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How 2D barcodes will change business

Since the introduction of the barcode in 1974, the world has changed dramatically and with it the demands for reliable data have increased. The authorities who manage the numbers which underpin barcodes named GS1 have also established new standards to support modern supply chains and customer requirements.

What does the barcode tell us of the items we are buying?

The linear barcode, which is recognisable to most of us as the vertical black and white lines scanned at the checkout, provides a small amount of product information. It actually only holds the number in binary format which sits below it, including the brand name, information about the product including type and variation and price.

Barcodes to do more in the future

Shoppers are constantly demanding more information about the products they are buying, from where they were farmed or manufactured and to how to best use and recycle them. Retailers are getting overwhelmed by the sheer volume of data coming from multiple sources in various formats, which is becoming increasingly tricky when it comes to product recalls.

Step forward the 2D barcode.

You will have seen a barcode in 2D before. They look quite similar in many respects to QR codes and can be found on certain prescription medications. A 2D barcode, compared to a regular linear barcode, has the advantage that it can store more data. It can hold information such as an item’s batch and lot number, which is important in healthcare, as well as expiry dates, making it ideal for fresh food monitoring. This can also warn you, for example when a chicken is scanned at the point of sale, if the chicken is past its expiry date and the device would prevent the transaction from occurring.

In addition to increasing the amount of available data, 2D barcodes take up far less space on packages than a conventional linear barcode. It provides more room on the product label, room that can be used to show off your brand credentials or provide a deeper insight into your product, helping you develop greater trust with your consumers.

How will 2D barcodes affect your business?

There has been an increase in products coming onto the market featuring several different barcodes on the packaging. We’ve seen a major global drinks manufacturer add the following to their bottles featuring three different codes on one product:

  • GS1 Standards – 2D barcodes
  • One EAN linear barcode for point of sale
  • One QR code for smart label nutritional information
  • One proprietary code to enable marketing activities 

Given a finite space on the packaging, it is important to use this efficiently.

In February 2020, Digital Link was ratified by the industry. Digital Link allows digital linkage of product information, all from one data carrier (or barcode). Improving the experience for consumers and patients around the globe while reinforcing brand loyalty, improving traceability of the supply chain, patient safety and efficiencies while bringing barcode scanning into the 21st century.

GS1 Digital Link would allow connection to all forms of business-to-business (B2B) and business-to – consumer (B2C) information, similar to the way a web address (URL) points to a specific website. And, instead of being restricted to one type of data carrier like a standard barcode, brands can now use QR code, RFID, GS1 DataMatrix tag or Near-field Communication (NFC) to transmit the information to their customers.

Same barcode – for both on and offline

The current barcode is going to be with us for some time, but the new 2D barcode standard will become more and used and ubiquitous as companies become aware of the benefits. The roll out of the barcode will require a critical mass of retailers to be able to support the new barcodes.

The Despatch Cloud App supports standard 1D barcodes as well as QR codes, GS1 Digital Link and other 2D barcodes. Our Warehouse management System supports the data encoded into both 1D and 2D barcodes, including serial numbers, expiry dates and batches.

This is also in favor of the old adage of fewer. Less space, more commercialisation. Less readability, less high definition. More info, less barcode.

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