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Celebrating our 40th Anniversary

A history of standards

Over the past forty years, we have seen remarkable innovations take root through the hard effort of industry collaboration. With new technologies, new applications, and new industries, the impact of GS1 Standards is ever-evolving, driven by ongoing engagement with industry leaders working together to create better ways of doing business. It’s inspiring to look back over the past forty years, and particularly the last ten years, and see how far we’ve come.


3 April: Industry leaders in the United States select a single standard for product identification—the Universal Product Code symbol—over seven other options. Still in use today, the U.P.C. was the first GS1 barcode.


The Uniform Code Council (UCC) is established in the U.S. as a not-for-profit standards organization (GS1 US).

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26 June: A pack of Wrigley’s gum becomes the first product to be scanned with a GS1 barcode in a Marsh supermarket in Ohio, United States.


Based on the original GS1 barcode, a 13th digit is engineered, allowing the identification system to go global.


The European Article Numbering (EAN) Association is established as an international not-for-profit standards organization (GS1). With a head office in Brussels, Belgium, the EAN Association has 12 founding Member Organisations from European countries. Together, they launch the GS1 identification system to improve supply chain efficiency in the retail sector.


GS1 Standards expand beyond point-of-sale consumer units with ITF-14 barcodes for outer cases.


GS1 Standards expand to logistics units with GS1-128 barcodes. These barcodes include GS1 Application Identifiers, which encode more detailed product information.

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GS1 takes the first step into eBusiness with the original version of the EANCOM Manual, an international standard for Electronic Data Interchange (EDI).


The UCC (GS1 US) and EAN International (GS1) sign a cooperative agreement formalising their intent to co-manage global standards. With this agreement, GS1 has presence in 45 countries.


GS1 expands the use of GS1 Standards in the healthcare sector with the first Healthcare Collaboration Project.


SC31, the International Organization for Standardization’s committee for automatic identification and data capture standards, is launched, signifying international cooperation around the development and use of new standards.


The Auto-ID Centre at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is launched, leading to the development of the Electronic Product Code (EPC).

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Specifications for the GS1 DataBar (a reduced space symbology) are approved.


At the start of the new millennium, GS1 has presence in 90 countries.


The Global Standards Management Process (GSMP) is launched, providing a global forum for GS1 members to discuss and establish new standards-based solutions for their businesses.


GS1 forms EPCglobal and initiates the development of the EPCglobal architecture and standards.

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The GS1 DataMatrix (the first two-dimensional symbol adopted by GS1) is approved.


GS1 publishes the business message standards (using XML) and the first standard for Radio Frequency Identification (Gen2).

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The Global Data Synchronisation Network (GDSN), a global, internet-based initiative that enables trading partners to efficiently exchange product master data, is launched.


The new name for the organisation, GS1, is launched worldwide.


The World Customs Organisation and GS1 sign a Memorandum of Understanding, agreeing to support and encourage the harmonization of standards in the customs sector.

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GS1 enters the world of Business-to-Consumer (B2C) solutions. The aim is to provide open standards to link product information with consumers and businesses through mobile devices.


GS1 expands its offerings with the approval of the GS1 QR Code.


With presence in 111 countries, GS1 celebrates 40 years of the Global Language of Business.