GS1 and Deakin University partner on iPhone App for allergy sufferers

GS1 iPhone App

Barcode administrator GS1 Australia has teamed up with Deakin University and Nestlé to develop an iPhone application that will shortly give allergy sufferers the ability to scan supermarket barcodes to determine what they can safely eat.

Information about potentially risky substances such as wheat, eggs, peanuts and shellfish is often found on product labels — but Deakin A/Prof Caroline Chan pointed out the information was sometimes so small consumers could barely read it — let alone understand it.

In contrast, product barcodes are universal keys that often provide detailed product information such as weights, volumes, packaging material and price — but their use is currently limited to supermarket inventory control and to settle purchases at the cash register.

“We wanted to really harness all this information on the bar-coding system and team it up with detailed product information provided by Nestlé to give consumers a tool that had the potential to improve their health and raise public awareness,” said Chan.

GS1 Australia is the non-profit organisation that administers the GS1 system — a global standard for barcodes that facilitates international trading — in Australia.

GS1 chief information officer Steven Pereira said the group had recently taken responsibility for development of the App and was currently working to make it compatible with Apple’s iPhone user interface guidelines so that it can be listed in the Apple App Store. It has commissioned an iPhone design specialist to assist with the task.

The App will see new fields added to GS1’s barcode database, which manufacturers will populate with product information about their offerings with Nestlé being the first trial cab off the rank.

The manufacturers often had the information available in their own systems anyway, said Pereira, as they were required to do so under food standards regulations.

The allergy application is also seen as the first stage in GS1’s strategy to extend its mobile offerings — Pereira also sees potential to add other information to the group’s product database — nutritional information for example, or the carbon footprint of certain products. And the group is also planning to extend its offering to other mobile phone platforms.

Globally, GS1 is looking into adjacent offerings such as electronic coupons that could be delivered by supermarkets in-store via mobile platforms.

Pereira agreed the sorts of solutions of which the iPhone App is an example were able to come about because of GS1’s position as a non-profit working with multiple manufacturers to pool their data — there’s no commercial agenda. The group is also working, for example, on similar applications of its data with the Department of Health and Ageing to help address obesity concerns.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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