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computer coding system that uses a printed pattern of lines and bars to identify such things as products, mail and packages, and customer accounts; the term also is used for similar coding systems that do not use bar-based patterns. Barcodes are read by optically scanning the printed pattern and using a computer program to decode the pattern. In a linear barcode system, the code itself contains no information about the item to which it is assigned but represents a string of identifying numbers or letters. When the code is read by an optical scanner linked to a computerized or networked device, the device can provide and record information about the item, such as its price or the quantity sold, from and to databases.

Americans Bernard Silver and Norman Woodland the first barcode system in the 1940s. The first standardized barcode adopted for general use was the linear Universal Product Code (UPC), chosen by North American supermarkets in 1973; it entered commerical use in 1974, but barcode scanners were not widely deployed until the 1980s. The original UPC used a set of two dark (usually black) and two light (usually white) bars of specified thicknesses to represent 12 numbers, but beginning in 2005 the Uniform Code Council, now known as GS1 US, adopted the similar European Article Numbering Code (EAN), which encodes 13 numbers and had become the international standard. The standards for the international product barcode system are managed by GS1, formerly known as EAN International, which is based in Brussels. The dark bars may be from one to three units wide and the light bars from one to four units. For registration purposes two one-unit dark bars are placed at each end and in the middle. Each item is assigned a unique numeric code, which is printed as a barcode on the item's packaging.

So-called two-dimensional (2D) barcodes permit the encoding of information about an item in addition to an identifying code. In a 2D barcode, two axes, or directions, are used for recording and reading the codes and the bar size is reduced, increasing the space available for data in the way that a column of words improves on a column of letters. Some 2D codes do not use bars, such as the United Parcel Service's hexagon-based Maxicode. Manufacturers and others now use 2D Quick Response (QR) codes on products and other objects to provide information associated with those items directly to individuals who can read the barcodes using smartphones.

An emerging technology, radio-frequency identificationradio-frequency identification
(RFID), a technology that uses radio waves to transmit data and uniquely identify an animal, person, or thing. An RFID system typically consists of a tag and a reader.
..... Click the link for more information.
 (RFID), could supplant the barcode in most applications. The newer radio-based devices overcome many of the limitations inherent in the barcode's optical technology.


The printed code used for recognition by a barcode scanner (barcode reader). The "bar" in barcode comes from the ubiquitous, one-dimensional (1D) UPC barcode found on countless product packages. Several two-dimensional (2D) barcodes are also in wide use, but they are not as bar-like as the UPC. The 2D codes are scanned horizontally and vertically and hold considerably more data. All the 2D examples below contain the same data: the URL for See barcode scanner, mobile tagging, point of sale and AIM. Contrast with RFID.

1D Barcode
One-dimensional (1D) UPC barcodes are used on millions of consumer items as well as shipping containers. For details, see UPC.

2D QR Code
Widely used to mark products as well as identify establishments, QR codes are recognizable by their four squares with dots in the middle. For details, see QR code.

2D PDF417
Symbol Technologies' PDF417 is a general-purpose barcode that is recognizable by patterns of vertical lines on each side. For details, see PDF417.

2D DataMatrix
The DataMatrix code is used to mark small parts and holds up to 2,355 alphanumeric and 3,116 numeric characters. It is recognizable by its border with two solid lines and two alternating lines.

2D MaxiCode
The MaxiCode uses hexagonal symbols and is recognizable by its center bull's eye. Used for high-speed sorting, it holds up to 93 alphanumeric and 138 numeric characters. For more data, MaxiCodes can be chained together. (Image courtesy of AIM, Warrendale, PA,

2D BeeTagg
Designed for mobile tagging, this system from Switzerland accepts company logos. Recognizable by its honeycomb-like cells, BeeTaggs are also used for exchanging business card data. For more information, visit See mobile tagging.

2D Microsoft Tag
Also developed for mobile tagging, Microsoft's system uses color. Another form of the tag allows a company logo to occupy the background. For details, see Microsoft Tag.
References in periodicals archive ?
Datastrip is the most cost-effective smart ID solution available for encoding text, photographs, signatures and biometrics for use in secure applications within government, finance/banking etc.
In response to HSPD 12, Bioscrypt, Datastrip and Synercard have partnered to develop an end-to-end system which will improve the identification and authentication of Federal employees and contractors for access to Federal facilities and information systems.
Each Datastrip DSVII handheld device integrates a card reader, a 500 dpi fingerprint sensor for matching a live fingerprint to a stored biometric template, and a large color touchscreen display in a single lightweight package.
Cogent's algorithms and software have been incorporated into Datastrip's new DSVII family of handheld identification terminals, enabling live fingerprints scanned with the Datastrip unit's fingerprint sensor to be compared to Cogent-based biometric templates for mobile identity verification.
The Datastrip DSVII(R)-SC verifies identities by reading contact and contactless chips on ID cards, passports, driver's licenses and other personal documents.
The certification is the second big win for the Datastrip reader in less than a month.
Datastrip -- 2008 Global Biometrics Product Differentiation Innovation of the Year Award
LAS VEGAS, March 31 /PRNewswire/ -- ISC West -- Datastrip today introduced the DSVII-SC (Smart Card Edition), the market's fastest and most versatile handheld ID card reader with an integrated fingerprint sensor for matching a live fingerprint to a stored biometric template.
Made by Datastrip of Exton, Pennsylvania, the reader is portable and includes support for contact and contactless cards, multiple biometric algorithms, text-based emergency notification, and the FIPS 201 standard for identity verification of federal government employees and contractors.
4 /PRNewswire/ -- Datastrip announced today that San Andres Island, a Colombia resort area located off the coast of Nicaragua, is using Datastrip's 2D Superscript bar code symbology to encrypt identity information on new resident ID cards that will be issued over the next 18 months.