GS1 is a not-for-profit, international organization developing and maintaining its own standards for barcodes and the corresponding issue company prefixes. The best known of these standards is the barcode, a symbol printed on products that can be scanned electronically.
GS1 has 115 local member organizations and over 2 million user companies.
In 1973, the Universal Product Code (UPC) was selected by this group as the first single standard for unique product identification, and in 1974, the Uniform Code Council (UCC) was founded to administer the standard. On 26 June 1974, a pack of Wrigley Company’s chewing gum became the first ever product with a barcode to be scanned in a shop.
In 1976, the original 12-digit code was expanded to 13 digits, which opened the doors for the identification system to be used outside the U.S. In 1977, the European Article Numbering Association (EAN) was established in Brussels and with founding members from 12 countries.
In 1990, EAN and UCC signed a global cooperation agreement and expanded overall presence to 45 countries. In 1999, EAN and UCC launched the Auto-ID Labs to develop Electronic Product Code (EPC) enabling GS1 standards to be used for RFID.
In 2004, EAN and UCC launched the Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN), a global, internet-based initiative that enables trading partners to efficiently exchange product master data.
By 2005, the organisation was present in over 90 countries which started to use the name GS1 on a worldwide basis. Whilst "GS1" is not an acronym it refers to the organisation offering one global system of standards.
Barcodes improve the efficiency, safety, speed and visibility of supply chains across physical and digital channels. They have a crucial role in the retail industry - including today's online marketplaces -, moving beyond just faster checkout to improved inventory and delivery management and the opportunity to sell online on a global scale. In the UK alone, the introduction of the barcode in the retail industry has resulted in savings of 10.5 billion pounds per year.
Some of the barcodes that GS1 developed and manages are: EAN/UPC (used mainly on consumer goods), GS1 Data Matrix (used mainly on healthcare products), GS1-128, GS1 DataBar, and GS1 QR Code.
Main GS1 standards are as follows:
GS1 standards are developed and maintained through the GS1 Global Standards Management Process (GSMP), a community-based forum that brings together representatives from different industries and businesses. Together they find and implement standards-based solutions to address common supply chain challenges.
Key focus areas in retail include sustainability, data quality, compliance with regulatory requirements, traceability of products from their origin through delivery, and upstream integration between manufacturers and suppliers.
As consumers are recurring to e-commerce more often throughout the years, GS1 has developed standards that uniquely identify products for the benefit of consumers and for search engines, providing accurate and complete product information digitally.
More than 70 countries have healthcare-related regulations or trading partner requirements where GS1 standards are being used for the above reasons as well for medicines as medical devices. Members of GS1 Healthcare include more than 140 leading healthcare organisations worldwide.