A one dimensional barcode is read from side to side and contains alpha, numeric or alphanumeric data.
1-D barcodes are usually scanned to look up information that is stored in a database. The data in the barcode is the identifier allowing for ease of lookup (query).
A two-dimensional barcode is read from side-to-side and from top-to-bottom and contains data.
There are a variety of 2-D Barcodes with the most popular being the QR Code (Quick Response). The QR Code allows for the embedding of raw data, URLs, and Mobile Tagging (Send an SMS, Twitter tweets, Facebook likes, etc.)
GTIN – Global Trade Identification Number
GTINs are a family of numbers.
UPC-A Barcodes are used for marking products sold in stores throughout the USA and Canada. The barcode is comprised of three groupings of numbers, the manufacturer ID (the company who owns the barcode prefix) which is 6, 7, 8 or 9 digits in length, the balance of numbers totaling 11 digits and the final 12th number (Check Digit or Checksum). The check digit is based on a mod 10 formula.
GTIN-8 (UPC-8, UPC-E)
The eight-digit UPC code is a compressed version of the UPC-A code and is meant for small articles where there is not a lot of space on the package. Not every GTIN-12 can be converted to a GTIN-8.
GTIN-13 (EAN, EAN-13, European Article Number, International Article Number)
An EAN-13 barcode (originally European Article Number, but now renamed International Article Number) is a 13 digit (12 data and 1 check-digit) barcoding standard which is a superset of the original 12-digit Universal Product Code (UPC) system developed in the United States. The EAN-13 barcode is defined by the standards organization GS1. Aside from the additional digit, the big difference is that an ean has a visible country code.
EAN 8 Barcode
Similar to the GTIN-8, this is the variant used outside of the US and Canada.
GTIN 14 (ITF 14)
The ITF14 is a 14 digit barcode used to mark the master shipping containers of products with a UPC identifier. It is based on the I2of5 barcode or ITF. ITF14 barcodes usually contain a top and bottom bar (sometimes rectangle) called the Bearers bar. These bars make sure that the barcode is read completely. The first number is typically an arbitrary number between 0 and 7, the next number is a zero, the following 11 numbers are the first 11 numbers on a UPC barcode and the last number is a check digit.
SSCC18 Barcode also known as UCC 128
This Symbology is also known as UPC-128 Shipping Container Code, Code 128 UPC Shipping Container Code, Serial Shipping Container Code, UCC-128, EAN-18, NVE (Nummer der Versandeinheit)
This is a special version of UCC/EAN-128, with Application Identifier (AI) = 00. It is used to identify shipping containers by a serial number.
SSCC18 Barcodes can be configured 3 different ways, no bearer bars, bearer bars top and bottom or bearer bars on all 4 sides.
UPC A with 2 Digit Extension
Often used for Magazines – the second barcode indicates month or edition.
UPC-A Barcode with 5 Digit Extension
Often used for Greeting Cards where the publisher takes responsibility for inventory management and stocking of product.
EAN+ 2 Digit Barcode
This is a variant of the EAN barcode. This can be used for magazines where the last two numbers represent the volume or month of issue.
EAN 13 + 5 Digit Barcode
This is a variant of the EAN barcode. Often used for Greeting Cards and other items when the manufacturer or distributor is responsible for inventory tracking.
The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a unique numeric commercial book identifier based upon the 9-digit Standard Book Numbering (SBN) code created by Gordon Foster, Emeritus Professor of Statistics at Trinity College, Dublin, for the booksellers and stationers W.H. Smith and others in 1966. (Wikipedia). An ISBN barcode uses an EAN symbology.
ISBN with 5 digit Add On.
Most ISBN graphics also include a 5 digit add on. The first barcode is the ISBN barcode (using an EAN symbology) and the second barcode to the right indicates the price of the book. The first number, 5, represents a dollar sign ($). The next four numbers are the price of the book. In this example 51295 means that the book sells for $12.95. Since there are only 4 numbers after the 5, books that sell for more than $99.99 will be represented by 5999.
The International Standard Music Number (ISMN) is a unique number for the identification of all notated music publications from all over the world, whether available for sale, hire or gratis–whether a part, a score, or an element in a multi-media kit.
The ISMN is designed to rationalize the processing and handling of notated music and the respective bibliographical data for publishing houses, the music trade and libraries.
As of 1 January 2008 the ISMN consists of 13 digits starting with 979-0.
Used mainly throughout Europe, the ISSN (International Standard Serial Number) identifies periodical publications as such, including electronic serials.
The ISSN is a numeric code which is used as an identifier: it has no signification in itself and does not contain in itself any information referring to the origin or contents of the publication.
Originally developed by Pitney Bowes, the Codabar Barcode is used primarily by US Blood Banks, Photo Labs and Overnight Delivery Services. Codabar can encode the numbers 0 through 9, the start/stop characters A, B, C, D, E, *, N or T. and the six symbols (-:.$/+).
CODE 11 Barcode
Code 11 is a barcode symbology developed by Intermec in 1977. It is used primarily in telecommunications. The symbol can encode any length string consisting of the digits 0-9 and the dash character (-). One or more modulo-11 check digit(s) can be included.
CODE 128 Barcode
Code 128 is a very high-density barcode symbology. (A special version of it called GS1-128 is used extensively world-wide in shipping and packaging industries.) It is used for alphanumeric or numeric-only barcodes. It can encode all 128 characters of ASCII and, by use of an extension character (FNC4), the Latin-1 characters defined in ISO/IEC 8859-1.
Code 128 supports all ASCII 128 characters.
Subset A supports numbers, upper-case letters, and control characters, such as tab and new-line.
Subset B supports numbers, upper- and lower-case letters.
Subset C supports numbers only.
CODE 2 OF 5 – Interleaved
Also known as Interleaved 2 of 5, ITF or when used in association with a UPC or EAN barcode, a SCC (Shopping container code or a GTIN-14)
Interleaved 2 of 5 (or ITF) is a continuous two-width barcode symbology encoding digits. It is used commercially on 135 film and on cartons of some products, while the products inside are labeled with UPC or EAN. (See GTIN-14 above)
CODE 39 Barcode
Code 39 (also known as Alpha39, Code 3 of 9, Code 3/9, Type 39, USS Code 39, or USD-3) is a variable length, discrete barcode symbology.
