PRODUCT IDENTIFICATION METHODSBarcodes, QR codes and RFID (radio frequency identification) are all systems forconveying large amounts of data in a small format.They offer speed, labor savings and cost savings, among other benefits. But there aredistinct differences between all 3 — and differences in the purposes they are best suitedfor.BARCODESBarcodes have been around for decades, are versatile, and have a lot of uses — especiallyin retail, grocery stores, manufacturing settings, and in transportation of products.QR CODES are well suited for marketing purposes, use on business cards, on a coffeemug, on a banner at a sales event and on all types of food and grocery products toprovide a good explanation about the product, by using a QR code app on a Smart phone.RFID involves applying RFID tags to items or boxes or pallets. Tags vary greatly in size,shape and capabilities. The tag with its small antenna emits a radio frequency signal thatis picked up and read by a special wireless RFID reader, conveying information from thetag about the item it is affixed to.It is especially useful in situations where vast quantities of goods must be moved ortracked, or where tracking of item-specific information is necessary.

PRODUCT IDENTIFICATION CODES AND THE INTERNET OF THINGS (IoT)Simply put, the IoT is a concept where (a) there is information stored on every object (eitherthrough a bar code, a QR code, a chip, or a larger embedded system), and (b) there is some way ofconnecting this information to the Web (generally by using a computer, tablet or smartphone as thegateway).There are several technologies fueling the IoT – chips or codes that store information; near-fieldcommunication (NFC), Zigbee, radio frequency (RF) or some such method for the object tocommunicate with a tablet, smartphone or computer that can connect to the Web; and applicationsthat make smart use of the information embedded in the object.

1D (1 Dimensional) VS 2D (2 Dimensional) BARCODES There are two types of barcodes: linear – or 1D, and 2D. The most visually recognizable, the UPC (Universal Product Code) is a linear (multiple vertical lines)1D barcode made up of two parts: the barcode and the 12-digit UPC number. The first six numbers of the barcode is the manufacturer’s identification number. The next five digitsrepresent the item’s product code. The last number is called a check digit which enables the scanner to determine if the barcode wasscanned correctly.

The first design for the Bar Code was a set of concentric rings but was laterchanged to the vertical lines that we know today.

A barcode (also bar code) is an optical, machine-readable representation of data; the data usuallydescribes something about the object that carries the barcode. The abbreviation UPC stands forUniversal Product CodeTraditional barcodes systematically represent data by varying the widths and spacings of parallel lines,and may be referred to as linear or one-dimensional (1D).Later, two-dimensional (2D) variants were developed, using rectangles, dots, hexagons and othergeometric patterns, called QR, matrix codes or 2D barcodes, although they do not use bars as such.Initially, barcodes were only scanned by special optical scanners called barcode readers.Later application software became available for devices that could read images, such as smartphoneswith cameras.

The different types of 1D and2D codes (below) and showingthe different sizes of QR codes

ONE-DIMENSIONAL (1D) BARCODE TYPESOne-dimensional (or 1D) barcodes systematically represent data by varying the widths and spacingsof the parallel lines. These include some of the most traditional and well-recognized barcode types,such as the UPC (Universal Product Code) and EAN (European Article Numbering) codes.UPC barcodes are used to label and scan consumer goods at points of sale around the world—mainlyin the United States, but also in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and other countries.The UPC-A variation encodes 12 numerical digits, while UPC-E is a smaller variation thatencodes only 6 numerical digits.The barcode identifies the manufacturer and specific product so point-of-sale cash register systemscan automatically look up the price. The UPC-A and EAN-13 codes are valid worldwide, soproducts marked with a UPC-A code can be sold outside the USA.UPC – AUPC-E

1D BARCODE FONTDETAILSUniform Product Code (UPC)Retail stores for sales checkout; inventory, etc.Code 39 (Code 3 of 9)Identification, inventory, and tracking shipmentsUS Intelligent Mail barcodeEncoding zip codes on U.S. mailBooklandBased on ISBN numbers and used on book coversCode 128Used in preference to Code 39 because it is morecompactInterleaved 2 of 5Used in the shipping and warehouse industriesCodabarUsed by Federal Express, in libraries, & blood banks

2D BARCODE FONTDETAILSPDF417Large amounts of text and data can be stored because it can becompressed. Used to print postage accepted by the USPS. It isalso used by airlines on boarding passes.MaxicodeMaxiCode symbols can encode two messages; a primary and asecondary message. Used by the United Parcel Service.Data MatrixIdeal for marking small items due to it’s ability to encode 50characters in an extremely small size. Popular in healthcareand electronic components industry.QR CodeCommon in advertising because it provides a way to access abrand’s website quickly. Easily read by smartphones.QR codes can hold as much as 7,000 digits or 4,000 charactersof text.

