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If you need to track individual product units in retail sales transactions, carry out asset management or track distribution or your supply chain, there are a range of technologies available: Barcodes, QR Codes, Data Matrix Codes, and RFID.

All are typically systems for conveying massive amounts of data into a small format and in this way, they offer speed, labour savings and cost-effectiveness, among other benefits.

The Barcode was invented in 1951 and was based on Morse code that was extended to thin and thick bars. The very first barcode was introduced in 1974 on a pack of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit gum.

 So, they have been around for decades and have a large variety of uses — especially in retail, manufacturing settings, and in transport and shipping.

A barcode – one-dimensional code – is a set of regularly arranged bars, spaces and corresponding characters that can store text-based information, such as the type, size, and colour of a product among other things.  Normally rectangular in shape, the Barcode requires a scanning device to read their data horizontally. The reading is done by a laser that scans the series of lines, the black lines absorb more light, telling the scanner what numbers are represented.

Why use barcodes?

  • The barcodes can be a relatively inexpensive solution for tracking inventory without using a manual process.
  • That leads to more accurate inventory management, compared to manual inventory methods.
  • The barcodes can increase your company profitability by reducing manual labour costs, improving inventory control, and speeding up the supply chain.

A QR code or Quick Response Code is a type of matrix barcode, first used in 1994 in the Automotive Industry in Japan it quickly became popular outside the automotive industry due to its greater storage capacity and readability compared to the standard UPC Barcodes. The QR code is an improved version of the one-dimensional code, two dimensions – vertical and horizontal information that enable fault tolerance and data volume (about 100 times more data stored).

QR codes can be an effective and inexpensive way to drive new traffic to your website, boosting the effectiveness of both your online and print marketing efforts.

Used to hold applications such as product information, coupons, websites links, event details and general marketing, the QR code consists of black and white symbols that can be read by an imaging device such as a camera and is processed using REED-Solomon error correction until the image can be correctly interpreted. 

QR codes not only hold the above information but can also support byte/binary and Kanji data modes.

QR codes can also be useful in industrial applications, such as facilities management, maintenance, and repairs, regulatory compliance.

Why use QR Codes?

  • QR codes can store larger amounts of data
  • QR codes can make that information accessible to others (inspectors, citizens, etc.) who do not have access to the database where additional information is stored.
  • They are a space-saving solution when you need to provide ready access to product specifications, instruction manuals, or procedures but lack the room for larger labels and signage on the item.

Another two-dimensional code available is the Data Matrix Code, consisting of black and white modules, usually arranged in a square pattern, the alphanumeric data of Data Matrix codes identifies details of the component on which it is placed, including manufacturer ID, part number and a unique serial number.
Developed by ID Matrix in 1987, an entire Data Matrix symbol can store up to 2,335 alphanumeric characters, as more data is encoded in the symbol, the number of modules (rows and columns) increases. The most popular application for Data Matrix is marking small items, due to its ability to encode a large amount of data in a small amount of space. The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) mandates the use of Data Matrix Codes for Unique Item Identification (UID) of certain assets such as weapons and critical components of major systems. These assets must be permanently marked with a unique Data Matrix Code in accordance with Military Standard 130. Much of the Aerospace Industry, especially members of the Air Transport Association (ATA), aims to have all components of every new aircraft identified by Data Matrix codes.

RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification)

If barcodes are one-dimensional data, and QR codes are two-dimensional, then you can think of RFID tags as a three-dimensional code. RFID uses electromagnetic fields to automatically identify and track tags attached to objects.  In 1948 – Scientist and inventor Harry Stockman created RFID and is credited with the invention. In 1963 – Inventor RF Harrington formulates new RFID ideas which include scattering data and information and in 1977 – The first RFID transmitting license plate was created.

RFID can be used in situations that barcodes are great for. RFID is especially useful in situations where vast quantities of goods must be moved or tracked, or where tracking of item-specific information is necessary like in supply chains, manufacturing, laboratory environments, agricultural services, and employee tracking.

Why use RFID?

  • An RFID reader can identify all RFID tags in a warehouse simultaneously (barcode can only be read one at a time)
  • Reader and tag communication are not orientation sensitive.
  • The tag can trigger security alarm systems if removed from its correct location.

All the above options have their target market for different purposes and circumstances. So, if you want to improve your company profitability by reducing manual labour costs, improving inventory control, there’s no excuse for not using technology to operate your business more efficiently and effectively — you just need to identify which technology is better for your needs and your budget.

With the Silver Fox Professional version of Labacus® Innovator Software, you can quickly and easily create Barcodes and QR codes, print on our Labels using either a normal office laser printer or the Fox-in-a-Box® Thermal printer kit.

At Silver Fox, we can also provide pre-printed Barcodes and QR codes on any of our cable, wire and equipment Labelling solutions from our Laser or Thermal range

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