The Code 39 specification defines 43 characters, consisting of uppercase letters (A through Z), numeric digits (0 through 9) and a number of special characters (-, ., $, /, +, %, and space). An additional character (denoted ‘*’) is used for both start and stop delimiters.
One advantage of Code 39 is that since there is no need to generate a check digit, it can easily be integrated into existing printing system by adding a barcode font to the system or printer and then printing the raw data in that font.
Code 93 Barcode
Code 93 is a barcode symbology designed in 1982 by Intermec to provide a higher density and data security enhancement to Code 39. It is an alphanumeric, variable length symbology. Code 93 is used primarily by Canada Post to encode supplementary delivery information. Every symbol includes two check characters.
Code 93 is designed to encode 26 upper case letters, 10 digits and 7 special characters:
A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z
0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
-, ., $, /, +, %, SPACE.
Each Code 93 character is divided into nine modules and always has three bars and three spaces, thus the name. Each bar and space is from 1 to 4 modules wide.
In addition to 43 characters, Code 93 defines 5 special characters (including a start/stop character), which can be combined with other characters to unambiguously represent all 128 ASCII characters.
LOGMARS (Logistics Applications of Automated Marking and Reading Symbols) is a special application of Code 39 used by the U.S. Department of Defense and is governed by Military Standard MIL-STD-1189B.
MSI (also known as Modified Plessey) is a barcode symbology developed by the MSI Data Corporation, based on the original Plessey Code symbology. It is a continuous symbology that is not self-checking. MSI is used primarily for inventory control, marking storage containers and shelves in warehouse environments.
Pharmacode, also known as Pharmaceutical Binary Code, is a barcode standard, used in the pharmaceutical industry as a packing control system. It is designed to be readable despite printing errors. It can be printed in multiple colors as a check to ensure that the remainder of the packaging (which the pharmaceutical company must print to protect itself from legal liability) is correctly printed.
Barcodes are used to convey prices to the electronic cash registers in stores and are also used to help manage inventory. Each product or variation of product where inventory is tracked needs a barcode. If a manufacturer is selling t-shirts, they will need one for each design, color and size. The manufacturer either adds the barcode graphic to their artwork while designing their packaging artwork or they order barcode labels and affix a label to each one of the packages.
The manufacturer or distributor provides the information about the product(s) to the retailer and the retailer enters all of the information about the product into their inventory management system. This information includes the brand name, product name, any identifiers (size, color, weight, etc.), pricing information and the UPC barcode number. Every store maintains their own database of products and barcode numbers. There is no database that contains all products everywhere.
There is nothing embedded in a UPC or EAN barcode except for the numbers that are beneath the barcode. When they enter the info into their database, the numbers are associated with the product. When a barcode scanner scans the barcode, it turns the bars back into numbers and looks for the item associated with it.
There are a number of ways that the product information is communicated with the retailers, the retailer will let the supplier know how they want the information. Sometimes they will ask for a printed sheet with a list of items, sometimes they will want an excel spreadsheet that they can upload to their database. This all depends on the number of items and their level of technical requirements.
The information supplied gets entered into the computer that connects all of their POS systems (electronic cash registers). All of this is done at store level because there is no accurate and complete database of products, and if there was, it could potentially carry billions of items. That’s too much data for local stores to access, so, all stores only concern themselves with their inventory.
Sometimes retailers will ask for an additional barcode to the outside carton. They will refer to this as a Shipping Container Barcode or a GTIN-14.
A customer picks up the item to be purchased and heads to the check-stand.
The item is scanned and the point of sale system (cash register) requests information about the product from the database. Once purchased, the Point of Sale system tells the database to subtract the number of items purchased.
The customer pays for the item and the transaction is complete.
Why do manufacturers put barcodes on products
UPC History and Background
The only types of barcodes that are managed by a large (worldwide) organization are UPCs/EANs and ISBNs since it is very important that there are no duplicates in the marketplace. Other types of barcodes such as Code 39, Code 128, etc. are all used as internal use barcodes by manufacturers and logistical companies.
The GS1, which used to be called the Uniform Code Council (UCC) is the provider of UPC barcode prefixes. A company goes to the GS1, they purchase the prefix and then are responsible for the self-assignment of the identification numbers that go after the prefix.
The Barcode prefix, the first 6, 7, 8 or 9 digits, is called a UPC Barcode Prefix. The company who has been assigned the UPC Barcode Prefix is responsible for the assignment of the next digits (making up a total of eleven digits) to their products.
Then, as the barcode number is designated, the last number is mathematically determined through an algebraic equation to create a checksum (check digit). This check digit is the final digit. When you join GS1, you get a prefix certificate along with your start-up package.
As far as we know, there are only a small handful of companies that require direct relationship with the GS1 including Kroger’s, Wal-Mart/Sam’s Club, JC Penny’s and Macy’s. The common denominator of these companies is that they are using the manufacturer prefix for their EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) and members of these 4-super big box retailers sit on the board of directors of the GS1.
Unless a manufacturer or distributor is specifically going to do business with these chains, they have the option of using a company that is legally able to subdivide their barcode prefix such as Nationwide Barcode.
Retailers input information from product data sheets filled out or given to them by their suppliers. The supplier gives the retailer the product information including the barcode based on the human readable numbers (12 digit UPC or 13 digit EAN) and the retailer enters it into their point of sale system.
There are no unified and formal centralized databases of product barcodes. Not including the checksum (the 12th digit), there are roughly 50,000,000,000 possible UPC barcodes. Not all of the number series are used for retail products, UPCs starting with 3 are used for pharmaceuticals, 4 is used as internal use, 5 are used for coupons and 9's are used for both printed and digital books and the balance are currently reserved.
This, more than anything else, explains why there is no centralized database of products. No one has the bandwidth, energy or resources to catalog something this massive.
There is nothing programmed into a UPC or an EAN barcode. The bars only represent the number that is the barcode. The retailer associates these numbers with the product information. This information is pulled from the retailer’s database when a product is scanned.
You have two choices when you need to buy a barcode or block of barcodes. You purchase directly from the GS1 (They charge a minimum of $750.00 plus a yearly renewal fee) or you purchase a company like Nationwide Barcode (www.nationwidebarcode.com). Nationwide Barcode and similar companies received their prefixes in the 90’s or early 2000’s.
