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Packaging expert sees a social revolution in the evolving barcode
Date:10/13/2011

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. What if you could trace the history of everything you buy back to its origins? Using your smart phone camera, you could learn what factory made the ingredients in your heart medication, what country grew the corn in your breakfast cereal, or even how to recycle the phone. You could follow the whole life cycle of a product and everyone who handled it along the way to ensure that the medicine you're taking isn't counterfeit and the food you're eating is safe.

This reality is on the horizon, said University of Illinois food science and human nutrition professor Scott Morris, an expert on the history and evolution of packaging and author of "Food and Package Engineering," a new textbook published by Wiley Blackwell. Barcodes, the familiar black-and-white labels on packages that began as a means to scan prices or track inventory, are evolving into a broader class of identifiers in new and startling ways, said Morris, who also is a professor of agricultural and biological engineering at Illinois. As the technology advances, these electronic identifiers allow access to more information about the contents and history of products and are opening new channels of communication between buyers and sellers.

The QR code, a new species of two-dimensional barcode that can be scanned with a cell phone, now supplies a direct link between the shopper in the store and information about the scanned product online.

"Customers' experience and interaction with packaging are undergoing radical and unprecedented changes," Morris wrote in an article in Packaging World Magazine early this year. "Emerging now is a more complex system that includes an entire peer group of customers giving continuous, real-time analysis of the product."

Manufacturers and retailers are trying to take
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Contact: Diana Yates
diya@illinois.edu
217-333-5802
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert  

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