HOW DOES A BARCODE WORK?BAR CODESEach character is represented by a pattern of wide and narrow bars. A barcode scanner uses aphotosensor to convert the barcode into electrical signals as it moves across it. The scanner thenmeasures the relative widths of the bars and spaces, translates the different patterns back intoregular characters, and sends them on to a computer or portable terminal.Every barcode begins with a special start character and ends with a special stop character. Thesecodes help the reader detect the barcode and figure out whether it is being scanned forward orbackward.There are different barcode symbologies, each with its own particular pattern of bars.The UPC code used on retail products is an all-numeric code; so is the Interleaved 2 of 5 Code.Code 39 includes upper case letters, digits, and a few symbols. Code 128 includes every printableand unprintable computer character code which is why it is used a lot.

NHS – (National Health Service)

This is a typical bar code label for First class mail, sent in the United States. It is basedon the format for a Code 128 linear bar code which is one of the most popular types usedbecause so much information can be put on it.

U.S. POST OFFICE BARCODES - The barcode that you might see at the bottom of anenvelope or on a mailing label is the Intelligent Mail Barcode (IM barcode) and is a 65bar barcode for use on mail in the United States.The term "Intelligent Mail" refers to services offered by the United States Postal Service for domesticmail delivery and represents ZIP Codes, ZIP 4 codes, and delivery addresses.The Postal Service uses automated equipment that reads the barcode to process and sortmail and tells them where to deliver your mail.There are different kinds of barcodes for different aspects of the mail, such as the purchase of extraservices (like USPS Tracking or Registered Mail).U.S. Post Office mail sack labels also have barcodes on them.All of these barcodes have different functions and must meet certain specifications so that the PostalService can read them correctly.

This diagram shows how the Intelligent mail barcode (IMB) is laid out with the zipcode and the extra 4 digits afterwards.

UNDERSTANDING FIM (FACING IDENTIFICATION MARKS)ON ENVELOPESThe Facing Identification Mark (or FIM), small bar code that youusually see at the top right of an envelope, with only 5 – 6 verticalbars on it is used by the US Postal Service (USPS) to assist in theprocessing of letter mail.This small pattern of vertical bars plays an important role in speeding yourenvelope mail through the USPS system.The FIM Is for Envelopes - Not Shipping Labels and should only beapplied to letter and postcard mail.The USPS equipment that processes flats and packages does not look foror use a FIM.What Does the FIM Tells USPS Mail Processing Equipment?The FIM tells a key USPS processing machine two things about theenvelope.1 It alerts the machine as to what type of postage is (or should be) affixedto the piece.2) It tells the machine if the mail piece already has a Intelligent Mailbarcode representation of the delivery ZIP 4.

There are 3 types of FIM bar codes.The FIM A is used to designate an envelope which has a Intelligent Mail barcode and should contain aconventional stamp or a red postage meter ink mark.Conventional stamps contain an invisible phosphorescent ink and red postage meter inkcontains a red fluorescent trace. Both materials - when excited with a short wave lightsource - emit a green or red signal which can be detected by a USPS machine called a FacerCanceller.The pre-addressed envelope you receive from your water company or credit card companytypically will have a small FIM A bar code on it.This type of envelope is called a courtesy reply envelope - they have provided a preaddressedenvelope as a courtesy to you.You are expected to place your payment in that envelope, affix a stamp or postage meter mark, anddrop it in the mailbox. The billing company wins big time on this because their pre-addressed andIntelligent Mail encoded envelope gets to them quickly so they get your money that much sooner!

A good comparison of astandard orange coloredCanadian stamp at the left, ascompared to the same stampunder Ultraviolet light, at thetop, showing the redder color.

A FIM C is used for Business Reply mail as depicted in the figure below.This tells the USPS facer canceller the mail piece contains a Intelligent Mail barcode but alsoindicates that there will be no fluorescent ink to detect.The postage is paid by the recipient of the mail, using a permit billing system.They are only billed for the post cards sent back to them.You can see dozens of Business Reply postcards in any magazine you pick up.A FIM B is used for Business Reply mailwhich doesn’t have an Intelligent Mailbarcode.You will seldom see this because theUSPS charges much more to the permitholder to process non-Intelligent Mailencoded reply mail.

This is the required layout of a #10 envelope, showing the locations for the small FIM bar codeat the top right and the Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMB) at the lower right.


The first UPC marked item everscanned at a retail checkout was atthe Marsh supermarket in Troy,Ohio at 8:01 a.m. on June 26, 1974,and was a 10-pack (50 sticks)of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit chewing gum.The shopper was Clyde Dawson andcashier Sharon Buchanan made thefirst UPC scan.The NCR cash register rang up 67cents. The entire shopping cart alsohad barcoded items in it, but the gumwas the first one picked up.This item is on display atthe Smithsonian Institution's NationalMuseum of AmericanHistory in Washington, D.C.And if you choose to celebrate it, June 26th is Barcode Day !!

