Asset Tracking
Different Types of Barcodes: Ultimate Guide

Different Types of Barcodes: Ultimate Guide

Different Types of Barcodes: Ultimate Guide

Different Types of Barcodes: Ultimate Guide


In today's fast-paced world of retail, logistics, and inventory management, barcodes have become indispensable tools for businesses. Barcodes provide a means to efficiently identify, track, and manage products and assets, revolutionizing the way information is captured and processed. With numerous types of barcodes available, each serving specific purposes, it is essential to understand the distinctions between them. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the various types of barcodes, their structures, applications, and benefits. From linear barcodes to 2D barcodes and beyond, let's dive into the fascinating world of barcodes and uncover their potential to enhance operational efficiency and accuracy.

Linear Barcodes:

Linear barcodes, also known as one-dimensional (1D) barcodes, are the most traditional and widely recognized type of barcodes. These barcodes consist of a sequence of vertical lines and spaces of varying widths, encoding information in the width and arrangement of these elements. The data stored in a linear barcode is typically alphanumeric and can represent product numbers, prices, or other identification details.

Linear barcodes can be scanned by a barcode reader or scanner, which uses a laser or LED light to read the pattern of lines and spaces. The scanner translates the information into a digital format, which can then be processed by a computer or database system.

Linear barcodes are known for their simplicity, ease of implementation, and compatibility with various systems and software. However, they have limited storage capacity and are susceptible to errors caused by smudges, dirt, or damage to the barcode itself.

Common Types of Barcodes

Barcodes are ubiquitous in today's retail, manufacturing, and logistics industries, enabling efficient tracking, inventory management, and product identification. Understanding the various types of barcodes is essential for businesses looking to implement barcode systems. Here are some common types of barcodes:

  • UPC (Universal Product Code): The UPC barcode is widely recognized and used in the United States and Canada for product identification. It consists of a 12-digit numeric code that uniquely identifies a specific product. UPC barcodes are commonly found on consumer goods and facilitate accurate and rapid point-of-sale transactions.
  • EAN (European Article Number): EAN barcodes are used globally and are similar to UPC barcodes. They consist of a 13-digit numeric code, providing a unique identifier for products worldwide. EAN barcodes are commonly used in Europe and are essential for efficient product identification, inventory management, and supply chain operations.
  • Code 39: Code 39 is a versatile alphanumeric barcode widely used in various industries, including manufacturing, healthcare, and logistics. It can encode uppercase letters, numbers, and a few special characters. Code 39 barcodes are variable in length and can contain up to 43 characters. They are known for their simplicity and reliability, making them suitable for applications such as asset tracking and labeling.
  • Code 128: Code 128 is a high-density, variable-length barcode that can encode the full ASCII character set. It is widely used in industries such as shipping, logistics, and warehouse management. Code 128 barcodes can encode alphanumeric data, including uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. They offer high data capacity and are known for their versatility and compactness.

These are just a few examples of the many types of barcodes available today. Each barcode type has its own specific purpose and advantages, catering to different industry requirements and applications. Choosing the right barcode type depends on factors such as the nature of the product or item, industry standards, and compatibility with existing systems.

Advantages of Linear Barcodes:

  • Simplicity and Cost-Effectiveness: Linear barcodes are relatively simple to create and print, requiring minimal resources. They can be easily generated using barcode software or online tools, making them a cost-effective solution for businesses of all sizes. Additionally, linear barcodes can be printed on various surfaces, including paper, labels, or packaging materials.
  • High Readability and Scanning Speed: Linear barcodes have excellent readability, and their linear structure allows for fast and accurate scanning. Barcode scanners can quickly decode the barcode data, enabling efficient point-of-sale transactions, inventory management, and tracking processes. The simplicity of linear barcodes makes them highly compatible with a wide range of barcode scanners and systems.
  • Wide Industry Adoption: Linear barcodes, such as UPC and EAN, have achieved widespread adoption across different industries and countries. They are recognized and accepted by retailers, manufacturers, and logistics providers worldwide. This standardization ensures consistent barcode scanning and seamless data interchange, promoting efficient supply chain operations and accurate product identification.

Disadvantages of Linear Barcodes:

  • Limited Data Capacity: One of the main limitations of linear barcodes is their limited data capacity. Linear barcodes can only store a restricted amount of information, typically consisting of numeric or alphanumeric characters within a specific length. This constraint restricts their usability for applications requiring extensive data storage, such as complex product descriptions or detailed tracking information.
  • Vulnerability to Damage: Linear barcodes are susceptible to damage or degradation when the barcode label or surface is scratched, smudged, or worn out. If the barcode becomes unreadable, it may result in scanning errors and difficulties in accessing the associated information. This vulnerability necessitates regular maintenance and replacement of barcode labels to ensure accurate scanning and data retrieval.
  • Lack of Versatility: Linear barcodes have limited flexibility in terms of design and encoding options. They typically encode a fixed set of characters and lack the ability to incorporate advanced formatting, graphics, or additional data fields. This lack of versatility may be a limitation for applications requiring customized branding, visual appeal, or extensive data encoding beyond the standard capabilities of linear barcodes.

It's important to consider these advantages and disadvantages when choosing the appropriate barcode type for your specific business requirements.

Also Read: How Can You Track Your Inventory Using Barcode System?

2D Barcodes:

2D barcode technology revolutionizes traditional barcoding by allowing the storage of significantly more data in a compact format. Unlike linear barcodes, 2D barcodes employ patterns of squares, dots, or geometric shapes to encode information, offering high data capacity and advanced error correction capabilities. They provide versatility in design, compatibility with mobile devices, and faster scanning speeds. With their ability to store extensive product details, multimedia content, and customizable branding, 2D barcodes are widely used across industries for improved data management, enhanced customer experiences, and increased operational efficiency.

