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Seeking a common e-commerce tongue

An e-business standards group merges with the Uniform Code Council, known for bar codes. Both seek a better method to keep track of products.

E-business standards group RosettaNet has merged with the Uniform Code Council, which administers product code standards used in the retail and grocery industries, the non-profit organizations said Monday.

RosettaNet, a consortium of high-tech companies developing Web standards for exchanging data over the Internet, will become a subsidiary of the Uniform Code Council (UCC) as a result of the merger.

Founded in 1998, RosettaNet has more than 450 members, including Intel, Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard, Oracle, Microsoft and IBM.

The UCC administers the Uniform Product Code, the basis for bar codes used by retailers to identify products and electronically track inventory. The organization, established in 1972, caters to 260,000 members that include Wal-Mart, Procter & Gamble, General Mills and Kraft Foods.

Although their constituents may be different, the groups said the merger should benefit their respective members. For instance, giant retailer and UCC member Wal-Mart sells many technology products from RosettaNet members Microsoft and HP. By merging, RosettaNet and UCC hope to build a common Web language for exchanging orders, receipts and other business documents among technology manufacturers and retailers.

RosettaNet members are also interested in new tracking technology being developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with the support of UCC, Procter & Gamble and Wal-Mart.

The new system places a microchip in a product's packaging, acting as a radio transmitter to shuttle information back and forth. The chip can keep track of a product's location and price, as well as how much of the same product is in stock. With such a system, companies could collect instantaneous inventory information, as well as potentially detect counterfeits or monitor theft.

Santa Ana, Calif.-based RosettaNet will continue to operate separately, said Chief Executive Jennifer Hamilton. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.