Smarter Bar Code Coming Soon to Store Shelves

GS1 DataBar can help save cash

Grocery shopping could soon be a piece of cake.

A sophisticated new bar code could make shopping at the grocery store simple as pie -- and may mean the end of the dreaded "price check" at the checkout counter, the New York Times reported.

A set of black symbols called GS1 DataBars are smaller and more information-packed than the traditional bar codes, helping customers save cash and stores keep better inventory, according to the paper.

The barcode has already been introduced to some retailers and healthcare companies and will be available for use on any trade item by the start of 2010, according to the GS1 website.

The increased data space will make it possible to pack more deals into fewer coupons, offering savings on multiple items in one simplified transaction.

Another use is to help identify loose produce.

Unlike traditional bar codes that are too big for fruit and veggies, the GS1 will be able to recognize the item and the price per ounce. The scale will pick up the weight, and in an instant, the correct price will ring up, without any code punching, the Times reported.

"It's quicker and far more accurate," Eric Biddiscombe, senior director of planning for a large Canadian supermarket chain, told the Times.

Biddiscombe, whose Loblaw Companies chain stores have been experimenting with the code for three years said cashiers often mistake organic items with their inorganic counterparts -- which can be costly.

“The price difference between organic and field tomatoes may be 40 cents a pound or more,” Biddiscombe said. “When they aren’t rung up as organic, that bites into our profit margins.”

Other possibilities for the new code include more accurate inventory methods and sell-by dates programmed into each bar code, which could prevent an unknowing customer from getting through checkout with expired milk.

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