API Basics Retail

GS1 Digital Link: An API for Every Thing

GS1 Digital Link

Everybody “knows” GS1 because it’s the organization that standardizes the EAN/UPC barcodes that we find on pretty much every product that we buy in our supermarkets and elsewhere. These codes allow quick scanning at the checkout where the product identity then is used to look up pricing information.

GS1 Digital Link

GS1 Digital Link moves the EAN/UPC barcode into the world of APIs: It turns the EAN/UPC identifiers into URLs which can be compressed, printed as QR codes so that they can be scanned with mobile phone cameras (they can also be scanned when presented via NFC), and then can be used to retrieve product information through an HTTP API.

In this conversation with Evrythng CTO, Dom Guinard, we discuss how the GS1 Digital Link standard is designed and how organizations can leverage this new way of how customers can interact with products and retrieve product information through a standardized API.

There are three main aspects to the specification:

  • GS1 Digital Link Web Identity: Much like EAN/UPC, GS1 Digital Link is based on the general idea of product identifiers, which can be for classes of products, batches, or individual products. After deciding on which identifier type to use, it’s combined with a base URL so that it becomes a Web URL. This URL can be compressed and then can be represented as a QR code, data matrix, or can be communicated through NFC.
  • GS1 Digital Link Resolution: The URL can be accessed via HTTP and there is a standardized way of how chains of resolvers can be used to delegate resolution to other resolvers. Ultimately, there is a well-defined JSON-based format that represents which kind of information is available for the given product.
  • GS1 Digital Link Semantics: The product information itself can then be requested by applications that can use it to show information to consumers. Since the range of the available product information is very wide, there is no predefined vocabulary for how to represent product information.

Currently, we are only beginning to see the impact of GS1 Digital Link. First deployments are operational, but it will take several years for the specification to be widely understood, used, and supported.

In the full interview, you can learn more about how GS1 Digital Link works and how it can be used.


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