Why should I switch from 1D barcodes to 2DBarcodes?
Current 1D barcode solutions have data capacity limitations that will not allow them to unlock solutions to new business needs. There is a rise of one-off solutions that lack interoperability, and the use of multiple barcodes and symbols are cluttering up packaging.
Some 2D barcodes, like QR Code using 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 also include features, like built-in error correction that add to their reliability.
Is the 1D linear barcode going away?
No. 1D linear barcodes will be around for at least as long as it takes for the installed base of 2D scanners to reach critical mass globally. Furthermore, if there is no need to add additional machine-readable data (such as batch/lot number or expiry date) to a product package, changing to a 2DBarcode is not needed. But all manufacturers and brands need to include, at a minimum, the Global Trade Item Number (GTIN®) in every barcode on pack that is intended for scanning by consumers OR retail POS.
Do I have to keep two barcodes on my product/s for a transition period?
Optical scanners are becoming more common in retail, but a substantial percentage of linear scanners are still in use. POS systems will need to be updated to be able to scan new, more advanced data carriers and extract the GTIN from all barcodes scanned on a pack. Until these updates have been made across all retailers, a dual-marking period with 2D data carriers and the existing 1D barcode will be needed. This will ensure that advanced use cases can be implemented by retailers who have upgraded their hardware and software while the existing price lookup function will still work for retailers who have not.
What is the difference between the 2DBarcode options DataMatrix, GS1 DataMatrix, QR Code*?
All three barcode types are capable of encoding GS1 Application Identifiers (AI) like GTIN, batch/lot number, and expiration number. How those AIs are encoded into the barcode change how they can be used.
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 has a compact design and also benefits from various printing methods for placing the symbology onto various surfaces. The DataMatrix symbology can be used for applications encoding GS1 Digital Link URI only.
GS1 DataMatrix features all the benefits of the DataMatrix symbology but only encodes GS1 element string syntax. It is the carrier of choice for items that require permanent, non-ink barcodes such as certain medical devices and may also be used in applications that do not require direct consumer scanning/engagement.
* GS1 DataMatrix uses a syntax, or data format, called GS1 element string. QR Code and Data Matrix use the GS1 Digital Link URI syntax.
Note: Currently GS1 DataMatrix, DataMatrix and QR code are not approved for open supply chain use at retail point-of-sale
Which 2DBarcode should I use?
Organisations looking to implement 2DBarcodes need to select a data carrier and syntax based on their business needs and stakeholder capabilities. GS1 recommends actively engaging with partners to ensure the path forward is collaborative and the solutions are capable and compliant.
- Is the data carrier capable of encoding a GS1 data syntax/format?
- Can the data carrier be created and/or applied at the speed and quality required for the use case?
- Are those intended to interact with the barcode able to process it?
- Does the barcode meet regulatory requirements?
- Is the barcode approved for standardised use for your application?
- Have the data, data carrier, packaging, scanning hardware/software and receiving systems capability to store/use data all been considered?
- Have all internal and external stakeholders been brought together to agree on and enable the transition to the future solution? Stakeholders can include local GS1 Member Organisations, industry/trading partners and solution providers (label designer, printing, scanning, data storage and processing).
What additional data will be available at retail point-of-sale?
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.
How will having multiple codes on the package and 2DBarcodes with more data impact scanning at the checkout?
Early evidence from pilots and implementations of 2DBarcodes at POS have shown that scanning of 2DBarcodes is just as straightforward, efficient and fast as scanning 1D legacy barcodes. More complete testing will be conducted to provide additional insight into technical/performance.
How much space will be required on the package for a 2DBarcode?
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 220.127.116.11. The below table shows barcodes at their minimum and maximum sizes based on the standards defined in the GS1 General Specifications.
To ensure that barcodes meet quality needs, 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.