GS1, the standards organization responsible for barcodes and the Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN), among other things, is working to extend the standards used for the identification of goods in the brick and mortar retail world into the web realm. As part of an overall conversation with its retail industry members about focusing more broadly on the digital space, it’s exploring how GS1 systems and standards fit into the semantic web.
What we call the UPC code in North America – and the GTIN (Global Trade Identification Network) code elsewhere – is a key part of the discussion. “The interesting thing is that the schema.org folks did some work to show how the GS1 system could be represented in their schemas,” says Bernie Hogan, Senior Vice President, Emerging Capabilities and Industries, who is spearheading GS1 US’s work in the online space. The schema.org/Product properties include quantitative values based on GTIN codes . “We started looking at that and started asking how we can build upon it.” (Barbara Starr’s recent SearchEngineLand column provides insight into the benefits today of using GS1 identifiers and structured data, including semantic markup on websites, for e-commerce.)
Today, GS1 US’s B2C Alliance now is working with its community to test some of the concepts around embedding the GS1 system in the web, and how that may positively or negatively impact how retailers’ and brand owners’ products are seen by search engines, says Hogan. “Everything with a unique identifier on the web is merging with Linked Open Data, and that gets pretty interesting, so we are working on a strategy to learn how we can fit into this whole thing,” he says, with the help of the GS1 Auto ID Labs research arm. “We ultimately want to make some standards recommendations, but first we are going through the process of testing and getting consensus and doing some research on how that might be done. But it is all about improving search and relevance for identifying products and finding related information.”