1D barcodes versus 2D barcodes
When barcodes were first introduced to the retail environment in 1974, they started out as 1D (one dimensional). As the years have passed, technology has developed and advanced at a very fast pace. New formats have been created and new uses for standard formats have been discovered. In these modern times, we are moving away from 1D barcodes towards the more complex and more useful 2D barcodes.
So what is the difference between these two you may ask? One dimensional are also called linear barcodes, they were the first format to ever be used. They have vertical lines with different widths and gaps between these lines. They are found mostly on groceries and other common products that consumers buy such as televisions or dog food. These include the most common UPC and EAN that are used in America as well as throughout the world, including South Africa. If you are not too familiar with barcodes and the many different formats that there are these would automatically be the picture you would see in your mind when someone refers to barcodes as we see them everyday when doing our grocery shopping.
Although the most commonly used format, 1D are only able to store a few characters and are thus, not as versatile, and useful as the more advanced 2D barcodes. Some 1D are longer or shorter but they are normally between 8 and 15 characters long. For example, the EAN-13 format is 13 digits long which is the format that the majority of retail stores use, however, there is also one called the EAN-8, which is only 8 digits long, this is suited to small products. They are usually scanned with the common handheld scanner or the laser scanners installed at till points. These scanners do not need to be in direct physical contact with the barcodes in order to scan them. However, it does need to be within a few centimetres. This allows for quick scanning which is what is needed in retail stores at the point of sale. This is exactly why linear barcodes, the UPC format to be more precise, were invented in the first place, to be used in retail in order to see more customers on a daily basis. Before these were created each and every product in a store had a sticker on with the price, once you got to the teller to pay for your goods, they would have the manually ring each product’s price up manually on the till. This took up a lot of time and resulted in less customers being seen on a daily basis, and not only that it left a lot of room for human error and miss charging resulting in profit loss. But all of that is a thing of the past and now we look back and wonder how anyone ever coped without barcodes, am I right? Let us look at the newer formats.
Two-dimensional barcodes can be squares or sometimes rectangular and consist of a lot of individual dots, they do not have the linear lines such as the 1D codes. Each individual two dimensional code can store a very large amount of information. They can actually store up to 2000 characters. This data is stored in both the horizontal and the vertical patterns on the barcodes themselves. This makes it much more useful than the original 1D. In addition to this, 2D barcodes are able to be made smaller or larger and they will still be able to be scanned, so you do not have such strict size limitations as you do with the older formats. With linear barcodes the smallest size you can go is 30x20mm, any smaller than that and your codes can be rejected by your retailer as it could have a low resolution and could cause difficulty with scanning. The way that these work is by using patterns of squares, hexagons, dots, and some other shapes to store the data required. 2D do not only store alphanumeric data, but they are also able to store images, voice, and other types of data such as websites. This gives them a broad scale of what they can be used for. An example of this is the QR code short for quick response code which is being used in retailers throughout the world to market their businesses and broadcast information regarding ongoing promotions or specials. QR codes are also used in payment applications that allow customers to pay via their smartphones so that they do not have to carry any cards or cash with them, you may notice a card such as the one below displayed in stores by the till, which you can scan to complete an immediate online payment without the exchange of cards or cash, this is also great with the global Covid-19 pandemic as there is no exchanging you just scan the code with your smartphone.
In order for most to be scanned, it is necessary to use a 2D scanner. These scanners are able to scan from around one metre away. They can also be designed like the common handheld scanner and can be cordless if required. The best option is to have a 2D scanner which can also scan 1D, making it a far more versatile scanner. There are some that do not require a 2D scanner in order to be scanned, instead they can be scanned by specific smartphone apps. Do yourself a favour and have a look on the app store on your phone at all the different scanner apps that are available, this is such a handy tool to have.
If we have piqued your interest and you would like to continue researching about different formats and uses, have a pop onto our website and read through our numerous articles relating to barcodes and technology. We continue to bring the newest and updated information to you. All these can be purchased online from reputable resellers at a very affordable rate, we have all this information on hand for you at buybarcodessouthafrica.co.za