Barcode data collection is part of a broader category called Automatic Identification, or AutoID. AutoID encompasses the automatic recognition, decoding, processing, transmission and recording of data. This is most commonly achieved through printers, scanners and software by reading the information embedded in the barcode and using databases and supporting software to automatically identify and make use of the resulting data. Indeed, AutoID turns data into useful information.

Anyone can read the “human readable” numbers printed under a barcode at the grocery store – this is called “data”. The scanner and associated point-of-sale (POS) terminal, POS software and lookup tables, however, provide the item description and price – this is called “information”, or data that has meaning to the people using it.

The emergence of AutoID solutions has significantly increased the speed, efficiency and accuracy of data collection and entry. The early applications of barcode scanning such as retail POS checkout, item tracking and inventory management have been expanded to more advanced applications in more industries, such as work-in-process, quality control, sorting, order entry, document tracking, shipping and receiving, controlling access to secure areas.These solutions have measurably increased productivity by linking production, warehousing, distribution, sales and service to management information systems on a batch or real-time basis. Consequently, opportunities to improve operational efficiencies and customer responsiveness have developed for retailers, transportation and package delivery companies, manufacturers, wholesale distributors and service providers.

New barcode symbologies are enabling users to respond to the requirements of “chain of custody” tracking, the capability to identify where something came from and every step of progression along the way. For example, blood banks need barcodes to track and identify the blood donor, the collector, the site of collection, the test lab where the blood went to, where it was stored, and finally, where the blood was sent. Another example is customer loyalty cards at grocery stores. AutoID is making it possible for retailers to target specific customers with coupons and special discounts or rewards.