUSTRY BUSINESS COMMUNICATIONS COUNCIL
HIBCC is the primary standard-setting and educational organization for barcoding in the healthcare sector. An industry-sponsored non-profit council, HIBCC was established in 1983 by major healthcare associations to develop a standard for data transfer using uniform barcode labeling.
HIBCC administers and maintains the HIBC Barcode (Healthcare Industry Barcode) standards and services. More information can be obtained at www.hibcc.org.
ISO (INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR STANDARDIZATION)
The ISO is an independent, non-governmental membership organization and the world's largest developer of voluntary International Standards. Founded in 1947, the ISO has published more than 19,000 international standards that cover almost all aspects of technology and business and today is made-up of the national standards bodies around the world, with a Central Secretariat based in Geneva, Switzerland.
The ISO publishes a number of standards relating to automatic identification and data capture such as: ‘EAN/UPC barcode symbology specifications’; ‘Barcode verifier conformance’; ‘2D symbols’; the ‘Aztec barcode symbology’; ‘Code 39 symbology’; ‘DataMatrix bar code symbology’; ‘Labeling and direct product marking with linear barcode and 2D symbols’, ‘Barcode digital imaging and printing performance testing’.
Information on all the ISO automatic identification, data capture, barcode verification and print performance standards, as well as how to order copies of the various publications, can be found on www.iso.org.
OTHER STANDARDS BODIES
Although many of the key Standards bodies worldwide have been listed above, there are many more associations, organizations and other bodies that have an input to either setting or publishing standards for specific industries and sectors.
A useful source of reference for these can be found at www.makebarcode.com.