New alliance seeks to ensure accurate product data for searching and scanning

The B2C Alliance could help synchronize information to improve mobile bar code scanning.

Bill Siwicki

More than a dozen companies have come together to form an organization that will address what they say is a growing need for accurate product information accessed via mobile devices and the Internet.

Business to Consumer (B2C) Alliance members include IBM Corp.; Johnson & Johnson Consumer Group of Companies; The Kroger Co.; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Auto-ID Lab; Microsoft Corp.; 2-D bar code technology firm NeoMedia Technologies; Procter & Gamble; and retail bar code scanner provider Scanbuy Inc.

The B2C Alliance is being facilitated by GS1 US and GS1 Canada, not-for-profit organizations that are part of the global GS1 standards body. The GS1 standards seek to synchronize product identifiers so that all parties, from suppliers through retailers, are using the same exact product information.

In research done by the Auto-ID Lab on behalf of the B2C Alliance, more than 10% of searches for product information from mobile phones returned incorrect or incomplete results.

“The number of people searching and shopping with smartphones is growing in the triple digits with no signs of slowing,” says Sanjay Sarma, professor of mechanical engineering at MIT and co-founder of the Auto-ID Lab. “At the same time, sources are proliferating. It’s essential that any shortcomings in this area are addressed today.”

Accurate product information is especially important in the fast-growing field of mobile bar code scanning apps. If a bar code scan returns inaccurate product details, incorrect products or no matches, consumers can become frustrated with the technology, and frustration with a mobile app can lead to dismissing it.

“Providing accurate information about our products is a critical part of building trust with our consumers,” says Werner Geissler, vice chairman of global operations at Procter & Gamble. “Leveraging GS1 standards, like the bar code, will allow this information to be delivered to consumers via the Internet and smartphone apps when and how they want it. Brand owners are the best source for this information, and we support the B2C Alliance in this important initiative to improve the shopping experience.”


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