Companies who are manufacturing, delivering, or selling products need barcodes for their product labels. There are many decisions to be taken into consideration when determining the best barcode to leverage; its application, its placement, the label stock to use, and the surrounding technologies to ensure quality labels and on-time delivery. As demand for more information from businesses and consumers rise, the applications for data sharing and standards shift.
GS1, a global not-for-profit organization that is dedicated to the design and implementation of global barcode standards, recently released their predictions and expectations for a substantial movement of 1D to 2D barcodes between now and 2027. James Urquhart, Director of Partnerships for GS1 US, spoke with Jenna Wagner, Director of Marketing at TEKLYNX, to share his perspective and insights on this movement. Read further to learn what he had to say on what the future may hold for 1D versus 2D barcodes.
Jenna Wagner (JW), TEKLYNX: Let’s start with the basics. What is the difference between 1D and 2D barcodes?
James Urquhart (JU), GS1 US: Simply put, more data capacity. The transition from 1D to 2D barcodes involves the growing need to capture and share additional data elements. 1D barcodes are limited in how much information they contain because each additional character makes the barcode longer. Shifting to 2D barcodes allows the capture and sharing of many more data elements that can truly modernize business processes.
1D barcodes, like EAN/UPC, are only capable of carrying a product identifier known as the Global Trade Item Number® (GTIN®). 2D barcodes can carry additional data, such as expiration date, batch/lot number, serial number, and more.
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. In addition to carrying more data, 2D barcodes are likely to be smaller in size than their 1D counterparts and include features, like built-in error correction that add to their reliability.
JW: What are the primary advantages of leveraging 2D barcodes?
JU: Not only do 2D barcodes have the ability to store much more data than traditional 1D barcodes, but they can also do so in a smaller space and with more reliable scanning due to improved error correction. With the growing need for consumer engagement, many companies are already including a 2D barcode on their product that provides the consumer with information or an experience that the product packaging alone cannot provide. Combining point-of-sale (POS) functionality of the 1D barcode and the existing consumer engagement through QR Codes, GS1 Standards will help improve the overall consumer experience through a cleaner product with smaller non-obtrusive 2D markings.
JW: What is driving this movement of 1D to 2D barcodes? Why now?
JU: The migration from 1D to 2D has been ongoing since the 1990s when QR Codes were invented. In 2015, the global healthcare community officially adopted the GS1 DataMatrix 2D barcode, and in the last couple of years the focus on supply chain visibility, traceability, and sustainability has never been higher.
JW: What do you predict as the timeline for 2D barcodes being more adopted than 1D barcodes?
JU: Through collaborative discussions with industry, 2027 has been designated the year for accepting 2D barcodes at POS – referred to as Sunrise 2027. By the end of 2027, retailers should be able to process GS1 DataMatrix barcodes with GS1 element string syntax and QR Code and Data Matrix with GS1 Digital Link URI syntax. This means that product packages would no longer require a 1D barcode.
JW: Will the use of 2D barcode be mandated?
JU: No, this is an industry driven transition. All GS1 Standards are voluntary, outside of product types that fall under specific government mandates.
JW: Who will benefit most from leveraging 2D barcodes? Why?
JU: There are benefits to all participants in this transition. For example, consumers will appreciate the simplified packaging and brands will appreciate higher levels of consumer engagement. Retailers and brand owners will appreciate the added product lineage information when engaging with their customers, as well as improved visibility to the supply chain and potential issues.
JW: Are 1D barcodes going away?
JU: No, the 1D barcodes currently in use are not going away. They will coexist with 2D barcodes for as long as there are uses for them. If there is no need to add data beyond the GTIN® to the product, a 1D barcode (EAN/UPC) may still be used.
JW: How do I know which 2D barcode to use?
JU: Which barcode to use depends on what it needs to do. Before selecting a barcode, you must consider what information needs to go into it, what object or label the barcode is being put on, and who will be scanning it.
GS1 DataMatrix, Data Matrix, and QR Code are types of 2D barcodes that are all approved for use within GS1 systems for specific applications. However, at this time they are not approved for open supply chain use at retail POS. If you are using one of these barcodes on a retail POS product, a 1D barcode will need to remain on your product packaging until the transition period is complete. (See the transition FAQ for more detail.)
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. 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 the differences in the human readable text by the barcodes:
JW: What is required of a user to make this change? What is going to be the biggest hurdle, and how can businesses overcome it?
JU: Those moving to 2D are starting at different points and will obviously have different priorities. For retailers, the alignment of POS systems could be one of the largest hurdles to overcome since hardware and software may need to be upgraded or customized to work with 2D barcodes. Of course, with any shift in process, gathering consensus and buy-in can be a hurdle. Understanding what is possible and communicating that effectively within your organization will be crucial for overall success.
The 2D Test Kit is now available to provide an effective assessment of your 2D POS capabilities.
JW: In your opinion, what is next for barcode technology?
JU: The global transition to 2D will enable future innovation. Systems will be adapted, or new ones created, that take full advantage of the added data elements and utilize them in highly creative ways. Looking beyond 2D barcodes, there are other interesting emerging data carriers to keep an eye on. 2D barcodes using color, digital watermarking, and hybrid uses with RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) or image recognition just might be over the next horizon.
TEKLYNX offers barcode label design software that includes a GS1 barcode generator wizard. If you need a barcode software that makes it easy to generate 1D and 2D barcodes, try CODESOFT free for 30 days. Don't forget to check out our training webinar, Creating GS1 Barcodes in CODESOFT & LABELVIEW.
James Urquhart has been the Director of Partnerships with GS1 US since the beginning of 2020. Prior to joining he spent over 25 years in Wholesale Operations. With an initial career focus on Finance and Chargebacks shifting to Executive Management of Operations and Transportation. James has negotiated many strategic alliances that have streamlined the supply chain and continue to be prosperous to those parties involved. James currently lives in Greensboro, NC with his wife Dana and has 4 adult children out conquering the world. In his spare time he collects and restores vintage Toyota Land Cruisers.
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Very good article on predictions for 1D vs 2D barcodes related to the GS1 Global Standards. Something I'll make note of and keep for reference as start to implement 2D with customers - going forward. We may have a business case to implement the 2D standards, internally, too. We do already utilize the 1D barcode standard here at our organization.Reply
This is a very good article examining the predictions for 1D vs 2D Barcodes. The interview with James Urquhart will be beneficial in sharing with customers and prospects.Reply
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