Evrythng first to ratify GS1 barcode standard for out-the-box scanning

Evrythng has announced that its online object identity platform is the first such system to support the new GS1 Digital Link standard, an update to the GS1 barcode standard that now lets smartphones scan these barcodes directly. This is a big step forward, enabling physical things to be quickly tracked in supply chains and linked to consumers.

Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) and Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) are the envisioned early adopters, especially as they account for much of the four trillion barcoded goods sold each year globally. Evrythng says it has connected over a billion devices through its platform, and now that the GS1 ecosystem has such capabilities, through the new Digital Link standard, it will be hoping to snap up a lot more business.

For the wider IoT, this is a sensible adaptation of an existing mechanism, which should enable an entire ecosystem to move towards incorporating physical goods with online cloud-based systems. Thanks to the use of a smartphone, the barrier to entry seems significantly lower, and as an open standard, there is plenty of opportunity for startups to experiment with the technologies at play – and barnstorm their way into an established industry. These upgraded barcodes are an incredible opportunity to generate more data for the IoT.

Evrythng argues that these digitized products also present a concrete value to businesses that embrace them. Consumer engagement is apparently 10x higher than paid digital advertisements, with a 23% longer dwell time and 39% more likes and shares on social media. For supply chains, traceability analysis is claimed to be at least 40x faster, and the potential to limit counterfeiting through authentication will be of great interest too.

Riot covered Evrythng’s early involvement with the GS1 group, in June 2017. At that time, it had upgraded its platform to support the GS1 labeling standards. Since then, Evrythng saw an opportunity, and approached the GS1 Standards Development Work Group, proposing what would come to be Digital Link and then heading up its development.

This involvement has given Evrythng a head-start, hence its pole-position, but Evrythng is also the company that contributed the first version of the W3C’s Web of Things standard. The company is a firm proponent of open global standards, noting in the announcement that they are “hands-down one of the best ways to proliferate game-changing innovation at mass scale.”

As for future adoption, we will be paying attention to see what other companies embrace GS1 Digital Link. As a standard, there’s a good chance that rivals will attempt to use the standard to compete with Evrythng, but the company has the advantage of being very familiar with the standard, as well as having over six years’ experience in connecting such goods to the internet.

A look at Digital Link’s contributors gives an indication of those interested. Evrythng, Walmart, and mobiLead/serviceTag are the chairs, and the others are as follows: Japan Pallet Rental Corp., Hershey, Mead Westvaco, NXP Semiconductors, Nestle, Unilever UK, Abbott Laboratories, Avery Dennison RFID, Costco Wholesale, Carrefour, Axfood Sverige, H&M.

There appears to be interest from both retailers and producers, with Avery Dennison and NXP interested in selling the supporting technologies. Evrythng says it is already working with Point-of-Sale (POS) vendors and supply chain partners to support the new standard.

The logistics firms in charge of shipping these goods around the world are somewhat absent, although they are not so interested in the individual goods themselves – focused on layers above at pallets and shipping containers, rather than boxes of cereal or bottles of shampoo. As such, we don’t expect to see the likes of Maersk appearing in the list any time soon.

The announcement contains a good explanation of how the technology works, although there’s an Evrythng white paper and the GS1 standard document too, if needed. Digital Link relies on the smartphone, in the sense that the ability to scan QR codes is now a native function of the OS. Previously, scanning conventional barcodes required a dedicated application, but if the new Digital Link codes are printed as QR codes, then any up-to-date smartphone will be able to read them – triggering the desired experience.

The standard is essentially encoding rather a lot of data into the URL of that QR code. The string contains the Global Trade Item Number (GTIN), the specific product variant, the product’s serial number, an expiration date, and the option to add non-GS1 extension numbers that can be used for applications such as anti-counterfeiting. All of that looks like a regular URL.

In a video demonstration, Evrythng CTO Dominique Guinard explained that the idea is to take the existing supply chain standard and make it web-ready – upgrading the code to contain more information. Contextual information is also key, as it allows a brand to build on what it knows about its product and offer customized experiences and marketing. Guinard points to country-specific launch pages, as an easy example.

For consumers, the process is as simple as scanning a QR code, which then directs the user’s web browser to the desired web page. This could enable much easier warranty and customer information provision, which in turn increase the chance of selling more products to such consumers.

The web page can act as a hub to sell things like insurance or accessories too, and of course, the system provides businesses with a wealth of analytics data that can be fed back into business software. Should a company choose to use Evrythng’s platform, they could also make use of its blockchain integration hub, announced back in June – with Almond a confirmed customer.