In 2002, GS1 attempted to codify the agreement with UPC Barcode prefix holders which included renewal fees. The codified agreement included rules that were in the form of a contract which included not being able to subdivide a barcode number. Prior to this, none of this existed.
The GS1 decided to change the way they were doing business. They started sending out renewal notices insisting that the prefix holders pay renewal fees and agree to the new terms and conditions.
Ultimately a class action suit was levied against the GS1 in the state of Washington and the GS1 lost. All prefix owners prior to August 28, 2002 became exempt to the GS1’s renewal fees and new codified agreement.
Quoting the UCC Settlement web site:
This Settlement provides that companies who became members of UCC before August 28, 2002, are not obligated to pay membership renewal fees to UCC to maintain membership as a condition for their use of Company Prefixes issued to them by UCC, or as a condition for Basic Membership Benefits as defined in the Class Settlement Agreement. Class members who have paid a renewal fee to UCC are entitled to compensation from a $3,895,000 settlement fund. The settlement also provides that the "licensing agreement," which accompanied UCC renewal fee invoices, is null and void as to those who became members in UCC before August 28, 2002. **
Quoting George Laurer, “Often I am asked if a person that purchases a number from a subset seller will have legal problems in the future. Again, I am not a lawyer, but if the number was originally assigned to the seller by the UCC before August 2002, the answer is no problem.”****
The decision to go with the GS1 or a UPC barcode reseller is a matter of economies of scale. GS1 charges an upfront fee and a yearly renewal fee based upon the number of barcode numbers that you need along with your company’s revenue. The more you make, the more the barcode prefix will cost you, and this amount can increase over time.
We believe that the GS1 is a great organization, they provide a tremendous service, however, for a small business with a limited budget, a Barcode Subdividing company makes the most sense.
* Text provided by Wikipedia and is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barcode
*** http://bellsouthpwp.net/l/a/laurergj/UPC/renufee.html (page on George Laurer’s website)
In this picture, the manufacturer identification number is the first six digits of the UPC number – (0)753182 in the image above. The next five digits -- 95342 -- are the item number. The GS1 supplies 7, 8 and 9 digit manufacturer numbers as well. The last number 7, is the check digit.
The person that coordinates which barcode goes with which product is called a UPC coordinator. This person is responsible for assigning item numbers to products, making sure the same code is not used on more than one product, retiring codes as products are removed from the product line, etc.
Typically, every item that a manufacturer sells, in addition to every variation of the item, requires a different item code. Since the barcode is also used to track inventory, it is important to have a different barcode for each of these variations. Using shoes as an example, a man’s oxford shoe may come in Black, Brown, and Cordovan, each in sizes, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14. Each of these variations (3 colors x 6 sizes = 18 different products)
0: Standard UPC number
2: Random weight items (fruits, meat, vegetables, etc.
4: In store marketing for retailers (a store can set up unique barcodes for themselves, but n other store may use them)
6, 7,8 Standard UPC number
The Check Digit
The last digit of a UPC or EAN barcode is called a check digit.
This number lets the scanner (and the computer attached to it) know if the number was scanned properly or not. It is a very important part of the barcode.
The first 11 digits of a UPC barcode or the first 12 digit of an EAN barcode are a combination of the prefix and the numbers assigned to a particular product. The final check digit is a mathematical algorithm weaving through the first 11-digits.
The number at the far right is the check digit. In this case, it's a 7. If you want to compute the check digit for a UPC-A Barcode in Excel, do the following:
Subtract the sum from the nearest equal or higher multiple of 10 (90 would be 90, 92 would be 100, etc.)
In this example the next highest multiple of 10 is 120. 120-113 = 7: 7 is the check digit.
There is no hidden data built into a barcode, there is no pricing information, there is no product information. The bars represent only the 12-digit number.
Are the UPC and EAN the same symbol?
The short answer is yes.
EAN = 0012345678905
UPC = (0)012345678905 or 012345678905
The GS1, the original source for barcodes, has created the confusion between UPC (Universal Product Codes) and EAN (European Article Numbers also called International Article Numbers). The UPC-A barcode was the original format for product barcodes. As demand in Europe, Asia and Australia started growing, country codes were added. (We have a list of country codes, see All about Barcodes table of contents). US and Canada have a country code of zero which is not printed under the barcode nor is it entered in US and Canadian Inventory and Point of Sale Databases.
If you look at the graphics (on the left), you will see they are exactly the same. The width of the bars and the width of the spaces between the bars are exactly the same. The only major difference is the placement of the numbers below (human readable numbers) which are there only as a back-up in case the barcode doesn’t scan properly and the information has to be manually entered into the point of sale system.
We have overlaid the UPC and the EAN graphics (symbologies) so you can see that the graphic is identical. The country code doesn’t appear beneath the barcode in a UPC since the GS1 didn’t grasp the importance of US and Canada indicating country codes. They felt that since the majority of products sold in both countries originate from importers, distributors or manufacturers in the US or Canada, they could forego the leading zero in the human readable numbers.
We still believe that if you are currently doing business in the United States and Canada exclusively, it is safer to order UPC barcodes for your products. Many retailers, especially smaller retailers may be using older accounting and inventory systems that only allow them to enter in 12 digit UPC numbers and not a 13 digit string. If this changes in the future, you can convert your 12 digit UPC to a 13 digit EAN by adding in the country code 0. There is nothing on the horizon indicating that the US and Canada will ever switch over to EAN 13 barcodes.
This following information is used with permission from George Laurer – http://www.laurerupc.com . Mr. Laurer is the inventor of the UPC barcode.
There seems to be considerable confusion concerning the difference and use of the U.P.C. code and EAN codes
"U.P.C. Version A" and "EAN-13” are and always have been 13 character symbols and the numbers themselves have always been 13 characters long. The U.P.C. (Version A) symbol and the EAN13 symbol are essentially one and the same. They both have the same number of bars and spaces.
* I have used the name UCC throughout to avoid confusion although it evolved to this name over many years. In 1975 it was called UPCC (Uniform Product Code Council).
The Origin of the UPC and EAN confusion
Article by George Laurer.
