QR Code 2nd Sight Website

Decoding Barcodes

Many of our labor and product tracking systems utilize barcodes to track and trace. We often receive questions about whether 2nd Sight provides barcodes, or if there are required barcode specifications. In most cases, our software only requires a unique identifier. However, there are many types of barcodes and it can get overwhelming to choose. Each barcode serves a purpose. Here is a summary of the most common barcode formats and why one type may be better suited for a specific application.

1D Versus 2D
There are two main groups of barcodes, one-dimensional or “linear” and two-dimensional barcodes. A “1D” barcode is what you likely imagine when you hear the word “barcode”. The classic zebra stripe pattern encodes numbers (and in some cases letters and characters) that help identify a specific item or type of item. “2D” barcodes contain many small dots instead of bars and offer more storage potential and even better readability—regardless of printing size.

In specialty crop farming, 1D barcodes are often printed on apple and pear bin tags. The barcode provides a unique number that allows the packing house to identify various information about the crop. These bin tags offer an easy solution to start traceability in the field. When a grower can link the picker to the produce and provide a pick time and date, any issues that may arise down the supply chain can be traced back to the source so that other affected produce may also be identified quickly and accurately. Here are some examples of commonly used 1D barcodes.


Stands for: Universal Product Code
Purpose: Easily identify an object’s attributes, efficient product tracking
Benefits: Widely used
Applications:   Retail point of sale scanning
Count: UPC-A = 12 digits, UPC-E = 6 digits


Stands for: European Article Number
Purpose: Easily identify an object’s attributes, efficient product tracking
Benefits: Suitable for small locations, fast-scanning
Applications:   Retail point of sale scanning
Count EAN-13 = 13 digits, EAN-8 = 8 digits


Stands for: Use all 128 characters of ASCII (character encoding set)
Purpose: Encode large amounts of information (such as serial numbers)
Benefits: Compact, high-density, supports digits, letters, and many characters
Applications:   Logistics, transportation, shipping, and tracking
Count: Based on the application, size, and scanner capabilities


Stands for: Interleaved 2 of 5
Purpose: Label packaging materials (cardboard)
Benefits: Self-checking code suitable for printing on product packaging
Limitations: Can only encode numbers
Applications:   Many industries, product packaging
Count: 14 numeric digits


Stands for: Code 3 of 9
Purpose: Label goods
Benefits: Utilize both digits and characters, readable by many scanners
Limitations: Not suitable for small items
Applications:   Automotive, government, asset tracking
Count: 43 characters

2D barcodes are a newer category of barcodes that offer more data storage and increased readability to keep data scannable—even after being ripped or damaged. At 2nd Sight, we recently released a feature on our InstaCaliper and TallyTrak nursery inventory capture app that utilizes QR Codes to auto populate information. Typically, an operator would search through a drop-down menu to locate the correct field location, row number, and variety. Now, the nursery can follow a specific format to generate QR codes that store this information. The operator can scan the barcode to quickly populate the correct information, saving time and minimizing errors. Here are a few common 2D barcode types:

QR Codes

Stands for: Quick Response
Purpose: Encode a lot of information like web addresses (take a picture of the codes above) 
Benefits: Versatility, fault tolerance, numeric, alphanumeric, byte/binary
Applications:   Retail, entertainment, marketing
Count: 7,089

Datamatrix Code

Stands for: Dots arranged in a square/rectangular pattern (matrix)
Purpose: Encode a lot of information on small items, goods, and documents
Benefits: Small footprint and readable in low resolution/unideal scanning positions
Applications:   Electronics, retail, government
Count: Numeric = 3116 Alphanumeric = 2335, Binary = 1556


Stands for: Portable Data File
Purpose: Store huge amounts of data (photos, fingerprints, signatures)
Benefits: Versatility, fault tolerance, numeric, alphanumeric, byte/binary
Applications:   Logistics, government
Count: Numeric = 1850, Digits = 2710, Bytes = 1108

Newer models of the 2nd Sight rugged handheld computer have built-in barcode readers that capture both 1D and 2D barcodes with a quick press of a button. In the reader configuration, a user can set the reader to register all common (and many uncommon) barcode types. Whether you print your own barcodes or purchase pre-printed barcodes, the first step is to determine if a 1D barcode will be able to hold all the required information. In many cases, a simple sting of numbers is enough to keep an item unique. We also recommend thinking of the proper material on which the barcode will be printed. In many cases, the barcode must be water-resistant, handle cold temperatures, and hold up to a bit of wear and tear.