Anyone who has been through the self-checkout line at the grocery store knows how difficult it can be trying to locate and successfully scan the barcodes on items. Often times they are well-hidden, and even when you do find them, the scanner sometimes refuses to recognize them. Thanks to new barcode technology currently in the works, however, this frustration could become a thing of the past.
Digital watermarking is a promising new type of barcode for product packaging labels that is invisible to the human eye. Digital watermarks contain all of the same product information as UPC barcodes, plus more. Being invisible, they can also be printed many times all over the surface of packaging labels without taking up any space.
Printing these digital barcodes doesn’t require any new or specialized equipment, so most package labeling companies will easily be able to integrate digital watermarks onto labels for their existing clients without purchasing expensive technology. They can also be printed anywhere on the label, any number of times, without taking up additional space, which is a major benefit for companies with very specific design elements to their labels.
For retailers, this means more efficient checkout lines and more productive self-checkout lines. With digital watermarks printed all over the package, there is no need for cashiers or customers to rotate products to find the barcode. Instead, they can simply scan the product over the scanner however they like.
Digital watermarks also provide a better, more interactive shopping experience for customers. These digital barcodes can contain a wide variety of information, including nutritional information, allergen information, current product promotions and recipes. Since smartphones can detect these barcodes, all shoppers need to do is download an app and scan the product to obtain a wealth of information.
Products are not the only things that could be fitted with digital watermarks. Store promotion signs, displays and magazines can all carry these barcodes, allowing retailers to store extra consumer information in one convenient place. Audio and television signals can also carry digital signals, so in-store music or radio stations could have information embedded in them that would connect with customer smartphones. Consumer’s phones can pick up on the signals as they move throughout a store, providing shoppers with the latest promotional offers.
Finally, digital watermarks provide an extra layer of security that UPC codes do not. These invisible codes can’t be replicated, so criminals are unable to put fake barcodes from cheaper products on items to lower the price.
The benefits of digital watermarking are obvious, and they would be cheap and easy to produce. These new barcodes are still a work in progress, but when their use becomes more wide-spread, shoppers and retailers are bound to welcome them with open arms.