Category Archives: Bar Codes

Bloomberg: Taking Stock – Anders talks Barcode/RFID Outlook

Anders Gustafsson, CEO of Zebra Technologies sat down with Pimm Fox on Bloomberg’s talk show Taking Stock recently to discuss the outlook for the bar-code market. After getting in to a brief conversation of Zebra’s 40+ year history, Anders spoke on the corporation’s primary function, which incorporates providing companies with solutions and applications around which they can better identify, track, and manage their most important assets, transactions, and people, for a variety of the vertical markets. Various topics of discussion touched on Zebra solutions, industry trends, RFID technology, IQ Color labeling, supply chain management, healthcare and patient wristbands, and asset tracking.

The most discussed about topic during the segment surrounded the idea of “backward visibility” with an emphasis on the food chain.  Anders states that with Zebra’s current solutions it “…will enable the food supply chain to have backward visibility all the way to the farm that actually grows the produce or meat…”  He uses an example of the automotive industry to illustrate further the idea of backwards visibility in terms of recalls and being able to track individualized items back to the original source and supplier.

View the full sit-down with Zebra Technologies’ CEO Anders Gustafsson on Taking Stock with Pimm Fox to learn more about the Barcode and RFID industry outlook.

To learn more about Zebra Technologies many industry solutions visit


Handheld Market Projected to Grow 8% in 2010. Printers Hope to Tag Along

The rugged handheld market took a nice 8 % uptick in the first quarter of 2010 compared to the first quarter of last year according to VDC Research. The report detailed the grim realities of 2009 which showed  the retail sector took a 40% drop in growth. The increase comes as welcomed news that the outlook for 2010 is much better than most analysts were predicting.

The report appears in an InformationWeek article that came out this week.

The report also cites retail companies reporting promising results in the first six months of this year and some companies reporting as much as 30% increase in sales versus 2009. With this encouraging data, VDC is predicting that the rugged handheld computing market will grow by as much as 8.6% or $2.1 billion globally. Looking at average unit prices that comes to about 2.6 million handhelds.

Dang that’s a lot of statistics.

You know what works great with a handheld? Mobile printers. (but you saw that one coming)

With the sidelined project spending opening up, the opportunity for mobile printing to support the newhandhelds makes obvious sense. And while most people will simply add to their existing stock, here is something to consider: Zebra’s Development Services has developed an Alternate Programming Language (APL) software solution that is resident in Zebra printers. This enables a Zebra printer to be a drop-in replacement for a competitive printer.

So if you are looking to add a printer with that handheld this year and are already looking at one of Zebra’s rugged mobile printers, that’s great. Seriously, thanks for thinking of us. But, if you are looking at an O’Neil printer because you don’t want to deal with trying to integrate a new printer into your mix, perhaps this APL is just the thing to sway you.

You can learn more about printer customization, which includes hardware, electrical and firmware, go to

Bar Codes Tread New Tracking Ground

Running shoe company Brooks Sports is treading on new ground in mobile marketing. This month they launched a cool new mobile campaign to promote the new Ghost 3 running shoe. The campaign includes direct mail, interactive barcodes and a sweepstakes.

It should be no surprise that the barcode inclusion caught our eye. Brooks tapped Jagtag, an interactive barcode maker as well as the marketing agency of Marden Kane and retailer Finish Line to pull together a complete end-to-end promotion.

The 2-D barcodes will appear on direct mail sent out to a database of 10,000 Finish Line customers as well as the shirts worn by the retailer’s sales associates. Customers or even visitors who e-mail photos of the barcode will be entered to win prizes but the real purpose is to help engage current and potential customers as well as get better tracking on the direct mail campaign by measuring the video views and visitors to

Better tracking. Now we’re talking.

The campaign is not only a cool example of a new way to use barcode for tracking, but it is also a great way to use tracking technology to lead customers to more information. From do-it-yourself stores, full feature kiosks to self-checkout lanes, it seems like a new self service option appear every week. And with the proliferation of smartphone use, it seems like a perfect opportunity to provide deeper product information or customized  multimedia to shoppers while they are engaged with brands. User reviews, short videos and even product configurators can be instantly accessed with the camera scan of a barcode.

Click here for a basic overview of barcodes.

Doesn’t Everyone Win With Bar Codes?

We saw yesterday that ScanLife is running a “Crazy Code” photo contest to find the most brilliant, fresh and crazy place for a 2D bar code. The winner gets a new iPad. Just create a code, place it in your crazy place, snap a photo and send it in.

So in thinking about this, doesn’t everyone win when bar codes are used in new and interesting ways? Ok, that hurt just saying that.

But funny or not, the widespread acceptance of bar coding within industry over the past three decades has led to the development of numerous new applications that ensure easy asset identification and supply chain visibility that make every logistics manager a winner, right? Okay, okay no more.

So what are the benefits of barcoding? Here are a few:

Improved Data Accuracy

Improved data accuracy is the single most common motivation for implementing a bar code system. Often the backbone of operations, data entry enables a company to produce accurate reports and predictions about future needs and actions.

