The first barcode patent was issued 60 years ago in 1952, but they didn’t get used commercially until the 1970’s; going on to become the defacto method of stock control for retailers the world over and transforming the retail shopping experience in the process.
Barcodes contain information which has been generated using a barcode font to provide a symbolic and encoded representation of a number, text, or a series of numbers and words/text which can be decoded by – depending on the type of barcode – computers, optical scanning devices and apps on smartphones/tablets.
There are lots of different barcodes – Two-Dimensional for large volumes, printer based, numeric only, alpha numeric, postal, OCR fonts, etc.
|Codabar:||Older code often used in library systems, sometimes in blood banks|
|Code 11:||Used primarily for labelling telecommunications equipment|
|EAN-13:||European Article Numbering international retail product code|
|EAN-8:||Compressed version of EAN code for use on small products|
|Industrial 2 of 5:||Older code not in common use|
|Interleaved 2 of 5:||Compact numeric code, widely used in industry, air cargo|
|MSI:||Variation of the Plessey code commonly used in USA|
|Plessey:||Older code commonly used for retail shelf marking|
|PostNet:||Used by U.S. Postal Service for automated mail sorting|
|UPC-A:||Universal product code seen on almost all retail products in the USA and Canada|
|Standard 2 of 5:||Older code not in common use|
|UPC-E:||Compressed version of UPC code for use on small products|
|Code 128:||Very capable code, excellent density, high reliability; in very wide use world-wide|
|Code 39:||General-purpose code in very wide use world-wide|
|Code 93:||Compact code similar to Code 39|
|LOGMARS:||Same as Code 39, this is the U.S. Government specification|
|PDF417:||Excellent for encoding large amounts of data|
|DataMatrix:||Can hold large amounts of data, especially suited for making very small codes|
|Maxicode:||Fixed length, used by United Parcel Service for automated package sorting|
|QR Code:||Used for material control, order confirmation and for marketing – see below|
|Code 49||Developed 1987 at the Intermec Corporation to fill a need to pack a lot of information into a very small symbol|
|16K||Stacked barcodes which encode characters using a reverse video version of Code 128|
QR codes are growing in popularity and are frequently found on consumer advertising/packaging and business cards. Their popularity as a consumer marketing tool is rapidly increasing, thanks to smart phones – a scanner in your pocket
QR codes are 2-dimensional codes, so have a large storage capacity when compared with the numeric only UPC barcodes. They were developed by the car industry to track vehicles during the manufacturing process and ensure that data could be decoded very quickly.
These codes are very resilient. They permit a high degree of image corruption and retain the integrity of the data better. Somewhere in the region of 30% of a QR code can be damaged without the data being lost.
This leniency is an advantage for marketing organisations; they are able to place their logo, brand and website in a QR code without rendering it useless. As a result, the QR code has become a focus in advertising strategy. They are convenient for the consumer to scan and directly connect potential customers with the advertiser’s website.
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