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Category: RFID, Automated Data Collection, and Internet of Things

RFID, AIDC, and IoT News: Digimarc Takes its Invisible Bar Code Solution to Shipping Cartons

 

Taking Page from Its POS Scanning Capability, Technology would Enable Scanning Any Part of the Carton to Get a Good Read

Jan. 24, 2018
SCDigest Editorial Staff

A company called Digimarc many years ago developed a solution for invisibly marking currency to enable authentication that it was real, not counterfeit.

Fast forward a few years, and the company adopts the technology to enable embedding a bar code into any image or graphic, from a web URL (similar to the increasingly ubiquitous QR codes) to a more traditional GTIN/UPC code character string.

Supply Chain Digest Says...

This could very attractive say for fork truck applications, so that the driver doesn't have to dismount from the vehicle to get line of sight to the bar code.

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It does this by somehow manipulating the color pattern of almost any printed image or graphic in a way that can be read as data by a smart phone camera or a traditional imaging scanner (with the Digimarc app), even though it is unobservable by the human eye.

So what is the point? From the "QR code replacement" perspective, some marketers find QR codes, which consumers can scan to launch a URL that takes them to additional product information, sort of ugly, degrading a magazine ad or brochure's look.

A Digimarc (or more properly a Diimarc bar code) can eliminate the QR code in favor of a smaller graphic that notes the Digimarc is in an image. For example, a Digimarc can be embedded in a magazine photo, such that for example in a food magazine a picture of a loaf of bread could contain a Digimarc that if read with a smart phone would take readers to the recipe.

In addition, virtually the entire outside packaging of a consumer products item could contain a Digimarc, which would in part encode a field that in effect matches the product's UPC number.

That would mean the code could be read at retail point-of-sale without the cashier needing to find where the UPC code is, as is generally the case today, since Digimarcs would be throughout say the label around a can of soup..

Digimarc says this approach enables much faster scanning at check out. In fact, Digimarc set some sort of record at National Retail Federation annual show in 2014 for fastest UPC scans, with a Guinness Book of World Records auditor there to authenticate the accomplishment.

At the National Retail Federation (NRF) Big Show in 2016, Digimarc announced that it had formed a partnership with standards organization GS1 US, which will in effect distribute the technology, with plans to create a central repository of product information for consumers that could accessed by scanning a bar code on a products packaging.

Under the arrangement, GS1 has created what it calls a "digital watermark," under the banner of a new "DWCode."

At the 2018 NRF conference held in New York City last week, Digimarc was back with a concept solution that involved printing the compant's bar codes all over the corrugate of a shipping carton.

As discussed in the video below, the bar code in this case is not quite invisible, with tiny, barely noticeable black dots all over the corrugate.

 

Digimarc with Concept of Printing Its Bar Codes on Shipping Cartons at NRF

 

 

 

What would be the advantage of such as approach? As with the POS of sale application, the benefit would be to allow a scan to be achieve on any part of the carton, not just a shipping label or pre-printed case code, or worrying about the placement of those bar codes on the carton.


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This could very attractive say for fork truck applications, so that the driver doesn't have to dismount from the vehicle to get line of sight to the bar code, and also in automated systems to improve bar code read rates - and perhaps less expensive bar code scanner arrays.

In both unautomated and automated systems, the Digimarc bar codes also can be scanned if the carton is significantly damaged, unlike what is the case with heavily damaged bar code labels. Just a tiny bit of carton real estate is needed to get a scan.

Digimarc says the technology could support printing both standard case codes identifying the SKU inside, as well as serialized bar codes, such as encoding a GS1128 serialized shipping code. Digimarc has a partnership with HP on the latter capability, with some HP digital printers able to print a serialized Digimarc bar code on shipping cartons (subject to carton size limitations).

The downside of this approach for printing item case code is that it would require maintaining a stock of carton corrugate specific to each SKU – though of course many companies do this already, such as if printing the familiar I 2 of 5 case code used in the grocery and consumer goods sector.

It would also seem in most cases a traditional label or pre-printed bar code would still be required to allow pure visible recognition, act as a back up in case the Digimarc cannot be read, and/or to support other internal or trading partner process that don't involve reading the Digimarc codes.

Whether there will be ROI from the faster, more robust scanning platform remains to be seen, and Digimarc emphasized this was just a concept solution being shown at the show.

Still, it is a very interesting approach, and SCDigest will continue to follow its progress.


What do you think of printing Digimarc bar codes on corrugate? Do you see operational advantages? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback section below.

 

Your Comments/Feedback

Teri

Johnson, Company
Posted on: Jan, 24 2018
If this technology really works as the demo seems, and it doesn't change the cost of printing a box, I can't see how this WOULDN'T have a big ROI, no matter how much Digimark charges for the software.  Damaged labels are probably our biggest pain point, especially in our more automated facilities.  When will this be GA? 

Edward

Lopez, FCG Inc
Posted on: Jan, 24 2018
Interesting technology thanks for calling it out.  Does the corrugated technology also have the "QR Code" type interaction capability like the Code does for packaging?  For example, could operator instructions ("fragile" for example) also be visible upon scanning?  Seems possible (in theory) to remove ALL labeling using these marks. 
 

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