What Information Is Stored in a UPC Barcode?
We see barcodes so often on the items we buy, yet many people don’t really understand what those barcodes do or what kind of information they have inside of them. UPC barcodes aren’t as mysterious and full of data as people might think. Let’s take a look at what information is stored in a UPC barcode to demystify what they are and what they translate to when you scan them.
What Is a UPC Barcode?
Looking at the UPC barcode itself, it’s understandable to think that there must be some kind of hidden information inside those black bars. In reality, those black bars are just a reflection of the UPC barcode number for a particular item. The width of the black bars and the spaces between them are exact matches to the number you can also read on the label. A store’s scanner can interpret these widths and spaces to reference that particular item in its internal database.
What’s in a UPC Barcode Number?
Now that we know what the bars themselves are, what kind of information is in the UPC barcode number? The string of numbers has three separate components that allow an item to be wholly unique in a store’s database.
GS1 Issued Prefix Number
All barcode prefixes (usually the first six digits of a barcode) originate from the same source—a company called GS1. That is how you know all barcodes are unique. When you buy barcodes from a source that owns a variety of prefixes issued by GS1, one of those prefixes will be the first six digits of the barcodes you’ll use on your products.
The following five digits after your manufacturer identification number are the individual numbers for each of your products. Each product, and each size, color, or other variation of that product, will need its own item number.
Check Sum Digit
The final number in the UPC barcode has a very specific purpose. It ensures the barcode has been input into the system correctly. This final digit is the result of a mildly complex calculation that uses all the other numbers in the barcode. The calculation itself isn’t the important part; it’s the resulting digit simply that makes sure that the rest of the numbers are correct.
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