Types of Barcodes

Various types of barcodes exist that are useful for the storage of important and useful data.

Barcodes are useful in identifying an item or a product with a series of lines, spacing, numbers, images, or data arranged in a way that can be easily read by a mobile computer or barcode scanner that has been specially designed to read different types of barcodes. Where barcodes where once mainly a series of lines containing different widths, lengths, numerals, and spacing, many different styles and types of barcodes exist today. Barcodes can be designed in different ways with the most popular being either linear or two-dimensional (2D), the latter of which includes stacked barcodes.

The Universal Product Code or UPC is an example of a linear barcode. Among the first types of barcode technology created, the UPC contains only numerals, spaces, and bars, all of which can be used to represent important inventory and pricing information about the item it is affixed to. Other examples of linear technology include the Plessey barcode, used primarily for marking retail inventory and for library books; the Pharmacode, useful for packing control in the pharmaceutical industry; and the European Article Numbering - Uniform Code Council (EAN - UCC), used largely in worldwide retail and electronic sales. The United States Post Office also uses a series of linearcodes such as the POSTNET code, which is useful in mail sorting as the data it contains helps to identify where mail is to be routed.

Examples of two-dimensional or 2D types of barcodes include mathematical types such as the Aztec Code and EZ Code used in select mobile phone technologies. Data is encoded as a matrix in two dimensions on the barcode. This means that more data can fit in a small, two-dimensional space whereas with linear technology, the area for lines, numerals, and spaces must be made longer or wider in order to accommodate more data. A 2D code can look like a series of both horizontal and vertical dimensions, which is much different from a linear variety identified with the naked eye simply as a series of lines, spaces, and numerals.

Stacked bar codes are another example of the 2D variety and are very similar to matrix codes, with the exception being that they are stacked or layered on top of another code. Whether stacked or a matrix, 2D codes are recognizable to the naked eye as a series of dots with a target or a bulls-eye that can be seen upon careful inspection. While a 2D variety, like most other barcodes, requires special technology to read the data it contains, the difference between a linear and a 2D type is easy to recognize upon sight.

While bar code technology appears on practically every item purchased or cataloged on a store's shelf, the data that they individually contain varies. Different types of codes can be specially created or tailored for specific industries or businesses. Anyone interested in buying one for business use is advised to study what their current industry standard is and become educated on the different types of barcodes that exist, as well as how much data they can contain before deciding upon which style to use.