What is all the fuss with 2D barcodes anyway and why should I care?

You likely have seen these smaller almost static looking barcode like images everywhere called QR Codes.   This group of codes, called 2D barcodes, are the next generation of scalable information.   The traditional 1D barcodes seen on most products contain a series of 10-20 characters that are read by measuring the thickness and width of horizontal lines.  These codes are used to reference an external database for more information.  This is much like the license plate on your car.  Not a lot of information there.  But you can use the license plate number to find out a lot of information from another database.  The 2D barcode uses geometry and space to contain much more information in much less space.  It does not need a database to access to get the info.  The info is imbedded in the code.  2D barcodes can contain a massive amount of information.   In fact the entire Gettysburg Address can be contained in a code about the size of a postage stamp.

So what?   What are the applications?

In pharmaceuticals, 2D codes already track manufacturing information, lot numbers, allergy information, drug interaction warnings, side effects, dosage recommendations, etc.  Yes all of that in one tiny code!

A 2D barcode in the grocery store has several applications both customer facing and at the checkout.

For your customers, QR Codes can be printed on store signage linking to or containing online specials, recipes, food information, etc.   Additionally, you probably have seen these small codes in magazines, mobile applications, newspapers on signs, etc.  Marketing is embracing these codes as the number of people with phones capable of reading these codes is currently over 1 Billion worldwide and climbing.   Another application is linking to a webpage for a promotion such as your weekly ad or daily specials.  2D Barcodes particularly QR codes are a great way to drive traffic and loyalty in your store.

One of our favorite applications is scanning the 2D code on the back of a driver’s license to verify age and identity for the purchase of tobacco and liquor.   This helps eliminate human error or situations where employees purposely let underage individuals purchase those products without checking ID.

For the grocer it will fast become important that your scanning environment be able to accommodate 2D codes.  One of the biggest emerging consumer facing applications has been mobile couponing.  Over $5.4 Billion in coupons will be redeemed by the end of 2012 with this number expected to grow to over $43 Billion by the end of 2016.  As adoption quickly increases, it is important to consider that if your scanners cannot read these codes you could run into slower transaction speeds or the inability to work with certain coupons.

2D barcodes are here to stay for the foreseeable future and we will see more and more applications of them in the years to come.   For information on 2D barcode scanning technology or to see if your current environment is ready for this technology, please contact your local RDS Office.   Please note that in order to scan these codes in your store you may require more than just a 2D capable scanner.   Additional software upgrades or hardware may be required.

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