12N SmartQR Labels: The Reverse Logistics Association has released new protocols that optimize the amount of information that can be included in a QR code label—up to 4000 characters with multiple fields. Essentially it composes a data dictionary and a standardized protocol for parsing multiple fields in a single label. Today, except for proprietary systems that are field-length, each label contains only one field of information. Our protocols are ANSI-approved and under evaluation for adoption by other standards bodies, as well as by many major corporations.
Labeling Standards: Smart QR Code for Reverse Logistics
What They Are
The RLA Standards Committee has established a new label that is designed to be printed directly onto products in order to expedite Reverse Logistics processes for Returns, Repair, Refurbishing and Recycling. It is created to provide additional information to logistics professionals, consumers, field service personnel and recyclers. It is to be placed directly on the product so that the information is always available.
We are starting with a QR code format which has a capacity sufficient for the required data and is scanable by most smart phones worldwide. Bar codes are great for forward logistics but lack the capacity to do much more. Regardless, our protocols could be employed as a bar code. RFID and other emerging technologies will also be supported. The primary focus of our protocols is to allow for a consolidation of information in one label what will become recognizable as the place to look.
The fields defined in the RLA Label Standard are those deemed important to consumers, logistic professionals, field service personnel and recyclers. Each manufacturer determines which fields of data are pertinent to their product. The manufacturer also has the option to make the information available to consumers, only to logistics professionals, or encrypted for internal use.
The information conveyed to consumers could include: product model and serial numbers, links to product documentation, links to warranty registrations, links to product support or recycling (end-of-life management) information.
Information conveyed to professionals or field service personnel could include product data sheets, product configuration information, hazardous materials, various standards compliance information and installation guides. A listing of hazardous materials would be most useful for the recycling industry, and we envision that eventually geo-tagging will facilitate accurate disposal directions direct to consumer smart phones.
In each case, the label produced by this process will be readable by most professional scanners and by most smart phone scanning applications. The formatting of the data will require special code. The first field of the label will direct consumers to links to download free formatters. As the labels become more ubiquitous most scanners will be adapted.
Recently, these protocols were adopted as an ANSI/ISO standard: MH10.8.2.11N. With the Data Identifier (DI) 11N, all commercial scanners which follow the ISO standards for Material Handling in the MHI standards will recognize our protocols. Consumer-based readers will be available to read the encoded data as well. Instructions for creating and managing Sqrl codes are to be found in these pages.
How to Use Them
Each manufacturer must select from the listing of fields which fields they wish to include in the label.Some of these may be generic for all of their products, such as Company name or Company URL, or links to Product Registration or Extended Warranties. Others may be specific to each product, such as a serial number or a link to the product documentation or an installation video. It is assumed that the manufacturer has technology to print labels onto their products and to individually serialize products in sync with the labels. (If not, we can make some recommendations.) It is further assumed the manufacturer has the technology to generate the label (either as a QR code or other technology). There are no fees or royalties to manufacturers of hardware products to use the RL Labeling Codes. The RLA has created tools that will generate appropriate labels in camera-ready format. These tools will enable manufacturers to create labels and proprietary fields that are continually synchronized and updated. The licensing of these tools is optional, but recommended. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
Restrictions on Usage
The RL Label Code is copyrighted by the Reverse Logistics Assoication. We have established a process for modifying the fields that is open to any professional inputs. We retain the exclusive rights to modify or upgrade the list of fields. It is deemed to be fair use for any manufacturer of hardware products of any nature to create labels that use our schema for their internal use on products that they produce or cause to be produced. It is also considered to be fair use for any product refurbisher or system integrator to create a label using this schema that supplements or replaces and original manufacturers information, providing that any such secondary labeling be clearly distinguishable from the label of the original manufacturer and in no manner appear to deceive or misdirect. It is not considered fair use to create a generalized tool to create labels using the RL Label schema that is marketed as a tool for creating labels.
Requesting Additional Fields/Codes
There is logical space for an infinite number of fields. This is essentially a data dictionary. We are beginning with about 200 defined fields. Specific industries will from time to time identify missing fields. There are also five manufacturer's proprietary fields in the current standard. More will be provided if required. However, the RLA Standards Committee envisions this standard to be dynamic and is open to suggestions for fields that would be of general interest to industries or product groups.
Initially, the fields should pertain to product return, repair, refurbishing or recycling, though fields related to other aspect of a product life-cycle, including forward logistics are relevant. The protocol will also be useful for other groups, such as forward logistics, sales, marketing and customer support. For example, links may be provided for the sale of extended warranties or accessory products.
There is a form at the bottom of the page listing current Field Identifiers that is to be used to submit recommendations for additional fields. Generally speaking, all legitimate requests that would relate to more than one company will be accepted. After all, this is a dictionary, and can be as long as necessary. The RLA retains the right to final approval and field designator identification. Appeals are permitted to the board of directors of the Reverse Logistics Association.
Tools for Creating RL Codes
Producing labels that conform to the standard requires some technical discipline. The RLA is producing a tool to facilitate the process, while assuring technical compliance with the standard. The Label Creation Tool can be accessed via the internet using most browsers (e.g., Internet Explorer, Chrome). The tool produces custom labels for each product in camera-ready format. Manufacturers may, of course, produce their own labeling production system. Preferences and defaults can be set to avoid repetitious entry of data on multiple labels, specify which fields the manufacturer always wishes to include, specify which fields the manufacturer usually wishes to include, specify default values (e.g. manufacturer's name), etc.
The tool works by first providing a menu of potential fields. The manufacturer selects the fields desired and populates them with the product-related data. Since the amount of data that can be stored in a label is often restricted by the quality of printing and scanning devices, the tool also warns the manufacturer if their label needs to be printed in a larger size.
The manufacturer determines which fields are visible to consumers, which fields are visible to Professionals and which are proprietary and must be encrypted. Encrypted information requires a special version of the reader as well as a subscription to RLA's Restricted Access Manager.