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Identification Numbers and Check Digit Schemes


Paul Friedman
Union College

October 11, 2012
12:50 pm
Bailey Hall 201

Lunch will be served in Bailey Hall 204 at 12:25


Identification numbers are ubiquitous in today’s world. Examples that you are likely to encounter regularly include credit card numbers, International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs), product bar codes or Universal Product Codes (UPCs), bank account numbers, Social Security Numbers (SSNs), US Postal Money Order numbers, UPS tracking numbers, etc. Further, these numbers get transmitted from one party to another in many possible ways: hand-to-keyboard, scanner-to-computer, mouth-to-ear. Every time there is a transmission from sender to receiver, there is the possibility that an error is being made. Perhaps a single digit was altered, or perhaps two adjacent digits were interchanged. (Remember the campfire game of “Telephone”?) Given this, most identification numbers (but not SSNs!) include an extra digit – a so-called check digit – to help detect if an identification number has been transmitted incorrectly. In this talk, we will discuss various check digit schemes that are used to detect transmission errors – and the varying degree to which these schemes are successful in catching the most common types of errors.

For additional information, send e-mail to math@union.edu or call (518) 388-6246.
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