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Groundbreaking University Innovations

When University Innovation Changed the World: The Barcode

By January 5, 2023No Comments

Did you know that two Drexel University graduate students invented the barcode? The machine-readable code developed by Norman Woodland and Bernard Silver changed the way information is stored and accessed.

Prior to the invention of the barcode, the systems stores used to identify products were not as simple. Stores used a manual count for inventory and utilized punch cards to manage the stock. These methods were very time-consuming and could result in an error. It was in 1948 that the head of a local grocery store chain approached Drexel University in hopes of using the institution’s engineering talent to develop a way to read product data during checkout. It was then that two engineering graduate students, Woodland and Silver, developed a system that used lines and spaces to encode information. This system was the barcode, and it made the process of keeping inventory and purchasing items much easier.

The patent for the barcode was issued to Woodland and Silver in 1949. However, due to limitations in scanning technology at the time, barcodes weren’t used in stores until 1966. Today, barcodes are used in countless industries, such as retail, healthcare, grocery, and security applications.


Using barcodes reduces downtime, prevents incorrect deliveries and recalls, and provides control of tracking assets and quality information. The invention established a new category. As of 2021, the 2D barcode reader market was worth $7.03 billion and is expected to reach $11.06 billion by 2028.

University innovation has the ability to change the world. It is essential for your organization to stay on top of innovation being born out of universities. FirstIgnite can help your organization identify and partner with the specific universities, laboratories, and experts you need in order to discover the next revolutionizing innovation, like the barcode.