When I conceived the U.P.C. for the grocers in the U.S. only 12 digits were required including the check character. I designed a symbol in which the left half of the symbol was composed of “odd” parity characters and the right side was composed of “even” parity characters. Each printed character has two bars and two spaces and is made up of 7 modules. Odd parity simply means the printed representation of the numeric digit has an odd number of dark modules. Conversely even parity printed digits have an even number of dark modules.
The UCC* chose to call the U.P.C. a 10 character symbol and they chose to print only 11 of the characters in human readable form. The 10 characters identifying the manufacturer and item were printed below the bars. The “system number” character was printed halfway up the left side. Further, they chose to carry only 10 digits of the number in their files. The reason was both political and practical.
Before the symbol marking was considered, a well know consulting firm had been hired by the fledgling UCC to determine the number of digits needed to accomplish the goals of the grocery industry. Considering many factors, not the least of which was the limited power of computers of the day, a figure of 10 digits was recommended. It was a tough sell to convince the many groups involved that they would have to change whatever numbering system they were using to the new 10 digit number. Rather than admit that the consulting firm was wrong and so as not to open the number of digit argument again, the decision was to maintain that the U.P.C. was a 10 digit symbol and number. Another factor considered was that it was more difficult to key the EAN human readable that the U.P.C. human readable when the symbol did not scan. They fostered the illusion by requiring that the check digit be stripped at the scanner. The SN (system number) was necessary for in store processing but it was not needed in records transferred between systems. The illusion was reinforced by not printing the SN in line with the 10 product identifying digits and not printing the check digit at all.
After the U.P.C. had been in use several years, Europe recognized the usefulness of the U.P.C. but realized a 13th digit was needed to identify the many countries. I encoded the extra digit by encoding the left half of the symbol with 3 characters of even parity and 3 characters of odd parity and then arranging them in various patterns, each pattern representing a different country code. The scanner recognizes a series of digits as the right half of a symbol if the parity of the characters is all even and it recognizes the left half if it is composed of all odd OR if three characters are odd parity and three characters are even parity characters.
With the acceptance of the EAN in Europe it was understood that the U.P.C. was actually 13 digits because the parity pattern of the left half of all odd characters was assigned the value (or country flag) of “0”. I pointed out that the UCC only printed 11 of the 13 digits and carried only 10 digits in the system. The UCC continued the delusion by using the foolish argument that "0" means nothing and therefore could be ignored. On the other hand, the European's were smart enough from the very outset to call the EAN symbol what it is, “EAN-13” and they printed all 13 characters. Systems in Europe carried all 10 country flags including 0 in their records and their systems could process both U.P.C. and EAN symbols and/or numbers. The U.S. groceries chains at the time were selling very few foreign goods and saw no reason to spend money modify their installed equipment. Although the U.P.C. was not widely accepted at that time, the UCC accommodated the foreign companies by issuing them U.P.C. numbers with the invisible country flag of “0”.
Although this was a burden on the European companies and was a waste of numbers since many European companies had both U.P.C. and EAN-13 numbers, it wasn’t until two decades later that something was done about this. In 1997 the Uniform Code Council, Inc announced project SUNRISE. This initiative required that all U.S. and Canadian companies must be capable of scanning and processing EAN-13 symbols, in addition to U.P.C. symbols, at point-of-sale by January 1, 2005. This has been completed, the UCC has changed its name to GS1 US, and they have taken the responsibility of controlling both U.P.C. and EAN numbers.
Simply put the U.P.C. and EAN-13 symbols and numbers are the same. Above is a U.P.C. symbol with its equivalent EAN-13 superimposed in red. One can see that the bars and space are the same, only the human readable is different. Note that the U.P.C. has evolved in that the check digit is now printed and also that the SN has been brought down in line with the other characters but the country flag is still not printed. I would expect that in the near future the human readable will also be changed to the EAN format.
Because there are more than 9 countries, the country flags have been further subdivided by using the next two digits for various uses and countries. The United States and Canada have the country flag 0 and subdivisions 000 thru 139. It is interesting to note that the publishing industry produces so many products that it is its own country called “Bookland” for number assignment purposes. Bookland has been given two subdivisions of the country flag 9. They are 978 and 979.
Used with permission - Gerorge Laurer - www.laurerupc.com
--end of article by George Laurer.
Shipping Container Codes
A Shipping Container Barcode (also called a GTIN-14) is used on the outside of master cartons and is recommended or required by many mid-to large retailers who are automating their incoming inventory processes.
The symbology used to create the Shipping Container Barcode is called interleaved 2 of 5 (ITF). There are several differences between a UPC and a Shipping Container Code including the additional numbers, the symbology used and the use of bearer bars. There are two ways to create these codes - with the addition of a bar at the top and bottom of the barcode or a box surrounding the barcode. The image below shows the box.
The Barcode is comprised of 4 groups.
Packaging Indicator. It is recommended that the first digit is 1 to 7. If you have a container that has 12 and another container that has 36, you assign different numbers to each. This is very flexible.
The next number is a ZERO. This is required.
The next 11 digits are the first 11 digits from the UPC barcode used for the item inside.
The final (14th digit) is a check digit
UPC Barcodes DO NOT DISPLAY COUNTRY CODES and you cannot tell the country of origin from a barcode. You can only tell where the barcode prefix originated.
Barcode prefixes do not provide identification of origin for a specific product. They merely provide number capacity to different countries for assignment of barcode prefixes by the GS1.
UPC Barcodes do not show the leading zero. A UPC Barcode that starts with 7 would have a country code of 070 – 079 if it were encoded as a EAN.
Here is the current list of EAN country codes (13 digit GTIN-13s) 00 – 019 U.S. and Canada
020 – 029 Restricted Distribution
030 – 039 U.S. Drugs (see U.S. National Drug Code)
040 – 049 Restricted Distribution (MO Defined)
050 – 059 Coupons
060 – 099 U.S. and Canada
100 – 139 U.S.
