Two-dimensional bar codes are a higher level of bar codes having the capability to store substantial amounts of data that can be stored in two dimensions without becoming wider in size. Linear bar codes have been perceived as license plates of products that are machine readable, but have limitations regarding data storage and act more as database keys. 2D bar codes are an improvement and work more as portable databases, which reveal loads of information each time the bar code is scanned. They are also called matrix codes since the matrix is a true representative of the 2 D bar code symbol.
2D bar codes store data across the length and width of the barcode, and were created when it was found that there were space limitations even though the data requirement was substantial. Data entry into 2D bar codes is much faster. Since their inception, over 20 2D bar code symbologies have evolved. The codes require special scanners to read the data and the scanners used are generally handheld with moving beams that sweep the label horizontally.
Besides being able to store a lot more data, 2D bar codes are more durable that cannot be corrupted or abused. 2D bar code symbologies are being more popular for diverse uses and fall into two categories, stacked and matrix. They are used for tax forms, packing lists, licenses and patients' records in hospitals.
Some of the best-known 2D bar code symbologies include PDF 417. This symbol can store information stretching to 2000 characters, and stands for Portable Data File. Its storage capacity implies that no external storage database is required, and is useful in applications like logistics, retail, healthcare, identification and manufacturing.
Another 2D bar code is DataMatrix, which can also store up to 2000 characters.
MaxiCode holds information in a maximum of 93 characters and has a distinct symbol with a bulls eye locator in the middle and hexagonal rows around. It is popularly used by UPS (United Parcel Service) due to its advantage of quick scanning on a fast moving belt.
The QR Code or Quick Response Code can store 2509 numeric characters or 1520 alphanumeric characters. Developed in Japan, it is used for projects where error free inputs are mandatory, since it allows error detection at three levels.
2D bar codes form part of comprehensive bar code solutions, and their scanners can be connected through the keyboard, making their installation simple and effective. They also permit easy data editing, remapping, formatting etc without additional software applications. 2D bar codes can be incorporated into a business without any escalation in costs and software modifications are also reasonable.