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UNITED STATES 7 Oct 2012 Ubiquitous barcode 60 years old

Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver were awarded the first patent for a barcode (US Patent #2,612,994) on 7 Oct 1952. Sixty years on, the mind

July 30, 2012 - NULL

UNITED STATES 7 Oct 2012 Ubiquitous barcode 60 years old

Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver were awarded the first patent for a barcode (US Patent #2,612,994) on 7 Oct 1952. Sixty years on, the mind hardly registers barcodes because they are so ubiquitous. The first version was like a bullseye. The familiar pattern of parallel black and white lines, like the Universal Product Code (UPC), came next, and it is now sharing the stage with the Quick Response (QR) code. A dense grid of black-and-white boxes, the QR code can hold 100 times more information and can be

UNITED STATES 7 Oct 2012 Ubiquitous barcode 60 years old

Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver were awarded the first patent for a barcode (US Patent #2,612,994) on 7 Oct 1952. Sixty years on, the mind hardly registers barcodes because they are so ubiquitous. The first version was like a bullseye. The familiar pattern of parallel black and white lines, like the Universal Product Code (UPC), came next, and it is now sharing the stage with the Quick Response (QR) code. A dense grid of black-and-white boxes, the QR code can hold 100 times more information and can be read on a smart phone. One question for the anniversary is what kind of information should be stored in barcodes. Human applications are being eyed hopefully in some quarters and suspiciously in others.

Decades before the patent was issued, the basic idea for the barcode came from Morse code. The patented 1952 version was round and like a bullseye. Barcodes have evolved into the alternating black and white parallel lines of the familiar Universal Product Code (UPC) on a product packages.

There appears to be little controversy over use of barcodes to store DNA information for plants in a genome project, or for information about a pet in the microchip inserted under its skin. And it is hard to find arguments against barcode use on merchandise and advertising. Human applications are another issue.

In a New York Daily Mail article in June, reporter Meghan Neal leads with, "Would you microchip your baby?" She quotes science fiction author writer Elizabeth Moon, who believes the answer should be "Yes." Moon sees every individual having a unique ID permanently attached - a barcode on an implanted chip - as a way to provide an easy, fast inexpensive way to identify individuals. Moon spoke on a BBC program featuring radical, inspiring or controversial ideas. She believes the tools most commonly used for surveillance and identification -- like video cameras and DNA testing -- are slow, costly and often ineffective.

Moon wasn't talking about science fiction: human barcoding has been tried. Neal notes that an implantable ID chip called VeriChip was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2002. It was discontinued in 2010 amid concerns about privacy and safety. Some entrepreneurs, scientists and engineers continue to see the future in human barcoding, and in developing ways to integrate technology and man.

Advocates say electronic verification could help parents or caregivers keep track of children and the elderly, and chips could be used to easily access medical information, and would make going through security points more convenient.

A spokesman from the Civil Liberties Union in the United States argues that it would violate our rights to privacy and cultivate an "Orwellian" society where all citizens can be tracked. "Once we let the government and businesses go down the road of nosing around in our lives," he told Neal, "we're going to quickly lose all our privacy." (WRITTEN JUN 2012)

RELATED READING:

Local Genome Project Gives Plants Bar Codes (Tulsa Channel 8 222 Jun 2012)
http://www.ktul.com/story/18861099/local-genome-project-gives-plants-bar-codes

Retail gimmicks or the future of shopping? (BBC 17 Nov 2011)
http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-15771023

Cow spray painted with QR Code to promote dairy farming (BBC 26 Jun 2012)
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leicestershire-18594155

QR Code fatigue (Bloomberg 28 Jun 2012)

http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-06-28/qr-code-fatigue

Is a 'human barcode' on the way? (NY Daily News 1 Jun 2012)
http://articles.nydailynews.com/2012-06-01/news/31965723_1_verichip-dna-testing-microchip

Barcode history (barcode.com)
http://www.barcoding.com/information/barcode_history.shtml

Is Mobile Barcode Technology The Future? (Blackweb 20 Apr 2010)

http://www.blackweb20.com/2010/04/20/is-mobile-barcode-technology-the-future/

Date written/update: 2012-07-30