Digimarc Corp., the inventor of the Digimarc Discover platform featuring the Digimarc Barcode for automatically identifying and interacting with virtually any media, announces its software is now included in a mobile app developed by Rockfish that gives Walmart suppliers instant access to inventory information via their smartphones.

The SP*, or Supplier Portal Allowing Retail Coverage (SPARC), smartphone app delivers real-time product inventory data directly to Walmart suppliers, providing an overview of what products are on store shelves and in the backroom at any given time. With this insight, CPG suppliers from the “billion dollar club” and small/medium companies alike — and the retail service companies that represent these leading brands and thousands of other suppliers — are better able to make informed decisions about the on-shelf availability (OSA) of products at the store level to meet consumer demand.

The Digimarc Discover mobile software development kit (SDK) allowed engineers at Rockfish, a leading provider of interactive solutions and a longtime Walmart vendor, to deliver better performance, new functionality and more overall utility in the latest version of its popular SPARC app. The Digimarc SDK includes several proprietary optimizations that vastly improve scanning of the traditional 1D consumer barcodes most commonly used at retail, including scanning at greater angles and getting faster, more accurate responses from challenging distorted or damaged barcodes compared with competing technologies. By leveraging the SDK, SPARC now allows supplier representatives using a common smartphone camera to more swiftly and efficiently check inventory levels in-aisle with Digimarc’s best-in-class 1D barcode scanner, and benefit from the capability to detect invisible Digimarc Barcodes on enabled product packages.

Digimarc Barcodes carry the same GTIN product data in traditional UPC/EAN consumer barcodes and, because they are invisible to consumers, can be replicated across the entire surface of a package — all without noticeably altering the design aesthetics. Digimarc Barcodes make every part of the package readable, eliminating the time-intensive need to remove products from the shelf and carefully align the camera on traditional barcodes, which are frequently printed on the back or bottom of boxes. That inventory process is repeated countless times daily at more than 5,000 Walmart-operated stores and clubs nationwide, and the SPARC app powered by Digimarc has huge potential for cost reduction through time savings as well as minimizing repetitive stress injuries, related downtime and expense.

“Consumer brands, and their retail servicing providers and outsourced inventory management partners, need fast and accurate information to plan and schedule product shipments,” says Bill Akins, senior vice president of business innovation at Rockfish. “Time is costly for our users, and now with easier, faster scanning we are delivering an app that makes a big difference to the bottom line when it is more important than ever for retail reps to achieve more tasks in shorter periods of time.”

Rockfish serves dozens of Fortune 500 brands with the SPARC app, which has 48,000 active users.

“Our customers seek any advantage to enable a more efficient supply chain, and as Digimarc Barcodes increasingly find their way into more retail stores and onto more product packaging, it only made sense for us to integrate detection into the SPARC app,” Akins says. “The fact that Digimarc’s SDK also provides a fantastic 1D barcode scanner made it an easy decision. Walmart suppliers will find the app easier to use right out of the gate with productivity only going up from there.”

The partnership between Rockfish and Digimarc benefits thousands of consumer brands that rely on the app to ensure peak product availability.

“SPARC is an important innovation in inventory and supply management, and we’re excited to contribute to improving the value of the app for Walmart and its supplier brands,” says Sean Calhoon, vice president of product management at Digimarc. “We believe the integration of Digimarc Barcode detection helps future-proof the SPARC app for increasing and widespread use of Digimarc Barcodes. SPARC users will enjoy the best barcode scanner available now, and they will quickly realize the additional value that Digimarc Barcodes provide when users experience the speed and efficiency compared with traditional barcodes.”

In addition to inventory management advantages, Digimarc Barcodes create an entirely new marketing channel for engagement with product packaging, giving shoppers mobile access to interactive content including product information and special offers. As a result, major brands and retailers are undergoing adoption of the Digimarc Discover platform for the ability to create packaging that sells by communicating directly to and building digital relationships with customers at the point of purchase and at home after the sale. That digital dialogue generates a wealth of new consumption data that can further inform inventory management and retail servicing for maximum on-shelf availability.

“The relationship between retailers and their suppliers has evolved, and shared data — and the insight it provides — is critically important,” Rockfish’s Akins says. “The SPARC app delivers information for suppliers almost instantly, and with the addition of Digimarc’s impressive capabilities the app is now more powerful than ever.”