Barcodes of one type or another can be found in most industries. For example, barcode applications have transformed the manufacturing, processing, and tracking fields in the food and beverage, packaging, retail distribution, medical, pharmaceutical, electronics, automotive and aerospace industries. Barcodes are found in every electronic and consumer product, from your cell phone battery to the box holding your new running shoes. The use of 1-D or 2-D codes reduces overhead costs by automating and simplifying supply chain management, inventory, check-out and purchasing.
Safety and liability are also drivers behind industry adoption of barcodes. In recent years, governments around the world have started to require medical devices and pharmaceutical manufacturers to apply machine-readable codes on every package down to individual medicine containers. Should a defective product reach a store shelf, automated tracking of every package will accelerate safety recalls while making quality-control data available to the entire supply chain.
The first barcodes implemented worldwide were 1-D barcodes. These linear codes only contain alphanumeric data. Each character in the code represents something different about the product and a database provides information on what each character means.
Unlike 1-D barcodes, 2-D matrix codes contain information both horizontally and vertically, allowing them to store much more data. For example, a single 2-D code can hold up to 3,116 numeric characters or 2,335 alphanumeric characters, compared to the 39 characters that Code 39 can hold.