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Barcodes | © smart-TEC GmbH & Co. KG

Barcodes, also known as stripe-codes or beam-codes are non-encrypted machine-readable (optoelectronically readable) symbols, consisting of many and differently broad, light and dark parallel stripes and gaps which be electronically processed.

Barcodes can be seen on many objects pertaining to our daily lives. The first barcode-technology attempts were made out in the 1950s. Finally, it was the American supermarket chain Walmart thanks to which the barcode celebrated its breakthrough. Currently, the barcode is an international standard.

What is a barcode composed of?

The differently thick stripes and gaps from the barcode are printed according to a specific relation between them. The barcode-symbology resulting from this is similar to alphabet sets. Characters and the messages resulting from them are established through differently thick stripe breadth. There are innumerable symbologies possible thanks to the manifold order options. The “X”-size which defines the barcode density and the width of the tiniest bar within the code, is another important barcode read component. Thus, we can deduce the space necessary for a certain information amount that can be encompassed in a certain barcode area. To be able to read the barcode both from its left and right side, start- and end-signs are defined. The “Quiet-zone” is a free area ahead of the start and stop sign (min. 1/4 inch). This enables the scanner to properly read the barcode.

Structure of a barcode | smart-TEC | © smart-TEC GmbH & Co. KG

There have been various barcodes developed throughout the course of time. We distinguish them depending upon varying coding options and applications. Parameters such as data volume, sector, international standards, individual extensions and specifications are being paid attention to. The most common barcode types are I 2 of 5 (ITF), Code 39, EAN 8, EAN 13 and the 128 code.

The GTIN (Global Trade Item Number), a data structure developed by the GS1, has prevailed within the business sphere. This paid-for number from the GS1 organization can be displayed via various barcode types and is to simplify international trade including product flow.

How do we create a barcode?

An online-generator represents a good option in creating individual barcodes. The generated barcode can be downloaded in a high data quality and different formats. Yet to print the barcodes, a special program is required and also collection into further documents is tricky.

When done professionally, barcodes are generated using a barcode software, i.e. by collecting data via external programs – such as excel or databases. These data are tested, validated, quiet-zones are considered and finally, a barcode with professional print results is generated. The barcode print quality is defined in the ISO/IEC 15416 standard.

How do we scan a barcode?

Special reader devices are used for scanning barcodes. Holding a laser-scanner or a barcode-scanner to the barcode, certain barcode patterns or barcode scanners or the series of light and dark stripes and the information stored this way are collected. There are various types of reader devices, such as hand-scanners, radio-controlled scanners, wireless scanners or stationary ones.

Barcode application options

Everybody has come across the supermarket barcodes by now. Yet that´s only the ultimate step in a long chain of business and logistic organizations. The barcode has been an integral part of industry and trade for a very long time. Even the healthcare sector uses barcodes as they provide for a reliable identification of patients and pairing of medicine and blood samples.

Barcode technology also gained ground in private use. Mobile smartphone apps enable us to scan products. The integrated camera- or video-function is used for these purposes. The information read out can be shown on the display directly via smartphone scanners. There are e.g. popular applications enabling the customer to compare prices of certain products and to display useful product information.

The advantages of different technologies at a glance:

Technology comparison for coding and marking solutions | smart-TEC | © smart-TEC GmbH & Co. KG