Do you scan a lot of barcodes? Have you noticed there are different types of barcodes? Have you ever wondered if it’s possible to identify barcode types visually? It’s not just for your knowledge. It’s a skill and may come in handy if you need to read it manually to retrieve the information embedded in there.
To identify barcodes visually, you don’t need to go in-depth into the structure of the barcode or how the data is encoded and decoded. It is easy to identify barcodes with the help of symbology or the language used for creating barcodes. This blog post will explore how you can identify different types of barcodes by just taking a look at the pattern.
What Is a Barcode?
Simply put, a barcode is a pattern of parallel lines with varying widths. They are used to embed certain data that can be read by a barcode scanner which then decodes the information using an algorithm. The patterns and lines that form a barcode represent particular characters that can be used to store certain information such as the product type, product batch and various other things. While barcodes have been in existence for several decades, a lot of innovation has taken place in the space. These days you can find one-dimensional barcodes as well as two-dimensional barcodes of several different types.
One-dimensional barcodes can pack in a limited amount of information but two-dimensional barcodes are able to pack up to 7,000 characters worth of information. A common example of a two-dimensional barcode is the QR code that’s used everywhere these days.
Different Barcode Types
While barcodes started as a one-dimensional string of lines, they have evolved into many different types over the decades. These different types of barcodes have become standards in certain industries or organisations and have led to their extensive use in particular applications. Here’s a list of some of the most common types of barcodes:
- Code 39 — This is commonly used in the healthcare and electronics industry as well as for government use. This one-dimensional barcode is capable of including all the ASCII character sets and can be as long as you want.
- Code 128 — This is a compact barcode extensively used in the packaging and shipping industries worldwide. It has an automatic switching setting.
- Universal product codes (UPC) — This is the type that is extensively used in the retail industry for labelling products.
- International article number (EAN) — This is a superset of the UPC and is used widely for labelling books.
- Data matrix — It is a two-dimensional barcode and can pack in a large amount of information. It is typically used in the healthcare, manufacturing and electronics industry.
- Quick response code (QR code) — This is a two-dimensional barcode that is bigger in size than a data matrix and is often used in digital marketing.
Ways to Identify Barcode Types Visually
- UPC/EAN — These barcodes have a pair of narrow bars at the beginning and this pair has a narrow space between them. The 13 digit version of this barcode has an identical pair at the beginning and the end.
- Code 39 — This has a pattern of narrow and white bars which follows the format NNWWWN where W stands for wide and N for narrow.
- GS1 – 128 — This is a bit complicated as there are 3 possible character sets. However, all these 3 sets have a common pattern which is in the form of 2 wide bars flanking a narrow bar pattern.
- Data Matrix — This barcode has a narrow track that is made up of a solid dark line on two adjacent sides and there is also a clock track that has alternating light and dark elements on the opposite adjacent sides.
- QR Code — It is easily identified as there are always 3 corners that have a dark square within a dark frame.
- Databar — This can be identified by its use of a single narrow start and stop bar.
It is estimated that there are at least 30 major different types/formats of barcodes that are widely used today. These include linear alphanumeric, leaner numeric and two-dimensional designs. Each of these types has its own advantages and limitations which makes them ideal for use in particular applications. If you are launching a new product or searching for ways to incorporate barcodes for better inventory management, talk to the barcode experts at ASP Microcomputers.
Best Barcode Scanners for Your Business
If you are planning to acquire barcode scanners for your business and want to understand the advantages of different types, talk to the barcode experts at ASP. Here at ASP Microcomputers, we offer a huge range of barcode scanners, inventory management solutions, asset tracking solutions and a lot more.