Recently, we’ve seen new barcode standards emerging. Almost everyone is familiar with UPC barcodes (found, for example, on the containers of grocery items), that have reduced the amount of manual data entry and increased the amount of data that can be accurately transferred between systems. We’re all familiar with how quickly a person can tally up an entire cart of food; it sometimes reminds me of a slot machine in Las Vegas.
As systems have become highly interconnected – web services, cloud computing, data centers, online transaction processors, electronic data interchange (EDI) – the need to quickly transfer information has become very important. In order to facilitate distribution, lot tracking, serialization, defect tracking and recalls, these systems need to be able to quickly and accurately transfer data between systems. For instance, a packaging company might receive products from multiple vendors that are all put into a single package and shipped to store shelves. In order to be feasible, this information must all be tied together and quickly available to other systems. All of the information within the package, such as lot number, item number and component product codes, must be transferred from the vendors and eventually to a customer.
The amount of data that can be encoded in a UPC or similar linear barcode has been a limitation … until now. Enter 2D barcodes. Much like the UPC or code39 barcodes, 2D barcodes encode data in a printed image. These barcodes typically look more like the snow on an old television with bad reception than a uniform image that a scanner or personal computer might be able to read. However, with this complex image comes a lot more capacity for data storage.
For many years, IQMS has supported linear encoding formats such as code39, code3of9 and several more. During development of IQMS’ EnterpriseIQ Android phone application, our development team explored the QR code format 2D barcode. The QR code format has become prevalent on many well-known websites and allows low resolution cameras to snap a quick picture and resolve the image into the encoded text, like a URL for any website. In our case, development wanted to resolve the barcode image into contact information. The goal was to quickly transfer a contact’s information from a barcode on a business card into the system through the phone’s camera.
The development team explored vCard format to encode business card information so that it can easily be scanned into applications supporting contact information such as email, phone and calendar. VCard is not a barcode format, but it is a standard that reduces the amount of data required to define a contact and it widely compatible with many systems.
When development sent me an email containing the QR code and a short sentence saying, “Scan this,” I was a little skeptical and fearful that it was spam. I made a phone call first and then proceeded to scan the image. Instantly, I was added to my own contact list! Very cool!
With 2D barcodes, it will be very interesting to see what the future holds.
Are there any businesses out there using 2D barcodes?