The RLA Standards Committee has developed a new labeling protocol called Standard QR Labels. This protocol has been approved by ANSI (MH10.8.2.12N) and is now being evaluated by both the Open Connectivity Foundation for use in on-boarding IoT devices as well as by the CTA. This protocol is essentially a data dictionary of field names or tags. Having a standardized vocabulary facilitates interoperability. These protocols can be applied to any symbology including RFID or standard bar codes. We focused on QR codes since the 2D matrix technology allows for up to 4000 characters of information to be encoded in limited real estate. The SQRL code protocols allows for the optimal utilization of this data capacity.
Product labeling has many stakeholders. Most products have multiple labels placed on a device and its packaging. The product manager controls the final labeling configuration. Product identification and tracking are primary. Logistics and inventory management are as important. Marketing creates the package artwork and contributes some limited label content. Product support and reverse logistics have limited input.
The best advancement offered by the adoption of SQRL codes is that modern smart phone technology allows consumers to scan and read (unencrypted) information about the product. Consumers want access to the information. Now we can communicate more information while reducing the labeling footprint. Marketing can include links to sales information and accessories. Manufacturers can add information about extended warranties. Labels can now contain multiple web link addresses so that the amount of data is limitless.
As a result of the standardization of field labels and the optimization of 2-D label capacity, labeling applications will proliferate. At the same time, the total real-estate consumed by labels will decrease as these protocols facilitate the consolidation of labels.
We envision that each shipped product will include three complex labels. By complex, we mean that each label will support multiple applications. The three labels are:
1. Directly on the product. This will be in an unobtrusive location that does not interfere with the aesthetics of the product. This would include information related to product support and warranty. It would also include triage data for end-of-life information.
2. On the product packaging. This label will include information created by marketing to facilitate presales support and consumer support
3. On the shipping carton. This will include all logistical information including data from GHS (Global Harmonized System), and export information.
These labels, utilizing SQRL code technology will consolidate information and data from the various labels currently placed on products and packaging.
In addition we envision the addition of two additional labels that would be placed on items related to reverse logistics.
4. RMA Management. This label would be added to products that are returned to manufacturer. In some circumstances, such a label would be added at the point of return. It is envisioned that such a label could be electronically transmitted directly to a consumer who would attach it to the product being returned.
5. Digital Toe Tags. Such a label would be added to the product at the point of triage. It would record the diagnostic process and results. Since it is an adhesive label, there is no risk of the paperwork separating from the product during transition. Since it is optically scan-able it does not require power or the Internet.
As the QR Code Standard now supports up to 4000 characters of information, there is capacity for each label to include multiple applications. The applications will, of course, vary depending on the nature of the product.
SQRL codes are applicable to many different types of products. Consumer electronics are obvious hosts for SQRL codes. Home appliances, likewise, benefit from having access to delivering more information to consumers in a limited amount of real-estate. Even furniture would benefit from easily accessible assembly instructions.
The food and pharma industry will be able to manage product recalls. Food manufactures can optimize their limited labeling real-estate with recipes and coupons. They can detail information about allergens. Drug manufacturers can include links to drug contraindications.
Tools and machinery can include repair and maintenance information right on the product. It can even contain links to videos. MSDS safety sheets can be scan-able. Easily accessible recycling information will help with end-of-life triage.
A SQRL code application consists of a collection of fields, that when combined address a specific problem or need. The list of Field Identifiers is dynamic. As applications are identified the appropriate fields will be added to enable the label to be utilized.
To date, a handful of applications have been defined. The following applications have developed templates that can serve as examples for the creation of labels: digital toe tags, consumer return fraud safeguards and consumer presales support. We are working on more.
Applications Defined to date
1. Asset management Tracking relevant data including warranty status: Both for consumers and SMEs.
2. Certification label consolidation Consolidates multiple label/seals. Allows for more data re: each certification agency.
3. Consumer Electronics Documentation, support, recycling. recall information, accessories, extended warranties,
4. Consumer Promotional Scores Allows mfg.’s to more easily access customer services. Provides vehicle for mfg’s to connect with customer for after market sales.
5. Counterfeit/ fraud detection Encrypted codes in/on various components must synchronize with other labels.
6. Customer support One click connection to customer support: VOIP call, chat or web site.
7. Emergency Services/
Disaster Relief Data
Optically scan-able ID tags for victims of natural disasters. Used to save duplication of data entry in environments without connectivity.
8. Equipment maintenance records Scan-able maintenance records
9. Extended Warranties Provides easy access for consumers to purchase extended warranties. (By-passes channel.)
10. Food/Pharma Products Expiration dates, allergens, recall information, plus recipes and coupons. Ingredients
11. Furniture Assembly instructions, dimensions, material content, recall information
12. Geo-tagging For Big Data Analysis. Grey market detection etc.
13. Import/Export Consolidation of data in digital form GHS, GS 1
14. Installation Instructions Video accessed with a single click. Written instructions,
15. Inventory management Consolidated labels… more information—less space.
16. Large Appliances Hook up instructions, dimensions, accessories, support, repair, recall information.
17. Material Safety Data Sheets Scan-able by common smart phones.
18. Medical Alert Systems Medical histories optically scan-able.
19. On-Boarding Date For IoT devices being integrated onto home networks
20. Pharmaceuticals Contraindications, usage, expiration dates, recall information
21. Pre-sales support systems Easy access to additional product information including product sheets, videos, etc. Can directly connect chat or VOIP sessions.
22. Recall processing Allows manuf. to proactively communicate with consumers regarding recalls.
23. Recycling Information Hazardous materials listings, re-claimable content.
24. Refurbishers Labeling Refurbishers contact and warranty information. New serial numbers. Consolidation of labels.
25. Service Call Records Creating extensible scan-able repair record that is attached to the product.
26. Service Center Records
27. Shipping and Receiving Labeling Consolidation of existing labels. Ability to add addition information currently only on paper. GHS GS 1 etc.
28. Small Appliances Support, warranty and recall information. Accessories, recipes.
29. Tools Data sheets, instruction videos, recall information, accessories.
30. Warehouse management Inventory and location information.
31. Warranty Management Automated registration and RMA administration.
There are many more potential applications. Every time we discuss the concept with people or companies, they come up with new ideas. The protocol is scalable. There are no practical limits to the number of field names… after all, it is a dictionary.
Please contact us if you have ideas or questions related to SQRL codes. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
RLA Standards Committee