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

advantage of this new technology-driven interaction, but they are also struggling to cope, Morris said. The shopper has unprecedented power to identify the best products at the best prices he or she can find. And those who are unhappy with their purchases can let the world know about it in real time.

Companies have a lot at stake and a lot to gain from more sophisticated barcodes, Morris said. Those who embrace the changes can quickly enlist the online crowd to help develop their products and packaging. And identifiers that capture the life history of each package and its contents can dramatically enhance the security, accountability and traceability of the items people purchase and use every day, he said.

Most people are surprised to learn, for example, that pharmaceutical companies in the U.S. rarely track their inventory once it leaves the manufacturing plant, Morris said. This has resulted in a gray market of drugs that are stolen and redistributed. (In one famous case in March, 2010, thieves cut a hole in the roof of a warehouse owned by Eli Lilly & Co. and made off with $75 million in prescription drugs.) Some of these items go to other countries and some end up on pharmacy shelves in the U.S. via unscrupulous distributors, Morris said.

A more sophisticated system could help identify and isolate contaminated drugs, foods or other dangerous products anywhere in the supply chain, Morris said, limiting harm to customers and reducing liability for producers.

If used properly, a global identification system would increase efficiency and profits, expanding the "just-in-time" delivery of goods to retailers. It also would allow companies to get a more detailed picture of the locations, preferences and buying habits of customers, Morris said.

Even though barcodes, QR codes and even RFID tags (which are read by radio waves rather than scanners) are availa
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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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