The simple one-dimensional barcode has become so familiar to us on almost every product we purchase these days, with the possible exception of fresh vegetables. It seems every retail operation – even small, independent shops – now relies on barcodes to operate their registers.

But certain companies are pushing the technology into exciting new areas, with the promise of even more to come. This post gives an overview of one of the many unusual and creative applications for barcode technology we have encountered lately and about which we’ll be talking about in upcoming posts. In this post, we’ve brewed some hot tasteful subject.

How do you take your coffee?

Many of us are already familiar with the single-cup coffee and tea brewing systems. The principle behind these is fairly simple… A small plastic cup or packet holds a fixed amount of flavoured or unflavoured coffee or tea. The loose material inside is surrounded by a small paper filter. The brewing unit is designed to make two small punctures in the brewing cup and force hot water through the filtered packet inside to fill a single-serving portion in the cup you place beneath the spout.

The Tassimo company recently took this by-now familiar idea a step further. Tassimo recognized the growing popularity of specialized coffee drinks such as lattes and cappuccinos as well as the fact that people want to be able to make such drinks at home but without the expense, inconvenience, or skill required to operate a dedicated machine. So, Tassimo created what it calls its “T-Disc” system that uses a barcode printed on the top of each individual brewing cup. The brewing machine is equipped with a barcode reader that scans the information on the T-Disc in order to know precisely how much water to dispense, for how long, and at what temperature.

The result is flexibility in drink choices with little need for planning and execution by the user. Everything from a small shot of espresso to a large café mocha that combines coffee and hot chocolate can be concocted by simply letting the brewing machine read the T-Disc barcodes and following simple instructions on the machine’s display screen. Thirsty yet?

Don’t miss our upcoming blog post on unusual barcode uses: Schoolchildren: checking in and out.