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Transitioning to 2D Barcodes

1D barcodes, such as 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. Having this additional data in the barcode adds value by allowing the information to be automatically captured and acted on.

Some 2D barcodes, like a QR Code powered by GS1 Digital Link, can carry additional data while connecting consumers and other users to online resources and experiences. Having this data in the barcode adds value by allowing the information to be automatically captured and acted on. In addition to carrying more data, 2D barcodes are likely to be smaller than their 1D counterparts and include features, like built-in error correction that add to their reliability.


By 2027, the industry is planning to implement 2D barcodes, however, during this transition stage there will be trials of a combination of EAN/UPC and an option 2D barcode. This is due to some items not requiring additional data beyond the GTIN to the product. 1D barcodes will still be used and coexist for as long as there are uses for them and the shift to 2D barcodes is purely industry driven.

  • Increased data storage - Linear (1D) barcodes store less than 25 alphanumeric characters, while 2D barcodes can store thousands whilst freeing up packaging space.
  • Inventory management - 1D barcodes are great for retailers and grocery stores but can’t contain enough information for businesses who want to track more than just name and pricing of a product.
  • Enhanced marketing – QR codes can be scanned by prospective customers to learn more about your company, a link to an interesting website or a short viewing experience.

Challenges of 2D Barcodes

Two-dimensional (2D) barcodes look like squares or rectangles that contain patterns of squares, hexagons, dots, and other shapes to encode data and carries significantly more information than traditional 1D barcodes.

If you’re planning the transition to 2D, there may seem to be many more benefits to switching to 2D barcodes, although there are some barriers to entry for smaller businesses. To access the increase data storage on the smaller 2D codes, businesses require specialised hardware and software scanners to generate and decode the barcodes which can be an expensive investment. Image-based scanners are required, so businesses with older laser-based scanners will need hardware upgrades.

Beyond scanner updates, systems that will store and use the data in the barcode may also need updating. For example, systems may need modifications to stop the sale of an expired product based on the date in the barcode or they may need to be modified to capture and use a batch/lot number to aid in recalls.

Another issue to consider when contemplating the switch to 2D barcodes is that they can be slower to scan, requiring the camera to auto-focus and process the code for information. When implementing the new coding, it will take time and training due to the slower optical nature of the hardware.


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