200 – 299 Restricted Distribution
300 – 379 France and Monaco
387 Bosnia and Herzegovina
400 – 440 Germany (440 code inherited from old East Germany on reunification, 1990)
450 – 459 Japan
460 – 469 Russia
479 Sri Lanka
489 Hong Kong SAR
490 – 499 Japan
500 – 509 United Kingdom
520 – 521 Greece
540 – 549 Belgium and Luxembourg
570 – 579 Denmark, Faroe Islands and Greenland
600 – 601 South Africa
618 Côte d’Ivoire
628 Saudi Arabia
629 United Arab Emirates
640 – 649 Finland
690 – 695 China, The People’s Republic
700 – 709 Norway
730 – 739 Sweden : EAN/GS1 Sweden
741 El Salvador
744 Costa Rica
746 Dominican Republic
754 – 755 Canada
760 – 769 Switzerland and Liechtenstein
770 – 771 Colombia
789 – 790 Brazil
800 – 839 Italy, San Marino and Vatican City
840 – 849 Spain and Andorra
859 Czech Republic
867 North Korea
868 – 869 Turkey
870 – 879 Netherlands
880 South Korea
900 – 919 Austria
930 – 939 Australia
940 – 949 New Zealand
950 GS1 Global Office: Special applications
951 EPC global: Special applications
960 – 969 GS1 Global Office: GTIN-8 allocations
977 Serial Publications (ISSN)
978 – 979 Bookland (ISBN) – 979 formerly used for sheet music
980 Refund Receipts
981 – 983 Common Currency Coupons
990 – 999 Coupons
Prefix 950 (GS1 Global Office) is used for special applications and bi-lateral agreements.
1948 - Bernard Silver, grad student at Drexel Institute of Technology overhears conversation between Food Fair President and Dean of DIT to create a system to auto-read products during checkout.
Silver’s friend and partner, Norman Woodland leaved DIT to develop a barcode based on the dots and dashes of morse code by extending the lines downward.
Woodland creates a barcode reading system using a movie projector lamp and then decides the barcode should be in a circle for ease of reading.
1949 – Woodland and Silver file US Patent for both linear and bullseye patterns along with a variety of mechanical and electronic reading devices.
1951 – Woodland joins IBM. IBM interested but doesn’t feel that the technology to process the data is not yet possible.
David Collins develops a system, KarTrack, for railroad industry using blue and red refective striped encoding a 10 digit number to track railroad cars – data fed into two photomultipliers filtering out red and blue.
1962 – IBM makes bid to buy patent, Philco makes a better offer. Philco sells patent to RCA.
1966 – National Association of Food Chains (NAFC) begins discussions to automate checkout systems.
1967 – KarTrack installation begins.
1970 NAFC sets guidelines and creates a symbol selection committee.
1972 RCA begins 18 month test that fails.
1973 George Laurer/IBM develops linear UPC system including UPC A and E which becomes the format accepted by NAFC.
1974 NCR installs flatbed scanner at Marsh’s Supermarket (Ohio).
June 26 1974, first item scanned (Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit Gum).
1981 DoD adopts Code 39 for all inventory sold to the US military causing the wide adaptation of barcodes.
To help our clients, we have assembled a glossary of barcode terms and definitions. This is a comprehensive list of terms that are used for all industries including retail. We have a few terms where we have linked to pages on our website.
1 Color - The printing of a label in a single color
2 Color - The printing of a label in two different spot colors
3 Color - The printing of a label in three different spot colors
4CP (4 Color Process) - Printing using a 4 Color Process CMYK printing method.
Accuracy Term used for barcode verification. Accuracy determines whether any element width, or inter-character gap width, differs from its nominal width by more than the printing tolerance.
Adhesive Portion of a pressure sensitive label allowing for the label to be affixed to its intended surface...the sticky side of the label.
Alignment Relative position and orientation of a scanner to the barcode symbol.
Alphanumeric Character set consisting of letters and numbers.
ASCII Character set described in the American National Standard Code for Information Interchange. ASCII codes represent text in computers, communications equipment, and other devices that use text.
Aspect ratio Ratio of barcode symbol height to symbol length.
Asynchronous communication Every character transmitted has special bits attached, telling the receiving device when the data begins and ends.
Auto discrimination Ability of barcode scanning/decoding equipment to recognize more than one symbology.
Average Background Reflectance A barcode verification term expressed as a percent.
Backcoating Thermal transfer ribbons use backcoating to keep the ribbon from sticking to the printhead and label material. This protects the printhead from damage caused by excessive heat, static, and abrasion.
Background Spaces, quiet zones, and areas surrounding a printed symbol.
Bar The lines or darker elements of a printed barcode symbol.
Bar Code Character A single group of bars and stripes that represents a specific quantity of ASCII characters.
Bar Code Density The number of characters that can be represented in a linear unit of measure. This number is often expressed in characters per inch or cpi.
Bar Code Reader Any device that can read a barcode (ight pen, laser gun, fixed scanner, etc.).
Bar Width Thickness of an individual bar measured from edge to edge.
Bi-directional Barcode symbol that can be successfully read in either direction.
Bipad The BIPAD numbering system is unique to the retail magazine business. Here is Nationwide Barcode's article about the Bipad numbering system
Bitmapped Font Character/font sets printed by a thermal printer and are typically available in limited point sized: .6, 8, 10, 12, 14, and 18 point.
Character Alignment The vertical or horizontal position of characters.
Character Density The number of data characters per unit length
Character Font The type and style of data characters available for a particular thermal printer model.
Character Set A range of data characters (alpha, numeric, and/or punctuation) that can be encoded into any given symbology.
Check Character/Digit A mathematical algorithm that has been created for the purpose of performing a mathematical check to ensure that a barcode has been scanned and read correctly.
CODABAR Originally developed by Pitney Bowes, the Codabar Barcode is used primarily by US Blood Banks, Photo Labs and Overnight Delivery Services. Codabar can encode the numbers 0 through 9, the start/stop characters A, B, C, D, E, *, N or T. and the six symbols (-:.$/+).
Code 2 of 5 Also called Interleaved Two of Five or ITF Interleaved 2 of 5 is a continuous two-width barcode symbology encoding digits. It is used commercially on 135 film and on cartons of some products, while the products inside are labeled with UPC or EAN.
Code 11 Barcode Code 11 is a barcode symbology developed by Intermec in 1977. It is used primarily in telecommunications. The symbol can encode any length string consisting of the digits 0-9 and the dash character (-). One or more modulo-11 check digit(s) can be included.
