Paying Tribute to Innovation
Does the name Norman Joseph Woodland mean anything to you? It might not, but on a daily basis you most likely utilize something he invented more than 60 years ago.
Mr. Woodland was the co-inventor of the barcode, the optical machine readable representation of data relating to the item to which it is attached. Today, almost every product has some form of barcode which provides descriptive information. It’s estimated that about 5 billion products are scanned and tracked worldwide every day.
Mr. Woodland recently passed away at the age of 91 but his legacy will live on forever. As a student at Drexel University, Woodland overheard a grocery store executive ask an engineering school dean to research how product information could be captured at checkout. He then dropped out of school (having already completed a mechanical engineering degree) to work on the bar code idea. According to his daughter, he came up with the idea when he was at the beach and started drawing dots and dashes in the sand (he knew Morse Code) and then traced a series of parallel lines. The thick and thin bars concept then came from that inspiration. Mr. Woodland later joined IBM where the barcode finally came to fruition.
After years of development spanning from the 1950s to the 1970s the Universal Product Code (UPC) made its way into stores everywhere and became the fundamental method for tracking and monitoring products. Mr. Woodward saw that innovation through to the first scanned use of the UPP in 1974. Although it took time, the UPP gained great acceptance and importance in the retail world. I remember my dad working at the regional supermarket chain in the early 1990s outfitting the front-end check out aisles with scanner technology. I remember thinking how interesting it was that so much information on the grocery items could be captured as they easily passed over the scanner. I also recall him telling me about how the data then was transferred to the inventory systems of the store. Pretty cool stuff.
Barcodes later paved the way for Quick Response Code (or QR Code). This two-dimensional barcode image gained popularity due to its fast readability and greater storage capacity. Today consumers not only see their items rung-up at the point-of-sale (POS) via UPC codes and scanning technology, but also have the ability to make a purchase from their mobile device using QR or barcode technology. Their purchasing details (i.e. credit card information) can be stored in the cloud (secure data center) and called upon at the POS via the representation the QR or barcode on a mobile device which the POS will scan to complete the purchase.
Mr. Woodward‘s name may never be as well known as it should however his invention will likely live on as his greatest legacy. The bar code and its successors have been instrumental in changing the way we purchase and monitor inventory. The bar code is now as common as the remote control and the microwave oven. Norman Joseph Woodland may not possess the immediate recognition of some other inventors but his accomplishments should compare favorably.
Related Blog Posts
Women in Payments: It’s Time to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
As we gear up for Money 20/20 U.S next month, we are excited to shine a spotlight on Natalia Ruiz, manager, Payments Risk Solutions at ACI Worldwide, who was recently selected to be part of the 2019 Rise Up Academy. This global program created by Money 20/20 addresses the gender imbalance in leadership positions within the Financial Services and Fintech industry.
Universal Confirmations: Get Ready for 2020
With the arrival of universal confirmations, we sit down with some industry experts to find out more about what impact this will have on transforming cross-border payments. We’re welcomed by Fabien Depasse - Head of SWIFT gpi Customer Success at SWIFT and Craig Ramsey - Head of Real-Time Payments at ACI Worldwide.
How to be a Payments Trailblazer – The Seven Habits of Highly Innovative Organizations
The new Culture of Innovation Index from Ovum and ACI identified segments—from banks to intermediaries to merchants to corporates—at the cutting edge (of innovation) across the payments ecosystem. But what is most notable about those segments that have reached ‘trailblazing’ status is the apparent lack of commonality between them. No one segment, nor one region fosters better innovation. In fact, what’s driving these segments/organizations to be best of breed is their own culture of excellence. The only thing they have in common is their attitude.
How will SWIFT gpi Impact Latin America?
As the world continues to transition toward real-time, and technology continues to evolve, new challengers are disrupting the market with value propositions including real-time cross- border payments. The competition has inspired SWIFT to work with the industry and challengers to create the Global Payments Innovation (GPI) program, which radically changes the way banks interact with their correspondents and offers improved transparency and customer service to their customers.
The Middle Eastern payments revolution: Getting Real-Time Ready
The Middle East is developing quickly and considerably. The population has surpassed 410 million and a number of nations, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), represent some of the world's most innovative economies. The region has become synonymous with the rise of large infrastructure developments and technological innovation, while tourism continues to grow - 1.4 billion people visited in 2018 alone.
Why India's Payments Players Need to Fight Fraud with Machine Learning
By 2023, experts are predicting 60 billion UPI (Unified Payments Interface) transactions annually, accounting for more than 50 percent of India’s total digital payments transactions. And it’s estimated that today nearly 50 percent of all real-time payment (RTP) transactions globally are processed in India. It’s an exciting market for payments innovation, with a wide range of digital overlay services available to consumers and merchants, thanks to the introduction of UPI.
The Untapped Opportunity of Machine Learning for Real-Time Payments Fraud Prevention
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is among the buzzwords of the moment, but when it comes to tangible innovations that have the potential to drive rapid ROI, machine learning should be part of every bank or processor’s strategy. No matter the size of the institution.
European Banks Have the Right Tools to Stay Ahead – But Will Big Tech Overtake?
Open banking and immediate payments have come a long way, according to the panelists who joined me during the ‘Open Banking in an Instant World’ session at EBAday in Stockholm recently. The building blocks are now falling into place through the introduction of national and regional schemes, open banking initiatives, regulations such as PSD2 and the acceptance and use of APIs.
How UPI is Driving India's Shift from Cash to Digital Payments
The Indian economy has traditionally been heavily dominated by cash, while experiencing low adoption of various online payment systems including National Electronic Funds Transfer (NEFT), Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) and inter-bank mobile payments. The dominance of cash is evidenced by the ratio of cash withdrawals at ATMs vs debit card usage at Point of Sale (POS)—ATM transaction volume is more than 2x greater than POS.
Regulating for Real-Time: The Role of Government in Payments Modernization
Dr. Leo Lipis and Craig Ramsey, Head of Real-Time Payments for ACI Worldwide, continue their discussion on real-time payments and the findings of the new white paper, Get More from Real-Time.