The Global Language of Business
Yes, 2D barcodes can represent a GTIN-only. At minimum, a Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) is necessary for objects/products intended for sale at retail point-of-sale. 2D barcodes are smaller than most of their 1D counterparts and can offer a solution for products with limited space.
Organisations looking to implement 2D barcodes need to select a data carrier based on their business needs, regulatory requirements, data carrier approved to be used for their application/sector and stakeholder capabilities.
GS1 recommends actively engaging with key trading partners to ensure the path forward is collaborative and the solutions are capable and compliant. For more details for understanding what 2D barcodes have been approved for use for each sector please see sector specific questions.
Only optical (image-based) scanners are capable of reading 2D barcodes. Most of the scanners that read the linear barcodes (EAN/UPC) are laser scanners. Optical scanners can scan both linear barcodes as well as 2D barcodes.
Whilst both barcodes look the same, the GS1 DataMatrix begins with the special start sequence FNC1. The FNC1 turns a DataMatrix code into a GS1 DataMatrix code. It tells scanners that the code is structured in accordance with GS1 standards and how to interpret the data. A scanner will generate an error message if it is expecting a GS1 DataMatrix code, but the label only contains a DataMatrix code.
System updates will vary based on what equipment is already in place and what use cases need to be enabled. Scanning 2D barcodes requires an image-based scanner, so those with older laser-based scanners will need hardware upgrades.
If image-based scanners are already installed, you will need to check with your solution providers to see if software updates can be done to scan the new barcodes and process the data encoded in them using Application Identifiers.
Beyond scanner updates, systems that will store and use the data in the barcode may also need updating. For instance, systems may need modifications to stop the sale of an expired product based on the date in the barcode or they may need to be modified to capture and use a batch/lot number to support recalls.
2D barcodes use what is known as Reed-Solomon error correction. This error correction allows barcodes that have a certain amount of damage or that are otherwise obscured to still be scanned. Error correction is viewed as a benefit of 2D barcodes, as it is not available in 1D barcodes like EAN/UPC or GS1 DataBar.
1D barcodes have provided value over the last 50 years. 1D barcodes, such as EAN/UPC, are only capable of carrying a product identifier known as the Global Trade Item Number® (GTIN®). 2D barcodes can carry additional data, such as expiration date, batch/lot number, serial number and more. Having this additional data in the barcode adds value by allowing the information to be automatically captured and acted on.
Some 2D barcodes, like a QR Code powered by GS1 Digital Link, can carry additional data while connecting consumers and other users to online resources and experiences. Having this data in the barcode adds value by allowing the information to be automatically captured and acted on. In addition to carrying more data, 2D barcodes are likely to be smaller than their 1D counterparts and include features, like built-in error correction that add to their reliability.
No. 1D linear barcodes such as EAN/UPC and GS1 DataBar are not going away anytime soon. 1D barcodes will exist along with 2D barcodes wherever they are still needed or preferred.
The three barcodes that are approved for retail POS use in the GS1 standards are:
Note: These barcodes can only be used in addition to the 1D (EAN/UPC or GS1 DataBar), until there is pervasive adoption of 2D barcodes. GS1 has set an ambitious goal that all retailers should aim to scan 2D barcodes by 2027.
Organisations looking to implement 2D need to select a data carrier and syntax based on their business needs and stakeholder capabilities. GS1 recommends actively engaging with key trading partners to ensure the path forward is collaborative and the solutions are capable and compliant.
Yes. POS systems will need to be updated to be able to scan new, more advanced data carriers and extract the GTIN (at a minimum) from all barcodes scanned on a pack. Until these updates have been made across all retailers both locally and globally, a dual-marking period with 2D data carriers and the existing 1D barcode will be needed. Both the barcodes SHALL encode the same GTIN.
All three barcode types are capable of encoding GS1 Application Identifiers (AI) that encode data like GTIN, batch/lot number, use by date and serial number. How those AIs are encoded into the barcode change how they can be used.
GS1 DataMatrix is a variant of Data Matrix that uses GS1 element string syntax*, which is also used in other GS1 barcodes like GS1-128.
QR Code and Data Matrix use the GS1 Digital Link URI syntax* to put data into a web compatible format that also allows the information to be used for traditional supply chain applications like price lookup, while also connecting to the web.
QR Code is often used for consumer engagement because they are recognised by all smartphone cameras natively. Many existing implementations of QR Codes on-pack are now enabling proprietary experiences. Once they are repurposed to use GS1 Digital Link URI syntax, they will transform into multi-use barcodes that allow BOTH consumer engagement and price lookup, eliminating the need for multiple codes on pack.
DataMatrix can also be used to connect users to the web, but not all mobile device cameras can natively recognise them.
*Syntax means how things are arranged in a specific way to have meaning. GS1 currently have 4 different syntaxes.
The data that is encoded in barcodes and used at point-of-sale will vary based on what use cases are being enabled. At minimum, retail point-of- sale (POS) must be able to process the GTIN from a barcode. Following is a sample list of applications and the additional data that is commonly used to support industry’s retail POS use cases.
Results from testing, pilots and implementations have shown that scanning of 2D barcodes with additional data will not cause delays at point-of-sale.
The amount of space on-pack, scanning environment, the quality of printing and the resolution of the printing process all factor into the optimal dimension for the symbols on a package. A symbol that is too small may not be easily read by scanners, or it may be difficult to print at a high quality and sufficient resolution. If the symbol is too large, it may be too difficult to scan up close or to print with high enough quality or resolution.
The GS1 General Specifications contains the minimum and maximum sizes allowed for 2D barcodes used on products scanned at retail point-of-sale in section 184.108.40.206. The table below shows barcodes at their minimum and maximum sizes based on the standards defined in the GS1 General Specifications.
To ensure that barcodes meet quality requirements, barcode verification can help companies understand the quality of their barcodes, whether trading partners can scan them and what needs to be done to improve them.
Industry has set the ambitious goal of retail POS scanners globally being capable of scanning and processing 2D barcodes by the end of 2027.
Different regions of the world will move at different paces towards the ambition goal of enabling 2D barcodes to be scanned at POS. GS1 Australia will be continuously monitoring and will communicate the adoption rate of 2D barcodes.
GS1 DataMatrix is the preferred symbology especially for regulated healthcare products. To encode a GTIN for scanning at point of sale you would use a linear 1D barcode. If you would like to encode production information like expiry, batch/lot, serial number for scanning in a healthcare setting, GS1 DataMatrix barcode can be used. At present you may need to apply both barcodes with the SAME GTIN to your product so it can be scanned in both a retail and healthcare setting.
GS1 Digital Link is a way to web enable your barcodes. It provides a structured standards based way to represent your GS1 identifiers in a web URL. It can provide more information about the product for patients, healthcare providers, manufacturers, distributors etc. globally.
However the main requirement for UDI is a unique identifier also known as a GTIN (Global Trade Item Number) represented in a linear EAN/UPC barcode or a GS1 DataMatrix barcode which uniquely identifies your product globally.