Efficiency Benefits

Besides providing near-perfect accuracy, bar coding also enables users to work faster, without sacrificing accuracy. When factoring in the time it takes to correct simple data entry errors, it is easy to see the improved efficiency that comes with bar coding. In addition, by providing computer systems the capability to “see” exactly what is happening within an organization, bar codes enable instant conversion from physical actions into digital transactions.


Bar coding, particularly in fast-paced industrial environments, enables consistent and predictable operations for enhanced product quality by combining data management functions and preventing bottlenecks at data entry stations. Auto ID systems usually operate at a defined pace, either self-determined by the printer’s maximum speed or triggered by the action of another device.

Improved Inventory and Asset Management

Bar coding can help any company get a handle on resources. Companies are routinely bar coding assets such as manufacturing equipment, computer hardware, office furniture, and tools in order to record the number of each item, as well as the condition, color, features, and designated user. Libraries around the world are starting to place bar codes on books to track borrowing history. Likewise, automotive fleet owners, public transportation agencies, and rental car companies have begun utilizing bar codes to track detailed maintenance records for each vehicle. Manufacturing companies have similar applications in place to track both resource and finished product inventories.

Don’t you feel like a winner already?

It is widely thought that most Auto ID systems pay for themselves in less than two years, but this figure is dependent on a company’s commitment to widespread implementation and acceptance of the bar coding technology. In addition to the savings, each of these areas also produces several hidden savings that must be considered during the cost analysis, though the answers may not surface until the implementation is complete.

Once the data entry on the production line is automated, can production be sped up? If we create unique bar codes for each product, can the company fulfill customized solutions? Once inventory is monitored in real time, can we trim warehousing costs? These are just a few examples of the hidden gains resulting from bar coding. Several other opportunities will emerge as the use of Auto ID gains synthesis with operations.

You can learn more about bar coding here.

How RFID Tags and QR Codes Can Speak Volumes About Resale Items’ History

We’ve explored both the use of apparel RFID tagging in retail, and the potential for QR codes. Now we’ve discovered a new use for both! Seems a charity shop in U.K. uses the two technologies to attach a personal story about each piece of clothing as told by the clothing’s donator. Shop visitors can listen to the audio clips via the shop’s RFID readers and audio speakers, or by reading the QR codes via their smart phones. The stories help enhance the value and appeal of the items for potential buyers. Thanks to for pointing us to the article.

Do you see a place for such a concept in other retail applications?

For more on RFID in retail, check out this white paper: Traceability in Retail—Reducing RFID Media Costs for Best Value.

Click here to learn more about RFID printing/encoding in general.

Have a Unique Printing Challenge? Check Out What Development Services Can Do

So maybe you have this weird little print challenge that no ordinary printer can handle. What to do, what to do.

Zebra’s development services group was put together to handle challenges just like this. The printer customization service provides access to manufacturer level product customization. Depending on the nature of your solution, you can purchase and modify standard configurations or have Zebra provide fee-based customized configurations.

Here are a few we’ve done:

Eliminating Printer Downtime

Learn how you can reduce or eliminate printing downtime

Protecting High-Value Media

We designed a secure, tamper-resistant G-series printer to protect high-value media such as drug prescriptions or event tickets.

Rapid Printer Deployment

With Rapid Deployment, Zebra’s Development Serviles Group can custom-configure the standard setting of a Zebra printer to meet the exact needs of a unique application.

Student Tracking Solution Helps Keeps Students in Class

At 7:40 a.m. sharp each day, the bell sounds signaling the start of the first class at Dundee-Crown High School in Carpentersville, IL – about 40 miles northwest of Chicago. Prior to the 2009-2010 school year, students arriving late had to wait in line at the attendance office to obtain a handwritten pass before they were allowed to proceed to class.

Because of long lines in the office, a student that was 3 minutes late could end up being 30 minutes or more late for class – significantly reducing their in-class time. In 2009, school administrators and staff became increasingly frustrated with the number of students arriving late for the first block and to other classes throughout the day. At their highest, tardies would surpass 400 per day.

On a search for solutions, the school came across the PlascoTrac Student Tracking System that would move them from a handwritten to electronic approach using mobile printers and handheld scanner for better tardy tracking and discipline enforcement. The school quickly saw the benefits of an electronic solution and decided to implement.

Now, when tardy students arrive, they proceed to the attendance office or one of the mobile stations. A staff member scans their student ID card and the system prints out a tardy pass in two to three seconds.

Based on the student’s previous number of tardies, the system automatically issues a consequence based on business rules set up by the school.  From there, they proceed to class where teachers only allow them to enter late if they present a pass. From one student to the next, the solution enforces the school’s policies consistently, and quickly.

The new solution also gives Dundee-Crown a new level of accountability and enforcement that students have noticed. Since implementation, the school reduced the number of tardies by 75 percent on average – an investment of the school budget that directly gives students more in-class time.

How can people tracking lead to better performance in your organization?

You can click here to see more mobile solutions.