UPC barcode labels were invented in the late 1940s but didn't really gain momentum until the early 1970s when grocery stores started using barcode labels to make the checkout process speedier. Soon every industry from retail to rental cars and chemistry labs to railroad stations were using barcode labels to keep track of their items.

It wasn't long before some disadvantages of the barcode labels started to reveal themselves. Since stores and companies depended so heavily on the information tracking of the barcode labels, every time an item was added or removed, the barcode labels had to be scanned. Also a special person had to be hired just to devise, track, and update the numbers on the barcode labels. This proved to be an unpleasant expense of barcode labels for some businesses. Also the technology of the barcode labels didn't keep up with the population and long lines are still a problem since all barcode labels on every product need to be scanned before purchase.

It is now believed that radio frequency identification (RFID) tags may be the future of retail product tracking and will someday replace UPC barcode labels. RFID tags, also called smart labels, can "talk" to a network and let the system know when you pick up something to buy and place it in your carriage. No more lines, no more waiting that is so common with the old barcode labels. Unfortunately the day of RFIDs replacing barcode labels in still far in the future due to the expense and limited range of the RFID tags available today. So for the time being the UPS barcode labels that we have come to know will have to keep on working for us.

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