1D vs. 2D Barcode Systems: Which is Best for Your Business?

Barcode software goes a lot farther than just reading and writing vertical lines on the sides of your soup cans. Anyone with a smartphone has probably come across the crazy pink-blue-grey triangle patterns or other bizarre two-dimensional squares that make up a new kind of ‘barcode’ scannable by smartphone cameras. While the term ‘barcode’ literally comes from ‘a code made of a bunch of bars’, it’s clearly evolved far beyond it’s humble roots.

What’s a Barcode In The Modern Parlance?
A barcode is the graphical representation of ASCII characters. In 1D barcodes, these characters are almost exclusively numerical; in 2D barcodes, they can represent any ASCII character. Handheld barcode scanners capture reflected light from a barcode and translate it into ASCII characters, then feed those characters back to the barcode software they’re linked to.

2D barcode systems may be more expensive, but may be less limited in storage capacity. The cost calculations must also include the cost of all barcode hardware, such as readers and scanners, along with the software, maintenance and management costs involved in running the entire system.

1D Barcodes
The original barcodes represented data by placing parallel lines of white and black with varying widths and spaces. It’s still the most widely used because it’s remarkably simple. Each barcode represents a manufacturer code, a product code, and a digit checksum that verifies that the code was complete and read correctly. The barcode system allows companies to manage inventory quickly and easily.

2D Barcodes
The simplest 2D barcodes use the same basic concept as linear barcodes, but they stack several rows of linear barcodes on top of one another. It might seem like this addition of digits might not be all that useful up front, but because you can define what the digits mean and are used for, it actually gives a 2D barcode an incredible versatility. For example, you can assign some of the digits to be the barcode’s ID — basically putting a “barcode on the barcode”, and then reference one barcodes’ ID inside another barcode, creating instant sequencing, referencing, and linking abilities within the barcodes themselves.

Which is Best, 1D vs. 2D Barcode ?
For most businesses, 1D barcodes will suffice. Only if your business moves vast quantities of goods or needs to store large quantities of information about each item on the item itself should the extra expense of a 2D barcode software system be necessary.