Unique Identifier (UID)

What is it? 

A unique identifier (UID) is a numeric or alphanumeric string related to a certain entity within a system. This allows for access to the entity and interaction with it. 

UIDs can be allocated to any entity that needs to be differentiated from others. These include individual users, companies, machines, and websites. A unique identifier is typically appointed by considering the demands of the application. However, it can also be autogenerated with an algorithm. 

How does it work? 

For instance, UIDs are utilized when users sign up for a website. They are granted a username or user ID to be distinguished from other user logs. In a database or spreadsheet, unique identifiers can be represented by a particular field and column to simplify sorting and filtering through information. 

In the context of the supply chain, UIDs (serial numbers) are assigned to pieces of a bigger component or the entire asset. This helps to identify the product’s origin in the event of issues. The healthcare sector benefits from UIDs as well. A patient’s name can be replaced with a personal code, facilitating privacy and mitigating the chances of duplicate reports. 

UID examples 

  • Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) making Internet content addressable 
  • Uniform Resource Locator (URL), a URI type that targets web pages 
  • Universal Unique Identifier (UUID) identifying some object or entity on the Internet 
  • Global Unique Identifier (GUID) used by Microsoft for entities like a Word document 
  • Bank Identifier Code (BIC), a unique identifier for a particular financial institution 
  • Unique Device Identifier (UDID) assigned to Apple devices such as iPhone or iPad 
  • Service Set Identifier (SSID), which uniquely names a wireless local area network 
  • National Provider Identifier (NPI) required for all healthcare providers in the US 
  • MAC address, a computer’s hardware number in a local area network
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