Barcodes don’t usually contain descriptive data. The data in a barcode is typically just a reference number which the host database uses to look up the desired information. For example, barcodes found on items at the grocery store do not display an item's description or price when the UPC barcode is scanned. That number instead is associated to a record in the store’s database that holds that information. Scanning the barcode tells the system to look up and return the requested information.
This technology has been around since the early 1950’s, and since then, many different barcode symbologies have been created. Symbologies are like languages. Each one with its own rules and features. Some require a specific number of characters, some allow only numbers, and others can include the full character set. “Linear” or 1D (1-dimensional) barcodes are usually a license plate or identifier for an item in a database. “Matrix” or 2D (2-dimensional) barcodes can hold more information and can potentially contain the data itself.
Some common symbologies are:
- Code 128 is a highly dense 1D barcode which can utilize any character in the ASCII 128 character set.
- Code 39 (also referred to as 3 of 9) allows the use of digits and characters. It is widely used in many industries and is standard for many government barcode specifications. This is a common barcode font that can then be used in reports or standard office applications including word and excel.
- ITF (Interleaved 2 of 5, ITF-14) is used to identify packing level of products. ITF-14 is a UPC Shipping Container Symbol to mark cartons cases or pallets that contain products that have a UPC or EAN product identification number.
- UPC and EAN are used on consumer goods at the point of sale. The barcode identifies the manufacturer and the specific product. The Manufacturer ID number is controlled by the Uniform Code Council. You do not need a UPC number to track inventory internally or sell product direct to your customer.
- UCC/EAN-128 is used to encode shipping/product information. This barcode uses normal Code 128 barcodes, but formats the data in a standardized way to identify the type of information contained in the barcode. Code 128 includes four special control codes named FNC1 through FNC4
- PDF417 is a 2D barcode ideal in applications when data must travel with the labeled item and the host database is not available. Examples include hazardous material labeling, personal ID, or technical specifications.
- DataMatrix is a 2D barcode which stores 1 to about 2000 characters. Because of the small footprint, it is an ideal option when a small label size is required or to encode larger amounts of data.
These various symbologies may appear different from each other.
Barcode systems are a critical element in conducting business in today's economy. The adoption of barcode technology provides more accurate data capture than keyboard entry. Realize true efficiency with the ability to quickly access and display critical information with a simple scan of a barcode.
Panatrack specializes in applications for rugged mobile computers with integrated barcode scanning to streamline business operations.