Below is a video from our event last year at Hub Westminster on opening the world of product information. Katelyn Rogers discusses Product Open Data (or POD), a project run by the Open Knowledge foundation. The project was originally founded by Phillipe Plagnol, who created an open product database with around 1,000,000 barcode numbers and associated information.
It is still true that the barcode presents a powerful ID to anchor and access data about products. It isn’t illegal for a consumer product to not come with a barcode, but the reality is to interface with any retailer a barcode is essential. If you are planning to sell your products with a retailer, you must register your product with GS1: GS1 is a global keeper of barcodes. You will be assigned your own unique barcode that identifies your company as the maker of the product. GS1 will provide you with a unique 12 digit UPC (Universal Product Code) or EAN company identification number that you will enter into a UPC-A or and EAN-12 barcode on your label.
By having a registered barcode, your retail product can be scanned and the information embedded in the code will be in the system ready to go. Scanning a barcode tells you what it is and while currently they can not hold relatively little information with an associated open product database like POD, Open Label and Provenance the possibilities are far greater.
The barcode database is a closed dataset – hence why Phillipe Plagnol had to scrap the web to make over 1 million of the codes open and accessible. If the majority of products for sale are identified with a barcode who should have the right to own and control all that data?
Open product data opened some of the dataset which you can find here. Startups like Open Label have allowed for other information to be tacked on to the system, enhancing its capability.
At Provenance we are using barcodes as a method to ID products and link them to a far more complete dataset and story accessible by everyone. With the rise of cheap RFID, we are starting to see this overtake barcodes in their ubiquity and provide embedded information to consumers and retailers across a supply chain.