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Understanding the differences between the two general classes of barcode scanning technology — 1D and 2D — will go a long way in helping you to evaluate the benefits that each offers your business. Here are some frequently asked questions about barcode scanning technology options and the answers you need.

Q: What is a 1D (linear) barcode?

A: A 1D barcode is a visual black and white pattern for encoding information. Most people are very familiar with this code’s parallel up and down lines that resemble a “picket fence.” In a 1D barcode, information such as numbers or other keyboard characters is encoded horizontally from left to right. The more characters in your code, the longer it will be. 1D barcodes are traditionally used to encode static data that will be linked to dynamic data that changes frequently.  A type of 1D barcode is a UPC label found on many consumer goods.

Q: What is a 2D barcode?

A: 2D barcode scanning technology uses patterns, shapes, and dots to encrypt information both horizontally and vertically. A 2D barcode can encrypt more characters in the same space as a 1D barcode. While 1D codes typically have 20 to 25 characters, 2D barcodes can have 2,000 characters or more. Types of 2D codes include QR code, PDF417, and Data Matrix. These types of codes, in addition to holding more data, can encrypt images, website addresses, voice and other binary data, which means that the codes can work independently of a database.

Q: Can I read 1D barcodes with a 2D barcode imager scanner?

A: Yes! Any 2D imager scanner will interpret the encrypted data of a 1D barcode. In fact, 2D imagers have become so versatile that they often are replacing 1D barcode scanners in many applications. In addition to reading all types of data encryptions, 2D barcodes can read from any direction, at long ranges, and can interpret damaged or poorly printed barcodes.

Q: Can I read 2D barcodes with a 1D barcode scanner?

A: No. 1D barcode scanners will only interpret the linear barcode scanning technology. Since the type of encryptions they can decode is limited, 1D barcode scanners are typically less expensive.

Q: Which is better for reading damaged or poorly printed barcodes?

A: A 2D imager scanner has the ability to read damaged or poorly printed linear barcodes. 2D imagers will reduce wasted time spent trying to read bad barcodes and will boost overall productivity in environments where reliability and flexibility are important.

Q: Is a 1D barcode scanner able to read barcodes from any angle (omnidirectional)?

A: No. A 1D barcode scanner is extremely limited in the angle at which it must read a 1D barcode. A benefit of 2D imagers is that they are omnidirectional and can read even a damaged or poorly printed barcode from any angle. This can have a tremendous impact on the workflows of your operation because less time will be spent at finding the right angle. 2D barcode scanning technology helps increase efficiency, productivity and lessens worker hand fatigue.

Q: Can I capture images of documents and signatures with a 2D barcode scanner?

A: Yes! 2D barcode scanners help minimize the risk of fraud in shipping and delivery applications. These scanners can easily and accurately capture signatures with a simple scan, allowing drivers to quickly expedite the delivery workflow.

Q: What is the fastest and most accurate option?

A: 2D barcode scanners are the best option if you’re looking for fast and accurate barcode readings. Their use in manufacturing and supply chain applications has increased, as this scanning technology efficiently scans moving items on conveyor belts without worrying about scanner alignment. In addition, 2D barcodes are ideal for imprinting on the small parts associated with manufacturing, electronics, pharmaceutical and medical equipment industries.

When determining the right barcode scanning technology for your operation, consider whether your applications could benefit from a boost in overall productivity and accuracy provided by the fast and accurate, omnidirectional capabilities of 2D scanners.

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