Comparison between 2D Barcodes and Linear Barcodes:

2D barcodes and linear barcodes are two distinct types of barcode technologies, each with its own characteristics and applications. Linear barcodes, such as UPC and EAN codes, are simple and cost-effective, commonly used for product identification and point-of-sale transactions. They have limited data capacity, require precise scanning alignment, and are vulnerable to damage. On the other hand, 2D barcodes, like QR codes, offer high data capacity, error correction capabilities, and greater versatility in design and data encoding. They can store extensive information, including multimedia content, and are compatible with mobile devices. 2D barcodes enable faster scanning from different angles and distances, making them suitable for various applications like marketing campaigns, inventory management, and interactive experiences. Overall, while linear barcodes are suitable for basic identification purposes, 2D barcodes provide advanced functionality and expanded possibilities for data storage, interaction, and engagement.

Common Types of 2D Barcode Scanners: QR Codes, Data Matrix, PDF417, Aztec Code

  • QR Codes: QR codes, short for Quick Response codes, are one of the most widely recognized types of 2D barcodes. They consist of black squares arranged on a white background and can store a large amount of data, including alphanumeric characters, URLs, contact information, and more. QR codes gained popularity due to their fast readability and ease of scanning using smartphones and dedicated QR code scanners. They are commonly used in marketing, advertising, ticketing, product packaging, and mobile payments.
  • Data Matrix: Data Matrix codes are another popular type of 2D barcode that can store a substantial amount of data in a small space. They consist of black and white square modules arranged in a square or rectangular pattern. Data Matrix codes are widely used in industries such as manufacturing, logistics, and healthcare for tracking products, inventory management, and traceability. Their compact size makes them suitable for applications where space is limited, such as marking small components or labeling medical devices.
  • PDF417: PDF417 is a versatile 2D barcode format that can encode large amounts of data, including text, numbers, and binary data. PDF417 codes consist of stacked rows of linear barcodes, allowing for efficient storage of substantial information. They are commonly used in transportation and logistics for encoding shipping information, boarding passes, driver's licenses, and identification cards. PDF417 codes can be read by dedicated barcode scanners or mobile devices equipped with appropriate software.
  • Aztec Code: Aztec Code is a compact 2D barcode format that can store both numeric and alphanumeric data. It features a unique square grid pattern with a central circular bullseye. Aztec codes are known for their error correction capabilities, which ensure accurate scanning even when the code is partially damaged or obscured. They are widely used in ticketing systems, public transportation, electronic payment applications, and government documents.

These are just a few examples of the common types of 2D barcode scanners, each with its specific applications and advantages. With advancements in technology, barcode scanners can easily decode these types of 2D barcodes, providing businesses and consumers with efficient data capture, improved inventory management, enhanced user experiences, and seamless interaction with digital content.

Applications and Benefits of 2D Barcodes

2D barcodes, such as QR codes, Data Matrix, PDF417, and Aztec Code, find applications in various industries and offer several benefits:


  • Marketing and Advertising: 2D barcodes are widely used in marketing campaigns to provide quick access to promotional offers, product information, or website links. They can be printed on advertisements, posters, product packaging, or even displayed digitally.
  • Inventory Management and Tracking: 2D barcodes are utilized in inventory management systems to track products, manage stock levels, and streamline supply chain operations. They enable efficient scanning and identification of items, improving accuracy and reducing manual errors.
  • Mobile Payments and Ticketing: 2D barcodes facilitate mobile payments and ticketing systems, allowing users to make payments or access event tickets through their smartphones. They provide convenience, speed, and security in transactions and access control.


  • Increased Data Capacity: Compared to linear barcodes, 2D barcodes offer a significantly higher data capacity, enabling the storage of extensive information. This allows for the inclusion of product details, URLs, contact information, multimedia content, or other relevant data.
  • Error Correction and Robustness: 2D barcodes incorporate error correction techniques, ensuring accurate scanning even if the barcode is partially damaged or obscured. This robustness reduces the chances of scanning errors and enhances reliability in various environments.
  • Enhanced User Experience: 2D barcodes provide an interactive and engaging experience for users. By scanning a 2D barcode, users can quickly access relevant information, promotions, or complete transactions with ease, enhancing convenience and satisfaction.

These applications and benefits highlight the versatility and advantages of 2D barcodes in improving marketing efforts, streamlining operations, enhancing user experiences, and enabling efficient data capture and utilization.

Also Read: How Effective Barcode Tags Are for Asset Tracking Management?


In conclusion, understanding the different types of barcodes is essential for businesses seeking efficient and accurate data management. This comprehensive guide explored both linear and 2D barcodes, providing insights into their features, applications, and benefits. Linear barcodes like UPC, EAN, Code 39, and Code 128 are widely used for product identification and point-of-sale transactions, offering simplicity and cost-effectiveness. On the other hand, 2D barcodes such as QR codes, Data Matrix, PDF417, and Aztec Code provide advanced capabilities with increased data capacity, error correction, and compatibility with mobile devices. These 2D barcodes find applications in marketing, inventory management, 

payments, and more, enabling enhanced user experiences and streamlined operations. By choosing the right barcode type and leveraging its advantages, businesses can improve efficiency, enhance customer engagement, and optimize their data management processes. Understanding the nuances of barcodes empowers businesses to harness the full potential of this technology in today's digital landscape.

Related Posts