Fads come and go. Those that have “staying power” become trends that inevitably provide benefit to organizations or society as a whole. Bar code, now 50 years old and counting, is well beyond a fad. The benefit of bar code has often been to enable “visibility” of items or people. These important things are tracked and accounted for, automatically.

It is difficult to predict the exact application of bar code or UID into the future, however one fact is for sure – trends that we see forming today will set the stage for the use of the technology by our children. For instance, the Department of Defense (DoD) is leveraging UID or 2D bar code to track mission critical and valuable items. What the DoD calls Principle End Items (PEIs) are the tip of the iceberg for UID. Vehicles, aircraft, major weapon systems, support equipment all fall into this category. This will evolve into marking and accounting for less valuable items and less mission critical items as the technology infrastructure is deployed (UID software, networks, mobile computers with UID scanners, and UID printers). The demand for visibility on the most critical and the most expensive items always lead in the use of auto ID technology such as UID however the need of visibility into less critical and valuable assets always follow.

Take for instance, package tracking. The need for small parcel tracking has always been driven by the most valuable items and visibility in transit. In the early 80’s, small parcel tracking moved high valued items. When it was critical to ship an item such as a critical spare part to keep a manufacturing assembly line running, you used a carrier such as Fedex or UPS. Today, we ship many items via small parcel carriers, even something as inexpensive as a book from Amazon.

Back to the DoD for a moment. You’ll notice that these PEIs are getting all of the attention but you’ll soon see UID gravitate to smaller and smaller components that make up the end item. Everything will soon have a UID and scanning these components will be just as ordinary as ordering a book from Amazon