Digital transformation – from MHD magazine

Sue Schmid

Standards in the digital era are evolving just as fast as new digital technologies on a local and global basis. We have seen GS1 standards evolve over the last 25 years to meet industry needs.
GS1 standards have always adapted and transformed to align with new technologies and to support new industries and processes that did not even exist when GS1 was created. Industries such as online marketplaces are driving the development of new standards to build smarter supply chains and enable the connection between business and consumer in the physical and digital world.
The rise of and success of GS1 standards
GS1’s work with barcodes has been one of the most successful examples of international adoption of standards for business. Why are the GS1 standards are so successful and why does the GS1 system remain the most widely used identification system and supply chain standard in the world? The answer is in the common language that GS1 standards provide to make it easier to do business with trading partners and customers.
GS1 has been established for over forty years. The first GS1 barcode was scanned in 1974 at a checkout in the US with the purpose of getting shoppers (consumers) through the checkout faster, giving them better service. This first scan reshaped the supply chain forever and established the foundation that facilitates business today.
The GS1 barcode is the most well-known component of the GS1 system and most people associate us as just the barcode people, but what we provide is a global identification system – and that’s what our members subscribe to when they join GS1.

“We are at a very exciting time of change and we are looking forward to supporting our members and assisting them on their own evolution of improvement and implementation of digital technologies.”

The GS1 system is an authenticated, valid and verified system that is globally recognised and has become embedded in so many companies’ operations and processes. And with the internet world transforming the way we live, the GS1 system is a fundamental component to support the millions of transactions that happen each day. The humble, yet incredibly powerful barcode, is well entrenched in our daily lives and we don’t even realise it.
Evolving technology provides more scope for the use of standards
Standards have always been an integral part of the international business world and supply chain, and will continue to do so in the interconnected world of today and into the future. As changes in technology continue to accelerate, the evolving role of standardisation in technological innovation is changing, too.
As we evolve the GS1 standards in the business-to-business space, the business-to-consumer layer continues to emerge and the GS1 standards are uniquely placed to support and connect these two together. Businesses have been responsible for evolving the GS1 standards over the past 40 years, and the consumers of today are now also impacting how the standards are leveraged because they want more information to help them make better purchasing decisions, and they are using barcodes on a product to gain access to this information.
Although there are various mobile apps available for this that draw information from the many places via the web, consumers are putting pressure on organisations for accurate and real-time information. This is where the GS1 standards connect and facilitate the physical and online supply chain, along with providing a means to ensure accurate data and information for the consumer.
GS1 standards connect the consumer and business
Ms Schmid explained why the power of the GS1 barcode and the information behind it is becoming much more important to consumers beyond the familiar beep at the checkout.
“The GS1 barcode is a bit like the Intel chip in a computer. It runs the computer and does everything you want the computer to do, seamlessly. The GS1 identification used in barcodes or in the exchange of data is just like an Intel chip, seamlessly integrating supply chains between businesses and consumers across the world. It integrates and connects the consumer with the information they want to know. Industry has a part to play in making sure the information is trustworthy in a collaborative world where information is more visible and more accessible.
As a consumer, I recently had to get a part replaced for my refrigerator. Having called the service centre, they requested I provide them with the date of purchase, where I had purchased and when, none of which I had. They asked me to find a serial number for the item, it was on the inside of the door printed in the smallest writing possible that I had to twist my head to be able to read it! At that point I was imagining being able to scan a barcode on the inside of the door that in an app, would identify my refrigerator uniquely. This can be done today with a GS1 number, called the Global Trade Item Number (GTIN), and a serial number, all possible in today’s GS1 system. All I would then have to do is scan it into the app and all the information they wanted would be provided, easy and simple.
The GS1 system facilitates the connection of all the information at our finger tips in our world today, with more simplified access, making our daily lives easier.
Most consumers today also want detailed information before they purchase a food item including allergy information, gluten free, sugar free, provenance, organically certified and much more. We need to have a system that enables the consumer to be able access this information and feel confident that the information is trustworthy. This is where GS1 standards fit perfectly connecting unique product identification and organisations to provide trustworthy information about the product through the supply chain.
Data accuracy is crucial
New and emerging technology is important for any size of business today with the rise of the digital era, however, the accuracy of data is the number one issue that seems to be overlooked.
GS1 has data quality frameworks for various processes such as data synchronisation but ultimately, it’s important to help GS1 members have the right things in place in the systems including access to technologies to help them make that journey of ensuring their data is accurate and remains accurate. GS1 provides members with tools and support for data accuracy which is becoming more achievable with newer technologies.
Implementing new standards in the digital era to embrace quality data is an important foundation for the transition from old to new.
There will always be new standards being developed and enhancements to the existing ones, depending on the needs of industry. The GS1 product identification standards certainly sit in the digital age already today. The only real change that needs to happen is in the world of the internet. We are heading towards integrating our identifiers on the internet, so the consumer can leverage this quality data and information beyond the point of sale.
Data accuracy is also crucial in healthcare. In-home patient care is increasing, so what a wonderful way to validate that the patient is taking the right medicine at the right time by a simple scan of a GS1 barcode that is underpinned by GS1 identifiers.
These types of evolutions for creating standards are happening all the time – we don’t create standards for the sake of creating standards.
“We are also seeing a change in the profile of our members. Our corporate members, who are often at the leading edge of technology, may have challenges moving from a legacy system to a new system and new standards. In contrast, there is an opportunity for our smaller members who aren’t constrained by legacy systems, to leverage the GS1 system’s flexibility. They can have an authentic GS1 numbering system and adopt new standards, because as the future evolves and the internet synchronises with the use of our identifiers, the opportunities for small business are enormous with less barriers.”
Vision for GS1 members
The priority for GS1 Australia is to make sure all members, particularly small to medium size businesses, understand the value and the opportunity the GS1 system can bring to them in both the physical and digital world.
We are at a very exciting time of change and we are looking forward to supporting our members and assisting them on their own evolution of improvement and implementation of digital technologies.
Sue Schmid is the head of customer relations and standards office at GS1 Australia. For more information on GS1 standards please contact Sue Schmid at

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