Questions and Answers about 2D Barcodes

Everything we buy, ship, receive or track has some kind of barcode. The original linear barcode was actually patented in the 1940s. However, it didn’t become ubiquitous until the 1980s. Until the 2D barcode arrived on scene, the original barcode design had barely changed at all.

The 2D barcode is really just a more modern version of the linear barcode. Appearing most often has a black and white square on everything from letters to product packaging (called a QR code), the 2D barcode, like its linear ancestor is still readable by machines. But there is a difference: the 2D barcode includes far more information than the linear kind.

Why Are 2D Barcodes Better Than Linear Barcodes?

There are many benefits to 2D barcodes that linear barcodes and other security labels simply don’t have.

First off, 2D barcodes have built-in systems to check for any errors, thanks to their increased capacity for information. Not only that, but 2D barcodes can hold the same information in various ways. This means that even if the code is damaged, much of it is still be able to be read. A linear bar code holds very little information; information that only exists in one area of the code.

The linear barcode cannot have additional information placed on it unless it’s been manipulated in some way, such as making the lines taller or the code itself longer. This is because the information in a traditional barcode can only be read in one direction. But a 2D barcodes can be both printed and read in two directions. The more modern code can hold far more information; about 2000 characters of it, to be precise.

Where linear codes can only be read by a barcode reading machine, a 2D code can be read by any device with this capability. It can also be sent as an SMS text message between devices.

The information located in the newer 2D code can also be encrypted so that the information is not able to be copied. Not so for the linear code.

Components of the 2D Barcode

There are several types of 2D barcode, even though they all may look the same to the untrained eye. This is because these codes were meant to be read not by humans, but by machines. Of course, the QR code is likely the most well-known of them all. But all 2D codes contain similar features.

Information in a 2D barcode is actually stored in several different areas.

The alignment pattern is the part of the code located in the middle of the image. It allows the code to be read regardless of angle, surface curvature or other kind of distortion. The finder pattern can be seen in three of the four corners of a 2D code. These denote a code’s type; specifically, the fact that it is a QR code, and not another type like Aztec or Semacode.

A timing pattern is that which runs between the three square finder patterns. Its job is to provide information when the rest of the code has become distorted or damaged.

Even the blank area around it, known as the quiet zone serves a purpose. It allows for the code to be isolated from other elements that could distract a machine from reading it, such as dirt on an envelope or smudging on packaging.

2D barcodes are very convenient, as they can be placed anywhere that a traditional linear barcode can. As well, the 2D barcode can be used in much the same way as its linear counterpart for tracking virtually anything. It’s also been able to go where linear codes have not, with many businesses using the 2D code to take potential shoppers to their web sites.

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