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No one can deny that the world is changing, and changing fast. We’re already being told that self-driving cars and flying taxis are soon to become a reality, and giants like Amazon are completely upending the world of commerce as retailers once knew it. Robots are undertaking warehouse tasks while consumers order products online from across the world. To make such a connected, bustling system work on a global scale requires more than just careful planning. It requires a whole new language.

This language – the language of global business, automated processes and interwoven systems on a giant scale – is created and monitored by GS1, a not-for-profit organization that provides standards for barcodes and other entities that affect world commerce. The constant chatter of barcodes and scanners underpins supply chain systems and automated processes all over the world. Ultimately, these ubiquitous interactions connect the digital world to the physical objects we purchase and use every day.

When it comes to managing and standardizing global trade, GS1 standards fall into three main categories: retail, healthcare, and logistics. You might be familiar with the acronym GTIN, or global trade item number, which refers to the unique barcode identifier on all products sold to consumers. Barcodes can also contain data about location and date of manufacture. In the healthcare industry, patients get wristbands with a barcode identifier, and individual patient samples are tracked in the laboratory using barcodes. Scanning the barcodes on shipments helps streamline operations within the transport and logistics industry.

GS1 standards ensure that the data in these barcodes is unique, comprehensive and descriptive. Present in over 100 countries, GS1 is the official sources for unambiguous, non-duplicated barcodes. It also determines company prefixes and provides supplementary information such as serial numbers, batch numbers and best before dates.

In the retail industry, GS1 standards help retailers integrate their store operations, inventory management and the delivery of merchandise. In fact, GS1 barcodes are scanned five billion times a day at store checkouts worldwide. They make supply chains more efficient, help businesses comply with industry standards, and increase collaboration and trust between trading partners. Today’s eCommerce customers expect to smoothly switch between shopping online and shopping in stores, a phenomenon known as omni-channel commerce, and GS1 standards improve the shopping experience by reducing counterfeiting and helping search engines as well as consumers uniquely identify products.

Deadlines in retail are tight and consumer expectations are high, but the pressure is even greater in the healthcare industry. Since healthcare professionals are required to provide high quality patient care while working under intense temporal and financial constraints, industry standards must be easy to use. One goal of GS1 is to keep industry standards open and global so that users aren’t constrained by proprietary solutions.

Barcode scanning technology and a set of globally standardized methods for generating codes is crucial to matching medical product data to patient data, allowing medications to be dispensed automatically, maintaining records of implant serial numbers in central registries as well as patient records, tracking instruments while they’re being decontaminated, and all sorts of other healthcare operations. There is in fact a standard devised specifically for surgical instruments, known as the Automatic Identification and Data Capture (AIDC) Application Standard for Small Instruments. Certain guidelines are also meant to put a stop to the counterfeiting of medications, such as the GS1 Pharmaceutical Implementation Guideline. Overall, GS1 standards help healthcare organizations cut costs, streamline operations and minimize errors in patient care.

In tandem with eCommerce and the demands of the healthcare industry, global supply chains are growing in complexity by the year. Logistical service providers (LSPs) are becoming increasingly more important, and some of these providers are under the impression that using proprietary systems will help them retain customers.

GS1 seeks to encourage LSPs to transition to open standards so that they can better collaborate with other players on the stage of globalized commerce. Five business processes that GS1 helps streamline with its standards are delivery management, transport management, warehouse management, asset management and border procedure management.

With the level of complexity and constant interaction that characterizes today’s global commerce, anyone who says that “money makes the world go around” is only seeing part of the picture. Trade would come to a screeching halt if internationally recognized standards like GS1 were to suddenly disappear, and we can expect to see even more involvement from GS1 as the Internet of Things (IoT) becomes ever more pervasive. The organization is already working to set best practices for protecting data and discovering potential risks, and Omron Microscan is proud to be part of the GS1 US Solution Partner Program. As a Solution Partner, we are part of a network of companies that are committed to implementing GS1 standards. Like many companies with a global reach, we know that standardization is indispensable in an increasingly connected world.

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