In 1968, David Collins, a Villanova engineer and graduate of MIT’s Sloan School of Management, founded Computer Identics Corporation (CI), the company that designed and manufactured the first laser barcode scanning system.
He had previously managed KarTrak, the rail car identification program at Sylvania/GTE that became the scanning development underpinning of all future barcode scanners. While the theory of using bar to identify things had been known for some time, no scanning technology had previously been developed to make it practical.
In 1961, barcode’s “Kitty Hawk” moment finally arrived when the first barcode scanner was installed and tested by Sylvania on the Boston & Maine Railroad. By 1967, the Association of American Railroads adopted the barcode standard of tracking across the entire rail and sea container industry.
Even back in the early 1960s, David believed that barcodes could be used for much more than just tracking railroad cars. His employer either didn’t share that vision or didn’t have the appetite for risk to pursue it, so he left Sylvania in 1968 and set out on his own, founding Computer Identics Corporation. His aim was to create a laser scanner capable of reading the small barcode labels you see everywhere today.
His initiative and hard work paid off! In 1970, Computer Identics sold the world’s first commercial laser scanner to General Motors, who used it to identify car axles on a Pontiac assembly line. That same year, Computer Identics delivered the first scanners used for package recognition, early versions of the ones now used by FedEx and UPS to deliver millions of items every day.
The retail food industry eventually adopted the use of barcodes by 1975, using laser scanners for point-of- sale price look-up and back room management. Around the world roughly 3 billion barcodes will be scanned at retail checkout counters every day and another 4 billion labels will be read for package home delivery.
David’s influence has even benefitted the world of athletics. The New York City Marathon first approached him to use barcode for scoring in the middle 70s. 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!
Following his eighteen year tenure as CEO of Computer Identics, Collins formed Data Capture Institute, a major 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, M & M Mars and the Uniform Code Council (GS1) as well as hundreds of other clients throughout 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, David 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.
From left: Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), A2B Tracking President Peter Collins, David Collins, Governor of Rhode Island Lincoln Chaffee, Representative David Cicillini (D, 1 st RI Dist.)