Code 39 Barcode Full alphanumeric barcode. Code 39 is the standard for many industries, including adoption by the U.S. Department of Defense for its LOGMARS specification.
Code 49Barcode Very compact variable barcode type capable of encoding the full 128 ASCII character.
Code 93 Barcode Code 93 is a barcode symbology designed in 1982 by Intermec to provide a higher density and data security enhancement to Code 39. It is an alphanumeric, variable length symbology. Code 93 is used primarily by Canada Post to encode supplementary delivery information. Every symbol includes two check characters.
Code 128 Barcode Code 128 is a very high-density barcode symbology. (A special version of it called GS1-128 is used extensively world wide in shipping and packaging industries.) It is used for alphanumeric or numeric-only barcodes. It can encode all 128 characters of ASCII and, by use of an extension character (FNC4), the Latin-1 characters defined in ISO/IEC 8859-1.
Converting The process of taking master or parent rolls of material and converting them into sizes and lengths of labels based on label size, type, use, etc.
Continuous Media Label, ticket, or tag stock media that does not contain any notches, gaps, or holes between each label.
CPI Characters Per Inch.
Data identifier Message prefixes in a barcode that define a category or intended use of the data that follows the identifier.
Decoder The is the part of the barcode reader that processes the signals and interprets them into usable and meaningful data.
Depth of Field Minimum and Maximum distance in which a scanner is capable of reading barcodes.
Die A hardened steell or tungsten carbide tool used for cutting a desired shape, form or finish to a material. (See Die Cut)
Die Cut means that the label is cut out using a "cookie cutter" to create the desired shape and size that you want the label to be. Many times, it is referring to the label having rounded corners as opposed to square corners (which are called 'butt' or 'kiss' cut.
Direct Thermal Thermal printing (or direct thermal printing) is a digital printing process which produces a printed image by selectively heating coated thermochromic paper, or thermal paper as it is commonly known, when the paper passes over the thermal print head.
Diffuse Reflection A barcode verification term. Diffuse reflection is the reflection of light from a surface such that an incident ray is reflected at many angles rather than at just one angle as in the case of specular reflection. An illuminated ideal diffuse reflecting surface will have equal luminance from all directions in the hemisphere surrounding the surface.
DPI Dots Per Inch. This defines printing resolution of thermal and laser printers.
EAN European Article Numbering system (also known as International Article Number and GTIN13). This is similar to the UPC (Universal Product Code) system used in the US and Canada.The EAN is a 13 digit system including a country code. Nationwide Barcode provides EAN barcodes
EAN-13EAN-13 has 13 characters. See EAN (above). There are variants of the EAN-13 barcode which include a 2 or 5 digit extension barcode.
EAN-8 EAN-8 has a left-hand guard pattern, four odd parity digits, a center guard pattern, four even parity digits, and a right hand guard pattern with a total of eight symbols.
Element A single bar or space in a barcode.
Fanfold Labels manufactured and then folded into a zig-zag format allowing the packing the labels flat. The fold is created by a horizontal perforation in the release liner.
Facestock The part of the substrate (media) where printing occurs.
Federation of Automated Coding Technologies. (FACT) FACT was formed to foster interindustry communications and coordination relating to barcode standards.FACT maintains a database of specifications and data identifiers.
First Read Rate Barcode verification term. The ratio of the number of successful reads to the number of attempts. Commonly expressed as a percentage. Abbreviated as FRR.
Fixed beam scanner A visible light or laser scanner that requires a more exact positioning of a barcode than a moving beam scanner.
Function code Function (FNC) codes define instructions for a barcode reader decoding Code 128 barcodes. FNC 1, for example, is a required component of the UCC-128 specification. FNC 2 tells the reader to store the data read and transmit it with the next symbol. FNC 3 is reserved for code reader initializing and other reader functions. FNC 4 is reserved for future use.
GS1 Founded in 1977, GS1 is an international association dedicated to the development and implementation of global standards and solutions to improve the efficiency and visibility of supply and demand chains globally and across multiple sectors. The GS1 System of standards is the most widely used supply-chain standards system in the world. Nationwide Barcode received their barcodes from the GS1 prior to August of 2002 when their prefixes were grated grand-fathered status allowing them to resell to consumers.
GTIN GTIN is an "umbrella" term used to describe the entire family of GS1 data structures for trade items (products and services) identification. GTINs may be 8, 12, 13 or 14 digits long, and each of these 4 numbering structures are constructed in a similar fashion, combining Company Prefix, Item Reference and a calculated Check Digit.
GTIN 8 An 8-digit number used predominately outside of North America. The barcode format for this is EAN-8.
GTIN 12 A GTIN 12 is a 12-digit number used primarily in North America (The barcode format for this is UPC-A)
GTIN 13 The 13-digit number used outside of North America - the barcode format for a GTIN13 is the EAN-13.
Guard Bars Bars at the ends and center of a UPC or EAN barcode used as reference points for reading the barcode.
Hand-Held Scanner Scanning device to read barcodes.
Heat Resistance The properties of a label which prohibits damage due to high temperatures. These damages can be physical or chemical changes to the material.
Horizontal barcode A barcode type presented in such a manner that its overall length dimension is parallel to the horizon. The bars are presented in an array which looks like a picket fence.
Infrared laser diode Used in some hand laser scanners to project a light beam.
Infrared The band of light wavelengths too long to be seen by the human eye. Used in access control and security applications where barcode fields must not be visible by human eye -- only to an infrared scanner.
Ink Jet Printing Type of computer printing that that creates an image by propelling droplets of ink onto paper of other substrate. High end inkjet printers are often used in corrugated boxes where the barcodes are made very large so dot placement accuracy is not as critical.
Interleaved 2 of 5 High density, numeric barcode type in which each character is composed of five elements
ISBN-13 The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a unique numeric commercial book identifier based upon the 9-digit Standard Book Numbering (SBN) code created by Gordon Foster, Emeritus Professor of Statistics at Trinity College, Dublin,for the booksellers and stationers W.H. Smith and others in 1966. (Wikipedia). Books often have a 5 digit add-on indicating the price of the book.
ISMN The International Standard Music Number (ISMN) is a unique number for the identification of all notated music publications from all over the world (excluding the US), whether available for sale, hire or gratis–whether a part, a score, or an element in a multi-media kit.
