Barcode Formats

A barcode format describes how the data in a barcode is to be visually represented. There are many barcode formats available, each with its own intended use cases, benefits and limitations.


Barcode Dimensions

Barcode formats come in two sets; 1 dimensional barcodes (1D) and two-dimensional barcodes (2D).

  • 1D barcodes are often used for application specific purposes (retail checkout, shipping tracking numbers…) and usually store an id (sku, UPC, unique id…)
  • 2D barcodes are used to store more data than 1d barcodes (url) and are used by both consumers (consumer engagement) and proprietary applications

Barcode Comparison Matrix

The following is a comparison of the commonly used barcode formats for Connected Things and other applications.

Barcode FormatDimensionsUsage
Aztec2DTicketing, transportation
Code 391DNot commonly used
Code 931DNot commonly used
Code 1281DMost common 1D format
Data Matrix2DCommon 2D barcode format; often used instead of a QR Code
EAN-81DShorter version of EAN-13; GS1 GTIN-8
EAN-131DRetail labels; GS1 GTIN
ITF-141DProduct packaging; GS1 GTIN-14
QR Code2DConsumer engagement
PDF4172DTransportation, identity management, inventory systems
UPC1DCommon 1D format; retail labeling and checkout