Until a few years ago, most consumers ignored why products carry human and machine-readable codes. It is fair to assume their closest encounter with coding technology was usually checking ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ labels in the supermarket.

Things are starting to change, due to a combination of factors. One of these is the inescapable presence of the internet in our increasingly networked world. Equally significant are the 2.6 billion smartphones connected to the internet — a figure that is predicted to top 6 billion by 2020. Together, these factors have so transformed the shopping experience that a recent survey by Planet Retail and GS1 UK found 28% of shoppers would like to use their smartphone in-store to find what they’re looking for and 24% want to use a barcode scanner app to view more product information.

Such a mobile revolution in retailing would not be possible without the technological infrastructure to assign and apply unique, verifiable product identification mechanisms to a huge range of consumer and industrial products. The term ‘serialisation’, hitherto used to describe this process, no longer does justice to the immense contribution that human- and machine-readable codes- have made to the safe, efficient functioning of the world. Hence the growing adoption of Unique Product Identification (UPI), which better reflects the outcome of serialisation and the practical benefits that it brings.

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