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The GS1 (TZ) National Limited System originated in the United States and was established in 1973 by the Uniform Product Code Council, known until recently as the Uniform Code Council, Inc. (UCC) and since 2005 as GS1 US. The UCC originally adopted a 12-digit identification number, and the first ID numbers and bar code symbols in open trade were being scanned in 1974. Following the success of this U.P.C. System, the European Article Numbering Association, previously known as EAN International, but launched as GS1 in 2005, was established in 1977 to develop a compatible system for use outside North America. The EAN System was designed as a superset of the UCC System and principally used 13-digit numbers. As a consequence of using certain bar code symbols and data structures, the GS1 System has expanded.

The GS1 System provides for the use of unambiguous numbers to identify goods, services, assets, and locations worldwide. These numbers can be represented in bar code symbols to enable their electronic reading wherever required in business processes. The system is designed to overcome the limitations of using company, organisation, or sector specific coding systems, and to make trading much more efficient and responsive to customers.

These identification numbers are also used in Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), XML electronic messaging, Global Data Synchronization (GDSN), and GS1 Network Systems. This document provides information about syntax, assignment, allocation and Automatic Data Capture (ADC) standards for GS1 identification numbers.
In addition to providing unique identification numbers, the GS1 System provides for supplementary information, such as best before dates, serial numbers, and batch numbers, which can appear in bar code symbol form. Currently, bar code symbols are used as the data carriers, but other technologies, such as radio frequency tags are being developed within EPCglobal as carriers of GS1 data. Changes take place only after wide consultation and are subject to a significant migration period.

By following the principles and design of the GS1 System, users can design applications to process GS1 System data automatically. The system logic guarantees that data captured from GS1 endorsed bar code symbols produces unambiguous electronic messages, and processing can be fully pre-programmed.
The GS1 System is designed for use in any industry or trade sector, and any changes to the system are introduced so as not to negatively affect current users.

In February 2005, GS1 was officially launched as the successor to the organisations previously known as EAN and UCC. This document is the concise definition and explanation of the use of the GS1 System standards within Automatic Identification and Data Capture (AIDC) technologies, and supersedes all previous AIDC technical documents provided and/or published by GS1 or its predecessor organisations. The document takes immediate effect as the agreed GS1 foundational standards including Application, Identification, and Data Carrier components and principles. Every organisation using GS1 System standards is requested to conform fully to the GS1 General Specifications.

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