David Jarrett Collins

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David Jarrett Collins
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Born (1936-02-11) February 11, 1936 (age 88)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
CitizenshipUnited States Of America
Alma mater
  • La Salle College High School
  • Villanova University
  • Inventor
  • Businessman
  • Walton Robert Collins (father)
  • Margaret Missett Collins (mother)

David Jarrett Collins (February 11, 1936) is an inventor and businessman who is frequently called the “father” of the barcode industry for his pioneering work in bringing barcode technology into the mainstream. David has had an enormous impact on worldwide commerce, industry and government processes.


David Jarrett Collins was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His parents were Walton Robert Collins and Margaret Missett Collins. He attended La Salle College High School, graduating in 1953, and graduated from Villanova University in 1957 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering. He also received his Master of Science in Industrial Management from MIT's MIT Sloan School of Management in 1959. He additionally studied Mathematical Economics at Boston College.


While studying Civil Engineering at Villanova University, Collins took a summer job with the Pennsylvania Railroad where he noticed that the railroad’s punch-card system for daily tracking of rolling stock was prone to errors, and he recognized the need for automatic identification. Immediately after graduation from MIT, Collins began working for Sylvania Electric Products (Sylvania) in Waltham, MA. He worked for Sylvania from 1959 - 1968 and rose to Vice President, Sylvania Rail Data Corporation. While at Sylvania, he managed the development of the first commercial linear barcode: KarTrak, for Automatic Car Identification (ACI) as it became known in the industry. KarTrak used blue and red reflective stripes, as well as black and white stripes attached to the side of the cars, encoding a six-digit company identifier and a four-digit car number. White light reflected off the colored stripes and was read by photomultiplier vacuum tubes and decoded by digital logic at the scanner.

In 1961, this first barcode scanner was installed and tested by Sylvania on the Boston & Maine Railroad. By 1967, the Association of American Railroads adopted this barcode standard of tracking across the entire North American rail and sea container industry. That same year, Collins approached management seeking funding to develop a black and white label scanning version that could be used in multiple industries. They declined, and Collins left Sylvania to start Computer Identics Corporation[1] with a goal of creating a laser scanner capable of reading the small barcode labels seen everywhere today. He served as President and CEO from 1968 - 1987, taking the company public in 1983.

In 1970, Computer Identics sold the world’s first commercial laser scanner to General Motors, who used it to identify and record car components on a Pontiac assembly line. That same year Computer Identics installed scanners and a Digital PDP-8 computer at a General Trading Company plant in Carlstadt, NJ to track and assemble grocery orders. It scanned boxes on a conveyer belt so they could be diverted to the appropriate loading dock. In 1971, the AIM trade association (Automatic Identification Manufacturers) was formed by four charter members: Computer Identics, Identicon, 3M and MEKontrol[2]. That same year, Computer Identics delivered the first scanners used for package recognition, early versions of the ones now used by FedEx and United Parcel Service (UPS) to deliver millions of items every day. In 1973, the grocery industry experimented with five different labeling technologies: bar codes, matrix codes, pie chart codes, fluorescing ink, and magnetic stripes. Ultimately, bar codes were selected as they were the most flexible. Products could be scanned from various angles and distances. Additionally, packaging could be a variety of shapes and ordinary ink could be used[3]. The retail food industry adopted the use of barcodes by 1975, using laser scanners for point-of- sale price look-up and back room management. According to Brussels-based GS1, which maintains international UPC standards, the average number of daily scans is more than 5 billion[4].

Collins' influence has also benefitted the military and the world of athletics. In 1981, the Pentagon began requiring bar codes on all supplies sold to the military. Today, the military uses barcodes for asset management, identity management, supply chain and logistics, commissary and exchange management and maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) operations[5]. The New York City Marathon first approached him to use barcode for scoring in 1977. At the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, for the first time ever, organizers used Computer Identics scanners to read barcodes printed on the badges of every athlete, journalist, and staff member. This enhanced security feature was so successful that even the most recent Olympic events used badges with barcodes for identification. Also in 1984, Computer Identics developed Mac-Barcode® Software, the first WYSIWYG barcode label composition software, for the newly introduced Apple Inc..

Following his eighteen year tenure as CEO of Computer Identics, Collins formed Data Capture Institute, a research and consulting firm specializing in automatic identification technology. There he and his associates have provided system design and support to major clients including the Federal Aviation Administration, Mars, Incorporated and the Uniform Code Council (GS1) as well as hundreds of other clients around the world. In his work for GS1, he developed the industry standard application identifier (AI) dictionary that classifies data collection formats throughout the industrial world.

Frequently called the “father” of the barcode industry for his pioneering work in bringing barcode technology into the mainstream, Collins has had enormous impact on worldwide commerce, industry and government processes. With five patents (and more pending), he continues to roll out applications for big data, enabled by barcode and RFID data collection technologies.

Currently he provides expert witness support to legal clients who require his insight into patent infringement and other intellectual property disputes. He also serves as Chairman of the Board for A2B Tracking Solutions, of Portsmouth, RI. In 2011 David received a US Congressional Citation for his role as the “Father of the Barcode Industry” when two US Senators from Rhode Island along with the Governor and a US Representative visited the A2B offices for a barcode 50th anniversary celebration.


  • Patent #3,673,389 – “Identification and Registration System”
  • Patent #3,743,819 – “Label Reading System”
  • Patent #6,237,051 – “Asset Tracking Within and Across Enterprise Boundaries.”
  • Patent #7,639,144 – “System and Method of Validating Asset Tracking Codes”
  • Patent #8,981,905 - “Secure Asset Tracking System”


  • Author of “Using Bar Code: Why It’s Taking Over”, May 1, 1994
  • Author of “Automatic Car Identification (ACI): The key to better car utilization”, Jan 1, 1975
  • Member of the Department of Defense Integrated Product Team directing UID bar code and RFID tags to assets in the supply chain
  • Past member of the Department of Homeland Security RFID Working Group.
  • Founder and past Director of AIM Global, the Association of Automatic Identification and Mobility


  • 2014 – La Salle College High School Hall of Fame
  • 2011 - US Congressional Citation for his role as the “Father of the Barcode Industry”
  • 1993 - The J. Stanley Morehouse Memorial Award – Villanova U. School of Engineering for: "Outstanding leadership at the highest level."
  • 1992 – Richard Dilling Award

Further Reading


  1. "About David Collins | Data Capture Institute". Retrieved 2020-08-29.
  2. a2btracking. "History of Barcode". A2B Tracking Solutions. Retrieved 2020-08-29.
  3. Wood, Lamont. "INVENTOR IS LEAVING MARK ALL OVER PLACE". chicagotribune.com. Retrieved 2020-08-28.
  4. Wohlsen, Marcus (2013-04-12). "Ticker Clocks the Billions of Bar Codes Scanned Each Day". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved 2020-08-28.
  5. "Military & DOD - BarcodeFactory". www.barcodefactory.com. Retrieved 2020-08-28.

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