ISSN Barcode Used mainly throughout Europe, The ISSN (International Standard Serial Number) identifies periodical publications as such, including electronic serials. The ISSN is a numeric code which is used as an identifier: it has no signification in itself and does not contain in itself any information referring to the origin or contents of the publication.
ITF14 Also known as a GTIN 14 The ITF14 is a 14 digit barcode used to mark the master shipping containers of products with a UPC identifier. It is based on the I2of5 barcode. ITF14 barcodes usually contain a top and bottom bar (sometimes rectangle) called the Bearers bar.
JAN Japanese Article Number - Name used for the EAN system in Japan
Label Thickness The ideal range of media/substrate thickness to promote optimum print quality and performance.
Label, Pressure Sensitive Pressure sensitive adhesive (PSA, self adhesive, self stick adhesive) is adhesive which forms bond when pressure is applied to adhere the label or other item to the adherent. No solvent, water or other component is required.
Label, Transparent A pressure-sensitive clear label.
Ladder barcode printed in a rotation perpendicular to the horizon so that the individual bars appear as rungs on a ladder. Vertical barcode.
Laminate To apply one layer of material over another. A clear laminate protects the surface of a printed item or label.
Laser Printing Laser printing is a digital printing process that rapidly produces high quality text and graphics on plain paper. The pressure from the printhead and drum then fuse the image to the paper, creating the image. Laser printed labels are only as durable as a paper photocopy.
Lay Flat Label Material with a non-curling attribute suitable for any form of printing or processing where a flat sheet is required. 'Lay Flat' can also pertain to liners in some applications
Laurer, George Inventor of the UPC barcode. George Joseph Laurer (born September 23, 1925 in New York, NY) developed the Universal Product Code in 1973. As an engineer at IBM he was asked to develop the pattern used for the Universal Product Code. A 36-year veteran of the International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) who retired in June 1987, George Laurer is the holder of 25 patents. He is also the author of 20 published Technical Disclosure Bulletins.
LED Light-emitting diode. The light source often used in light pens.
Light pen A scanning device which is used as a hand held barcode reader, also known as a wand. Requires direct contact with the image.
LOGMARS Logistics of Marking and Reading symbols. A Department of Defense marking specification.
Machine-Readable A general term used for printed material that can be scanned and directly transferred to a data processing system.
Manufacturer’s ID With a UPC, the first 6, 7, 8 or 9 digits of the barcode.
Minimal Application Temperature The lowest temperature at which a pressure sensitive label can be applied to a product and still retain it's initial tack.
Media Refers to the label, tag, or other substrate used - the surface on which a barcode symol is printed.
Media Roll Capacity The maximum/minimum roll diameter that a thermal printer can accommodate, for example 5.0” O.D. (Outer Diameter) and 1.0” I.D. (Inner Diameter).
mil One one-thousandth of an inch (0.001"). Unit of measurement used in barcode specifications.
Misread A condition when the reader/decoder does not agree with the data encoded in the barcode field.
MSI Barcode MSI (also known as Modified Plessey) is a barcode symbology developed by the MSI Data Corporation, based on the original Plessey Code symbology. It is a continuous symbology that is not self-checking.
Module The width of the narrow bars in a barcode.
Moving beam scanner A device where scanning is achieved by mechanically moving a light beam through the bars of a barcode field.
NNanometer Unit of measure used to define the wavelength of light.
Net Data Density The net data density of a linear barcode symbol is determined by dividing the number of characters in the symbol by the overall symbol length
Nominal Tolerances are specified as positive and negative deviations.
OCR Optical Character Recognition. Technology for machine reading of human readable text.
OD Outside Diameter. This is the diameter of the entire roll including the labels. The OD of a finished roll is specified and is based upon how the labels will be mounted on a printer or application unit.
On-Demand A printing term (also for labels) describing how printing is done. On-demand usually incorporates a digital printing process as opposed to a long run printing process utilizing negatives or plates and the requirements of long run printing.
One-Dimensional Bar Code A complete message is expressed by a single line of bars. Also linear barcode.
Opaque - a material or a surface that is not transparent, translucent or allows light to pass through it. Opaque labels are typically used as cover-up labels so the label beneath cannot be seen
Operating Temperature Prescribed temperature range for the safe operation of a thermal printer.
Orientation The alignment of a barcode symbol with respect to horizontal.
Optical throw Minimum distance a barcode can be away from a scanner and still be read.
Orientation The orientation of the barcode, such as horizontal with vertical bars and spaces (picket fence) and vertical with horizontal bars and spaces (ladder).
Overhead The fixed number of characters required for start, stop, and checking in a given barcode symbol.
Overlam (Overlaminate) A protective material applied to a label to provide additional protection to the label against harsh conditions. The overlam offers resistance to abrasion, chemicals, high temps and exposure to weather.
Pacific Barcode Located in Temecula, CA, Pacific Barcode is the premier source for preprinted labels, equipment (scanners, printers, etc.) and supplies: https://pacificbarcode.com
PCS A barcode verification term. Print contrast signal. Measurement of the ratio of the reflectivity between the bars and spaces of a barcode field, commonly expressed in percent.
Permanency A measure of an adhesive’s ultimate holding power or bond strength.
Permanent Adhesive An adhesive that has the strongest possible bond with the item.
Pharamacode Pharmacode, also known as Pharmaceutical Binary Code, is a barcode standard, used in the pharmaceutical industry as a packing control system.
Picket fence A barcode whose length is printed horizontally and the bars are presented in an array which looks like a picket fence.
Plates The image carrier throughout the printing process. Flexo plates are made of a flexible polymer and wrap around the printing cylinder. Each color on a label requires its own plate and ink station
PLU Price look-up codes, commonly called PLU codes, PLU numbers, PLUs, produce codes, or produce labels, are identification numbers affixed to produce in grocery stores and supermarkets to make check-out and inventory control easier, faster, and more accurate. The code may be a four-digit number, currently in the 3000–4999 range, identifying the type of bulk produce, including the variety, or a five-digit number. (wikipedia)
Point of Sale (POS) Refers to the Electronic Cash Register in a retail business.
Poly - Short for Polyester or Polypropelyne.
