Bar codes are everywhere but where did they come from and how do we use them for visitor management?

Bar codes are everywhere but where did they come from and how do we use them for visitor management?

Long before bar codes and scanners were actually invented, grocers knew they desperately needed something like them. Punch cards, first developed for the 1890 U.S Census, seemed to offer some early hope. In 1932, a business student named Wallace Flint wrote a master’s thesis in which he envisioned a supermarket where customers would perforate cards to mark their selections; at the checkout counter they would insert them into a reader, which would activate machinery to bring the purchases to them on conveyer belts. Store management would have a record of what was being bought.

The problem was, of course, that the card reading equipment of the day was bulky, utterly unwieldy, and hopelessly expensive. Even if the country had not been in the middle of the Great Depression, Flint’s scheme would have been unrealistic for all but the most distant future. Still, it foreshadowed what was to come.

The first step toward today’s bar codes came in 1948, when Bernard Silver, a graduate student, overheard a conversation in the halls of Philadelphia’s Drexel Institute of Technology. The president of a food chain was pleading with one of the deans to undertake research on capturing product information automatically at checkout. The dean turned down the request, but Bob Silver mentioned the conversation to his friend Norman Joseph Woodland, a twenty-seven-year-old graduate student and teacher at Drexel. The problem fascinated Woodland and the rest is history as they say.

I remember when smart phones first came out I wanted to invent an app that simply scanned all of the items in our grocery cupboard to help the family finding product in the cupboards that were 2 or 3 years past the use by date. I often wonder the value of all the groceries that are purchased but never used around the world. I can see from some googling there are now dozens of apps that will help you manage the food in your cupboards all driven by bar codes. Some of these apps look very clever as you would expect now that we’re approaching 8 years since the very 1st smart phone was released on June 29, 2007.

Reading over a lot of information on the web around bar code apps and I can see that despite technology moving forward there is still a lot of crap out there. With more than 5000 apps a week being released I wonder what small portion of these are actually used by more than 1000 people. While looking around today I did discover this website that helps you compare apps in a category

Outside of groceries there are millions of places where bar codes are used.

  • Fed Ex – biggest users of barcodes in the world
  • Hospitals
  • Boarding passes
  • Receipts
  • Frequent Flyers
  • Universities
  • Loyalty Program cards
  • Credit cards – HSBC
  • US Drivers Licence
  • NZ drivers licence
  • Qld working with Children
  • Access Security
  • Libraries

How do we use bar codes in visitor management?

  • Visitor Sign Out – The most common way we use bar codes is where a visitor pass is created for the visitor that includes a bar code. This bar code can be scanned on the way out to signed a visitor out.
  • Employee sign in and sign out – while we have a host of ways that an employee can be included in an evacuation report the easiest way is for an employee to simply scan in and scan out using a bar code. In countries all over the world barcodes are used for this purpose. New Zealand for example has a bar code on the drivers licence allowing most employees to use their drivers licence to sign in and sign out. Not all countries have a universal bar code like New Zealand. How hard would it be for countries to add a bar code to the drivers licence? In Queensland Australia the working with children card provided to all teachers includes a bar code making it easy for schools in Queensland to ask teachers to scan in and scan out. In the US Most importantly, at least for our US users, the PDF417 is the only bar code type approved by the Department of Homeland Security for  RealID-compliant drivers licenses. This is, in part, because a PDF417 bar code can store a lot of information: almost everything on the front of a driver’s license is stored in the bar code.
  • Contractor sign in and sign out – frequent contractors are often given a photo ID card which can include a bar code that can be used to sign the contractor in and out.
  • Asset Management – This is a popular module. Nearly all of our visitor management customers could use asset management. Many still don’t take that next step to move the issuing of keys, cards, vehicles etc to an electronic system. Going electronic with asset management allows you to within seconds pull up the details of who was driving a particular vehicle on a particular day last month. This information can help you when companies receive speeding tickets. A recent example I saw was where a company received a speeding ticket for $2900. The actual fine for an individual driver was around $130, the $2900 fine to the company is used to force the company to nominate the actual driver. Electronic asset management makes this process fast and easy.

Book in a Visitor Management demonstration and we will show you how bar codes can assist you in your business with visitor management, employee management and contractor Management.