Types of Barcodes and Standards

The Most Common Types of Barcodes and Standards 

If you are looking for a way to track inventory across multiple locations or a massive supply chain, you have probably thought about barcodes. At the same time, what barcodes work best for your needs? There are countless types of barcodes available, and it is important to understand some of the most popular types of barcodes so that you can choose the one that meets your needs. To learn more about the various barcode types available, here are a few of the options below.


Numeric-Only Barcodes

As the name suggests, numeric-only barcodes are one-dimensional only and code numbers. 1D barcodes communicate information by changing the width of each bar that makes up the barcode. These are some of the most traditional barcodes around and are instantly recognizable to just about everyone. Some of the most common numeric-only barcodes include:


  • UPC Codes: UPCs are most commonly used in the retail setting in the United States and Canada. UPCs also work anywhere in the world. These barcodes contain 12 digits and are used on every type of retail products (except for books and magazines.) They function as a link between your product and the product information form you fill out for each store that sells your product.
  • EAN Codes: EAN codes are also commonly used to identify consumer products all over the world. Usually, they are customized for point-of-sale scanning. In contrast to UPCs, which have 12 numbers, EAN codes have 13 numbers. EAN barcodes will not work in the United States or Canada but will be accepted everywhere else in the world.
  • POSTNET: POSTNET codes are used by the US Postal Service. They usually encode ZIP code to allow mail to be processed efficiently. These codes contain anywhere from 32 to 62 bars.

Numeric only barcodes are among the most common barcodes used in the world.


Alpha-Numeric Barcodes

Another option for barcodes involves alphanumeric barcodes. In contrast to numeric-only barcodes, these barcodes contain both letters and numbers. Therefore, they are used for slightly different purposes. A few of the most common applications of alphanumeric barcodes include:


  • The Plessey Code: This code is commonly used in retail stores and supermarkets. Even though it is sometimes used with UPCs, this code is becoming more common in the United States and can include numbers 0 through 9 and letters A through F.
  • Code 128: This has a broad character set including numbers 0 through 9 and letters A through Z. These codes are commonly found in the manufacturing industry.
  • LOGMARS: LOGMARs stands for Logistics Applications of Automated Marking and Reading Symbols. Commonly this code is used by the United States Department of Defense. There are specific regulations regarding the density of the bars, the height of the bars, and the ratio of the bars.

Alphanumeric barcodes are also very common.

Two-Dimensional Barcodes

Two-dimensional barcodes are becoming more common. 2D barcodes are graphical codes and are designed to store information in not only horizontal but also vertical planes, making them two-dimensional. Thus, they can encode more than 7,000 characters, making them more powerful than just about any one-dimensional barcode. Thanks to built-in redundancies, the number of characters they store and self-checking mechanisms, there are also going to be fewer errors when deciphering these codes.

Given the tremendous advancement in cell phone cameras, these codes are becoming more common because people can scan them using their mobile devices. Simply by photographing a 2D barcode, users will get all the information they need. QR codes are among the most common 2D barcodes in the world. These quick-response codes can contain up to 2,509 characters in a small cell. They can be located on everything from beverage cups to library books.

Some of the other 2D codes include Data Matrix, which provides greater density, and another one is Aztec, which is commonly found in the transportation industry.

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