Polyester A strong film having good resistance to moisture, solvents, oils, and many other chemicals.
Polyethylene A tough, sturdy plastic film having very good, low temperature characteristics.
Polypropylene Similar to polyethylene but stronger, with a higher temperature resistance. Often used in the creation of Zebra media.
Postnet Code A barcode symbology used primarily by the U.S. Postal Service for mail sorting. All bars and spaces are the same width. ZIP Code information is encoded into the particular arrangement of tall and short bars.
Print Quality A barcode verification term. The measure of compliance of a barcode symbol to the requirements of various qualities of the barcode.
Pressure Sensitive Label Pressure sensitive adhesive (PSA, self adhesive, self stick adhesive) is adhesive which forms bond when pressure is applied to adhere the label or other item to the adherent. No solvent, water or other component is required.
QR Code A QR code (quick response) is a two-dimensional barcode developed for use in Japan that permits the encoding of binary, Kanji, and alphanumeric information. They have been adapted for a variety of marketing applications.
Quiet Zone A clear space which precedes the start character of a barcode field and follows the stop characters. Sometimes called the "clear area."
RRead rate Barcode verification term. The ratio of successful barcode reads to the total number of attempts.
Reflectance A barcode verification term. The ratio of the amount of light which is reflected back from the white spaces of a barcode during scanning to the amount of light reflected under similar illumination conditions.
Removable Adhesive A pressure sensitive adhesive with low adhesion and clean removability from a wide variety of surfaces
Ribbon A cloth or plastic tape coated with several layers of material, one of which is ink-like, that produces the visible marks on the the material to be printed.
Residue Adhesive left on a substrate when a decal is removed.
Resolution The higher the resolution the better the print quality. Measured in dots per inch (dpi).
Rolls refer to the way that labels are manufactured and finished. The core size can range from very small to a 3" inside diameter. The outside diameter will depend of the type of applicator or printer that will house the roll of preprinted or blank labels.
Scanner An electro/optical device that converts the bars and spaces of a barcode field into electrical signals.
Service Temperature The temperature range that a pressure sensitive label will withstand after a 24-hour residence time on the substrate. The range is expressed in degrees Fahrenheit and/or degrees Celsius.
SSCC18 Barcode This Symbology is also known as UPC-128 Shipping Container Code, Code 128 UPC Shipping Container Code, Serial Shipping Container Code, UCC-128, EAN-18, NVE (Nummer der Versandeinheit)
Substitution error rate. The rate of occurrence of incorrect characters.
SKU Stock Keeping Units. In a distribution/retail environment, a generic term for item or part number.
SoundscanNielsen SoundScan is an information and sales tracking system created by Mike Fine and Mike Shalett. Soundscan is the official method of tracking sales of music and music video products throughout the United States and Canada. Data is collected weekly and made available every Wednesday to subscribers, which include executives from all facets of record companies, publishing firms, music retailers, independent promoters, film and TV, and artist management. SoundScan is the sales source for the Billboard music charts, making it the official source of sales records in the music industry. (wikipedia)
Space width The thickness of a space measured from the edge closest to the symbol start character to the trailing edge of the same space.
Spectral Response Barcode verification term. The variation in sensitivity of a test surface to light of different wavelengths.
Stacked code Where a long barcode field is broken into sections and "stacked" one upon the other, resulting in codes that are extremely compact.
Start-stop character A special barcode character that provides the scanner with start and stop reading instructions as well as scanning direction indicator.
Symbol A combination of barcode characters, including start/stop characters, quiet zones, data characters, and check characters required by a particular symbology.
Symbol Length The distance between the outside edges of the quiet zones on the two ends of a barcode field.
Symbology Barcode type.
Thermal direct Printing method where dots are selectively heated and cooled and dragged upon heat-sensitive paper. The paper turns dark in the heated areas. Thermal Direct paper or labels can turn dark if exposed to direct heat or sunlight.
Thermal transfer A printing method like thermal direct except a one-time ribbon is used. This eliminates the problems of fading or changing color inherent in thermal direct printing.
Top Coat Surface treatment or coating on a material that allows for better ink receptivity.
UCC Uniform Code Council - formerly the Uniform Product Code Council, now referred to as the GS1. Where all barcodes originate. There are a number of legal resellers including Nationwide Barcode. http://www.nationwidebarcode.com
Ultra Removeable Adhesive - Allows for the removal of labels over a period of months and removal and re-using several times.
UPC-A A fixed length, numeric, barcode type used primarily in the retail industry for labeling packages. There are two additional variations of the UPC-A barcode. One having a two digit extension and the other having a 5 digit extension. The 2 digit extension is used by magazine and publication publishers and the 5 digit by greeting card manufacturers.
UPC-E A UPC-E barcode is a shortened representation of a UPC-A. It reduces the data length from 12 digits to 6 digits by compressing the extra digits. Not all UPC-A barcodes can be converted to UPC-E.
Varnish A type of coating material that is applied to the surface of the label. This coating can be used to enhance the look of the label or to provide a protective coating. Varnish can either be applied completely over the label or can be used as a spot-coating enhancing sections of the printing.
Vector Vector images are made up of many scalable images and are defined by mathematical equations so they can render at the absolute highest quality. This objects can consist of lines, curves, shapes with editable characteristics.
Verifier A device that makes measurements of the bars, spaces, quiet zones and optical characteristics of a barcode field to determine if the code meets the requirements of a specification or standard.
Vertical barcode A barcode field printed in a rotation perpendicular to the horizon so that the individual bars appear as rungs on a ladder.
Vinyl A synthetic plastic product which can be made into film, sheets or other forms. Is generally more flexible that polyester or other films. This tough durable plastic film has excellent resistance to oils, chemicals, and solvents. Can be colored and has excellent abrasion-resistance. Also known as PVC and has a high degree of stretch due to the addition of a plasticizer.
Visible laser diode Used in some hand laser scanners to project a beam of light visible to the human eye, simplifying the scanning process.
Void A printing and barcode verification term. An undesirable absence of ink in a bar.
X-dimension The width of the narrow bars and spaces in a barcode type; usually measured in mils.
Zebra (Brand) A thermal print technology company intent on providing innovative labeling solutions and quality products of renowned reliability to its customers.