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Using QR-codes or Datamatrix

posted Nov 18, 2010, 9:16 AM by Francois Tricot   [ updated Nov 18, 2010, 2:18 PM ]

Bloodhound technology

In U.S.A., we now sell a product known as "Vectra", which is a veterinary exclusive flea and ticks product, competing on the biggest animal health market (U.S.A.) and against the biggest animal health product range : fleas and ticks product (lead by Merial with Frontline).

However, on this market, OTC / Internet is a real threat to the vet exclusive strategy SummitVetPharm (our recently acquired new subsidiary) set-up.
Then they implemented an anti-diversion agreement, which requires the clients not to sell the products on the Internet, and a tracking technology, called Bloodhound to be able to find who did not respect the agreement if they find a product on a web site.

This is technically speaking a very simple solution. It involves some IT but not too much.

It involves the Datamatrix technology, which is a 2D barcode technology. Each box is uniquely identified by a 2D barcode.

This is an example of such a code :

This is how it appears on a box :

The unique number behind it is composed of :
  • The lot number 0427300
  • The SKU (Single Keeping Unit) number : 10026
  • A unique number (000164197 in this case)
Then the unique number is 0427300100206000164197

This is the way it works
  • When a product is manufactured, it is put in a packaging having this unique number on it
  • The manufacturers ships the product in cartons of 12 products. It add a unique code on the carton as well
  • Using EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) message, the manufacturer send us a file with the correspondance between the unique code of the carton and the 12 uniques codes of the products
  • The product is then shipped as is from our warehouse to a distributor warehouse. At this step, the warehouse sends us an EDI message with the cartons that have been shipped.
  • The distributor sell the cartons. It send us an EDI message with the cartons that have been shipped and the client names
If we find one of our products on the Internet, then we just have to buy it, scan the datamatrix code, and check in our files to whom it has been sold and implement appropriate actions.

QR Codes

A QR Code is a matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code), readable by QR scanners, mobile phones with a camera, and smartphones. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on white background. The information encoded can be text, URL or other data.

Common in Japan, where it was created by Toyota subsidiary Denso-Wave in 1994, the QR code is one of the most popular types of two-dimensional barcodes. QR is the acronym for Quick Response, as the creator intended the code to allow its contents to be decoded at high speed.

On Blackberry, Android phones, iPhone phones, Nokia Symbian phones, one can download an application that allows to read this codes.
If the code is a web address, then the smarphone proposes to follow the link.

Potential applications for us

QR-codes are more and more popular. For instance, in Bordeaux, QR-codes have been put on touristic places that links to web sites telling the Bordeaux history.

French law make it mandatory from January 2011 to print a datamatrix code including the following information :
  • the new CIP 13 standardized GS1 code,
  • a batch number
  • the medicine expiry date
If we use the same principle, we can use QR-codes for several purposes :
  • Create rich content on the Internet such as and put the code on the product packaging or on brochures. We would encode the web address on the code.
  • Bloodhound technology as implemented now. We encode a unique number in the code
  • Enhanced bkoddhound technology in which instead of encode a unique code, we would encode a unique web address that would go to a unique page with the product tracking information
Let's build on this latest opportunity :

We have to define the structure of the web addresses. This could be an example : where 0427300100206000164197 is the unique number of the product
This give us this result :

Encoding this code gives this result : (click on it to see the result or use your Blackberry/iPhone/Android/Nokia barcode reader)

The web page indicated by the code could be a very simple web page including :
  • The product designation
  • Links to information related to the product
  • Shelf life (expiry date)
  • Date when the product has been manufactured
  • Distributor it has been sold to
  • Veterinary clinic it has been sold to
Anyone having bought the box could then be able to
  • verify if the product is counterfeit or not
  • check information related to the product itself
  • check if the product / lot is under a recall procedure. We would just ask the clients to scan the QR-code and follow the web address on which we would put the information : "please don't use the product, follow this procedure ..."
And this just require a smartphone. No barcode reader, no specific and expensive device.

Generate your own QR-code

It is very easy to generate yourself a QR-code or a datamatrix.
For example anyone can use the Nokia site