How Blockchain could replace GTIN, UPC, and Barcodes

Whenever you checkout at a grocery store, your cashier will scan the barcodes of your items and their prices are automatically added to the total.

The tech is rather simple. Each barcode scanned is equivalent to some unique sequence of numbers that exists as the ID of the product.

That ID (aka UPC or Universal Product Code) is used to lookup the product’s name, price, weight, and other data from the store’s local database.

Additionally, that UPC exists in the global scope as well. For example, a specific banana has the same UPC in every store across the world.

But, how can the stores know they’re not going to choose a UPC that’s already in use by apples?

How can interoperability exist between brands?

What about other products like books or shirts?

Enter, Global Trade Identification Number (GTIN).

UPC was the original, but it’s successor GTIN covers a lot more.

The GTIN standard has incorporated the International Standard Book Number (ISBN), International Standard Serial Number (ISSN), International Standard Music Number (ISMN), International Article Number (which includes the European Article Number and Japanese Article Number) and some Universal Product Codes (UPCs), into a universal number space.


In order to ensure that there are no collisions, individual brands register for a Company Prefix that they can use to denominate all products under.

Specifically, GTIN is managed by a centralized company called GS1 that approves and manages the entire GTIN database.

Blockchain was made for this

So, GTIN is a numeral based standard that requires a central trust to regulate that users don’t interfere with each other’s namespace.

In the same way that ENS allows for a trustless registrar for domain names, a blockchain solution for allowing companies to register and manage the product information within their portfolio while simultaneously preventing conflicting usage and unsanctioned modifications.

For example: if I wanted to register my product with a GTIN, I need to pay GS1 every year for the Company Prefix so I could create GTIN’s within its scope.

Instead, using blockchain, I could use my wallet to transact directly with a smart contract to create a new product GTIN as a 100% unique UUID and manage the metadata associated with it directly.

I would be able to create a product GTIN for the cost of a transaction fee, add pricing data, name, and even logistics data to the public blockchain without ever paying a middle man.

Then, I would print my products with a QR code of its blockchain address.

Graciously, I’m assuming for international tech support for QR code product scanners that interact with the blockchain, but hey we’ve switched before and we can do it again. Progress isn’t painless.


Unity Blockchain – Democracy without Dollars

What if you could instantly pull live stats about voter positions – to immediately retrieve the pro/anti numbers for any given issue or even legislation.

As a voter, I would prefer to set my positions and have the legislation check against the data in decision making rather than continually comment on everything about how I feel.

I want to mark down where I stand on gun control, birth control, minimum wage, net neutrality, war, etc almost like a voter profile instead of being considered a blank slate every time new legislation appears.

To take it further, this profile could even be used to automatically cast my vote on issues – particularly if they are simple.

The Blockchain

Blockchain technology allows us to continually maintain all of these voting profiles without the need for a centralized server system or single point of failure.

For the sake of accessibility, this platform would utilize widespread master nodes that would house the entire blockchain while smaller nodes could simply interface and signal to the master nodes – even just by using a mobile app.

The blockchain would also handle adding new voting positions as well as smart contracts – perhaps even building on top of ethereum architecture.


Voter fraud is the first issue. It’s a classic tech problem in how to preserve unique sessions. How can we truly confirm that a single voter profile is attached to a single verified voter?

The second issue is blockchain maintenance. How do we encourage the constant use of master nodes? The typical answer is to throw a cryptocurrency in the mix and call it a day, but introducing money into this will likely not be healthy. Perhaps the government itself could maintain master nodes. This position could also help resolve voter fraud.

Adding new smart contracts and new voting positions to the blockchain presents its own challenges as this would ideally be a completely democratic system, but at the same time we need to control bloat from entering the blockchain. For new positions, perhaps signals are sent from smaller nodes in unison until a consensus happens at which triggers the new position to be added. The position can then be selected in individual voter profiles.


Project REFSBO

In the same light that I built REEM, I had an idea to build a lead generating machine to capture people looking to sell their homes in order to either make a deal with them or pass along the lead to one or multiple real estate investors (REIs) for a finder’s fee.

The idea started out simple: build a landing page for a specific town/neighborhood with a simple contact form capture. The copy would position it so that users would specifically want to connect with fast-buying REIs.

I could then sell leads by quantity to local neighborhood specialists and even cause a bidding war. Though REIs prefer exclusive leads, users want to connect with multiple options so they could have a better chance at closing a deal.

This is the base outline for any lead generation engine.

But Then I Thought About It

However, I let the idea stir in my head for a while.

Eventually, a single question stood out:

“Where can I go to find a list of people who specialize in buying homes in my neighborhood?”

Why could I, as a home-seller, not take direct action in contacting people who were known to buy properties in my area?

Why did I have to rely on networks and listings and brokers and agents?

Could I not call Steve Johnson, who has a history of buying properties like mine, and try to make a deal directly with him?

Project REFSBO

So, this idea of a “directory” of REIs was born – Real Estate For Sale By Owner (REFSBO).

First and foremost, REIs could register an account and fill out a profile of who they were and the properties that they specialized in buying. They could list price range, home types, neighborhoods, contact info, and even history of deals. This is the core of the product.

From there, home-sellers could peruse and filter profiles to the ones that best fit the description of their home and directly contact the deal-maker himself.

Someone selling a 3 bedroom townhouse in Lakeview would be thrilled to find Steve Johnson, who specialized in buying townhouses in Lakeview and whose last 4 deals were 3 bedrooms.

A win-win: the home-seller finds their best chance and REIs have leads contact them directly.

From there, featured listings, pro features, and even pay-per contact are all ways to monetize off REIs.

I haven’t found the time yet to build a prototype, though I’d expect it would only take a weekend.

Comment below or contact me if you’re interested in the project!