Many of us interact with barcodes daily, yet not everyone fully understands what a barcode is, what types of barcodes there are, etc. In this article, the label experts at United Label are going to provide a brief yet comprehensive overview of the world of barcodes and QR codes, which appear on packaging labels all over the world.
Put simply, a barcode is a machine-readable code presented in numbers and a pattern of parallel lines of varying widths, printed on and used to identify a product. They appear on almost every label of a product that is sold to consumers or businesses–though not all.
Using Barcodes To Track Information
Barcodes are a lot more than their definition; in fact, the barcode has also helped many businesses and organizations in the act of tracking their products, their prices, and the stocks available. All of this is merged and is readily available to read with the help of a software system. The lines and patterns on barcodes represent numbers which allows the product’s basic information to be accessed by a scanning device called a Barcode Scanner. (You can actually buy one of these on Amazon for about fifty bucks.)
How It All Started
Barcodes have a relatively long history, when compared to most modern technology–such as the internet, or mobile phones–but not long at all in the grand scope of things. Nearly seventy years ago, the technology for barcodes was invented. Joseph Woodland, a mechanical engineer, took inspiration from Morse Code to form this technology that shaped the retail industry’s future and is used for many things today. Barcodes went on to have many different types, which include the 1D and 2D.
How Barcodes Work
Barcodes essentially work with the help of symbology and a scanner that can read the symbols and then convert them into information to help the reader. It usually contains information about the product type, price, and origin. The scanner reads the barcode and enters the information into the system. It has paved the way to ensure that their products are correctly stocked and accurately priced. Many businesses other than those in the retail industry use barcodes to keep track of their inventory and assets, mail mergers, and add barcodes to invoices that represent customers.
The most well-known barcode type is the 1D barcode; this consists of two parts; the barcode itself and the Universal Product Code (UPC) number, which is a 12-digit number. The first six digits are the manufacturer’s identity, and the next five numbers are the item’s number. The last number determines if the barcode was successfully scanned.
Although Barcodes are prevalent at the supermarket, there are other practical applications in the modern world as well. For example, medication errors continue to be one of the biggest problems plaguing the American healthcare system, and patients who receive the wrong medication are at risk for major complications due to this error. In order to correct for this, hospitals have over the past few years incorporated barcode procedures to address this situation of improper medication dispensation.
The new barcode procedures utilize specialized handheld scanners, computer software, and the application of barcodes to each and every medication scheduled for dispensation. The system employs the same technique as the one used by retail stores across the country, and the barcode technology has proven to be accurate time and time again. The hope is that this newly instituted procedure will prevent accidental drug misuse and the problems that it causes.
What’s particularly great about this system is that medications that are dispensed at the hospitals can be tracked from their point of origin in the pharmacy to the nurses’ station to the patient’s bedside. Regulations have been implemented that require both the medication and the patient’s wristband to be scanned before the medication can be dispensed. The barcode on the medication’s label must match the patient’s information, making drug errors far less common.
Just like the scanner at the grocery store gives you the correct price for your cereal or bar of soap, the procedure in hospitals allows verification of the drug, the dosage, and the patient who is to receive it. The medication records can be viewed online by the physicians from their office locations for an added level of safety.
And all because of the humble barcode.
A QR code (also known as a Quick Response code) was first introduced in the automotive industry of Japan, in 1996 but didn’t really take off until 2006. They are two-dimensional codes that are readable by a scanner and mobile phone cameras in today’s modern-day and age. The QR codes can hold information horizontally and vertically, and store information such as email addresses, websites, messages, names, and other data.
QR codes became known in the world because of their easy access: anyone with a smartphone that can install the latest QR reader applications can access information stored in the QR code. Nowadays, it is possible to scan the QR code using the smartphones’ camera without an external or third-party application. QR codes can convey operational instructions, and are used to provide instructions for various jobs, including plumbing and wiring. They may also be used to submit and check requests.
QR codes are considered far more secure than 1D barcodes because the information they read is easily encrypted, and there is less room for error. QR codes contain three levels of security that detect errors. Although QR codes are widely accepted as the easiest way to communicate and spread information, we still believe they are yet to utilize and realize their full potential.
QR Codes During The Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic changed the whole world, and made us re-think how we go about our daily lives. QR codes have become extremely helpful in this turbulent time. In our new scary world of lockdowns and social distancing, we do not want to touch many things, including menu cards in restaurants or brochures containing adverts from different companies.
The QR codes made it a lot more convenient for everyone, as most restaurants converted their menu cards into QR codes. The customers are able to simply scan the QR code provided by the restaurant or café, and they could now easily browse the menu on their mobile phones instead of having to hold a physical menu that might be contaminated.
The Future of Barcodes and QR Codes
Technology has been deciding the fate of our future, and there’s no doubt that barcodes and QR codes have changed and made our lives easier. We believe that that there will be more to come, including using QR codes in payment gateways and many other mediums to ease our lives further. As you are developing your packaging, please keep in mind how best to utilize QR codes and barcodes on your labels. Then, when you’re ready to go to print, call the experts at United Label at (973) 589-6500 to get started. We are here to help you get your labels done quickly, easily, and affordably.