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What is a BARCODE?

A bar code can best be described as an "optical Morse code". Series of black bars and white spaces of varying widths are printed on labels to uniquely identify items. The bar code labels can be read with a scanner, which measures reflected light and interprets the code into numbers and letters that are passed on to a computer. Because there are many ways to put these bars and spaces together, several symbologies are possible.

A CD Barcode can really make the difference between the success or failure of your product. Most products retailed these days have a bar code included in the packaging design. By including a CD Bar Code on your CD product you will enable retailers to more seamlessly integrate your products with the existing offerings.

Barcodes can be applied for and generated via a number of websites. Once you have your CD Barcode in place you will find that more stores are willing to stock your product. Your CD will look more professional and store owners will be able to complete sales and monitor stock of your product more effectively.

Why Bar Code Labels?

Bar codes are read at ultra high-speeds and depending on the scanning tool used, potentially thousands of items can be scanned and processed within seconds. Furthermore, bar code labels offer a level of consistency that is unmatched through manual data entry approaches. As a fail-safe, lots of bar code labels have a checkdigit encoded with its architecture, which prevents data from being misread by the scanning tool. Data that does not pass the checkdigit test will not be inputted.

The Product Bar Code

The use of bar Codes on products came into existence because of two key factors, the creation of computers and the demand on major retailers to find a solution to the drain of time and expense caused by large line ups. In 1967, The Kroger Company, a major large scale chain retailer in the U.S., developed the first barcode-oriented entry system.

The Introduction of UPC and EAN

A nationally-standardized rule was created and helped to spread bar code technology across the U.S. In 1973, the Universal Product Code (UPC) was born. This meant that each product would be assigned a unique UPC. In 1977, Europe set up the European Article Number (EAN), the common product code for European countries. Computer improvements and the spread of the common product code, resulted in the development of Point Of Sale technology. POS enable managing sales at the register and recording sale information for purchasing & selling strategies, trend analysis, inventory and stock management. POS has become an essential tool for retailers, large and small.

How UPC codes work

"UPC" stands for Universal Product Code. UPC bar codes were originally created to help grocery stores accelerate the checkout process and keep better track of inventory, but the system quickly spread to other retail products because it was so effective.

UPCs originate with a company called the Uniform Code Council (UCC). A manufacturer applies to the UCC for permission to enter the UPC system. The manufacturer has to pay an annual fee for the privilege. In return, the UCC issues the manufacturer a six-digit manufacturer identification number and provides manuals on how to use it. You can see the manufacturer identification number in any standard 12-digit UPC code.

The UPC symbol has two parts:

* The machine-readable bar code
* The human-readable 12-digit UPC number

The manufacturer identification number is the first six digits of the UPC number - 639382 in the image above. The next five digits - 00039 - are the item number. A person employed by the manufacturer, called the UPC coordinator, is responsible for assigning item numbers to products, making sure the same code is not used on more than one product, and so on. The last digit of the UPC code is called a check digit. This digit helps the scanner determine if it scanned the number correctly.

Here is how the check digit is calculated for the other 11 digits, using the code 63938200039 from "The Teenager's Guide to the Real World" example shown above:

1. Add together the value of all of the digits in odd positions (digits 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 and 11): 6 + 9 + 8 + 0 + 0 + 9 = 32
2. Multiply that number by 3: 32 * 3 = 96
3. Add together the value of all of the digits in even positions (digits 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10): 3 + 3 + 2 + 0 + 3 = 11
4. Add this sum to the value in step 2: 96 + 11 = 107
5. Take the number in Step 4. To fabricate the check digit, determine the number that, when added to the number in step 4, is a multiple of 10: 107 + 3 = 110
The check digit is therefore 3.

Each time the scanner scans an item, it has to perform this calculation. If the calculated check digit is different from the check digit it reads, the scanner knows that something went wrong and the item needs to be rescanned.

Barcodes of the future: 2D-Barcodes

Recently, new barcodes called 2D barcodes which are able to store considerably more data have been created. 2D barcodes contain information in both their horizontal and vertical indices, as opposed to the one-dimensional barcodes we normally see, for example, on supermarket products. These hold information only in the vertical index.

2D barcodes were developed by the Japanese company Denso-Wave to track car parts, but have since developed into a tool that opens a world of opportunities for consumers, e.g. relating to mobile tagging. The plan is for mobile phones and other technical devices to be equipped with different types of barcode scanning (reading) software. You use your mobile phone's camera to scan a barcode which, via the phone's barcode software, provides information such as a phone number, email address or a link to a website. 2D barcodes open up a world of opportunity, e.g. imagine shopping at a supermarket (a picture of the 2D barcode on the product's packaging leads you to a website where you can get more information about the products you want to purchase).

The race to become the most used 2D barcode is very competitive. Over the past few years marketers, advertisers and mobile phone manufacturers have been slow to move forward as they've been unsure which barcode technology to invest in. However once a clear leader appears, we will be seeing a lot more 2D barcodes.

2D-Barcodes in action

People can now access racy images of actress-model Kelly Brook by scanning a 2-D QR bar code on every can of Pepsi Max. The beverages giant is the first brand to launch the Quick Response (QR) technology, a new kind of two dimensional barcode from Japan, which lets access to Kellys images from their mobile phones, allowing Pepsi MAX lovers to link directly to the Internet from their phones.

Japanese commercial for Ntt docomo cell phones:

Business applications for 2D barcodes

For applications in retail, production and manufacturing, 2D barcode technology assists business owners to run their companies efficiently, productively, and with a heightened sense of security. Profitability increases with the application of 2D barcode technologies because it allows for asset tracking and theft prevention security systems. Owners and managers can track their products resulting in fewer losses and less potential for human error.It is clear that the use of 2D barcodes along with biometric technologies can make any industry more secure, efficient and productive. The market for devices, software and services using or implementing such technology is bound to grow as the need for increased security, efficiency, productivity and profitability continues to increase.

Find out how your compmany can use 2D Codes!