Two-Dimensional (2D) Barcode TypesTwo-dimensional, (or 2D) barcodes systematically represent data using two-dimensional symbolsand shapes. They are similar to a linear 1D barcode, but can represent more data per unit area. 2Dbarcodes include some newer barcode types, such as the QR Code and PDF417.QR CODE (Quick Response)QR codes are most often used in tracking and marketing initiatives, such as advertisements,magazines and business cards. They are flexible in size, offer a high fault tolerance and have fastreadability, though they can’t be read with a laser scanner. QR codes support four different modesof data: numeric, alphanumeric, byte/binary, and Kanji. They are public domain and free to use.

DATAMATRIX CODEDatamatrix codes are usually used to label small items, goods and documents.Their tiny footprint makes them ideal for small products in logistics and operations. In fact, the U.S.Electronic Industries Alliance (EIA) recommends that they be used to label small electroniccomponents.Similar to QR codes, they have high fault tolerance and fast readability.Industry: Electronics, Retail and Government

PDF417PDF417 codes are used for applications that require the storage of huge amounts of data, such asphotographs, fingerprints and signatures.They can hold over 1.1 kilobytes of machine-readable data, making them much more powerful thanother 2D barcodes.Like QR codes, PDF417 barcodes are public domain and free to use.Industry: Logistics and Government

AZTECAztec codes are commonly used by the transportation industry, particularly for tickets and airlineboarding passes.The barcodes can still be decoded even if they have bad resolution, making them useful when ticketsare printed poorly or presented on a phone.They can also take up less space because they don’t require a surrounding blank “quiet zone,” unlikesome other 2D barcode types.Industry: Transportation


RFID IS THE METHOD USED TO IDENTIFY ALL KINDS OFPRODUCTS, VEHICLES, AND MORE, BY READING THEMWITH A RFID READING DEVICE OR SCANNER.An RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) system is made up of electromagneticallyresponsive tags that can be picked up by specialized readers. Each tag can be embedded withunique information and attached to objects in order to track their presence and movement.APPLICATIONS:1) Logistics industry - RFID tags have traditionally been attached to shipping containers, so as truckscarrying containers enter or exit the port the RFID readers at the gate would track their arrival ordeparture.2) Manufacturing sector tags may be attached to components, such as car parts in an automotiveplant, which can then be tracked as they move along the production line.3) People have also been carrying access cards embedded with RFID chips to pass through turnstileson public transport systems in many cities for sometime.4) Pet and person tagging with very small RFID chips, that are put under the skin.

WHAT ARE RFID TAGS? - RFID technology relies on radio waves to send and receive informationbetween a tag and a reader.At its simplest level, an RFID reader sends a signal out to an RFID tag and the tag sends back aninformation-carrying signal. Unique information —such as a GS1 Electronic Product Code (EPC)—can be programmed into each individual RFID tag, which are then affixed to products, boxes,pallets or even high-value equipment depending on the application.Similar to barcodes, RFID tags are commonly used to quickly retrieve product- or pallet-levelinformation.Because RFID tags use radio wave technology, they don’t require direct line-of-sight inorder to be read — meaning entire pallets or truckloads of products can be read asquickly as 700 products per second.This gives RFID tags a clear advantage when it comes to driving visibility and efficiency at thesupply chain level (called smart label tracking).

COMPARING RFID TAG TYPES: UHF VS. HF VS. NFC VS. LF RFIDThere are a variety of RFID tags on the market today, differentiated by frequency range (low, highand ultra-high).Each RFID type can be either active (powered), passive (un-powered) or semi-passive (batteryassisted).

You can buy an adhesive-backed label with 3layers, that has a Passive RFID tag in a middlelayer with a printed bar code on the top layer

While the cost of basic IoT sensors has come down to a matter of dollars (smarter versions in thetens of dollars), a passive RFID tag only costs a few cents. These economics mean a fashionretailer can tag every piece of clothing in a store; a supermarket could tag all of their tens ofthousands of products, and in a smart building context, they could tag pretty much everything.a) Active and b) passive RFID tagSemi-active tags: Although they have their own power source, it is used to energize the chip.Reading operation is performed through Electromagnetic (EM) fields emitted from reader likepassive tags. They do not broadcast like active tags.

Types of RFID Systems - There are twotypes of RFID systems: passive or active.The tag power system defines which typeof system it is.PassiveIn a passive RFID system, the tags do notuse a battery; instead, they receive theirenergy to run from the reader.The reader emits an energy field of a fewfeet, providing the energy for any tag inthe vicinity. The tag gathers theelectromagnetic energy from the cardreader, powers up, and responds with‘hello world’ and its identificationinformation.Passive tags have the benefit of being ableto be read at a fast rate (10 or more timesa second). They are extremely thin(allowing them to be placed betweenlayers of paper) and are extremely cheap(less than 0.05 in 10,000 pcs volumes).



Active -Active RFID systems include tags that have their own internal power supply for increased range.Active tags possess a battery and usually have larger SMD components.After a preset amount of time the tag emits an RF ‘chirp’. A reader in the vicinity can listen and hear forthis chirp.An active tag can be read over much larger distances than passive tags (tens of feet).Downsides to active tags include greater bulk (because of the battery), limited life span (tag is dead whenthe battery is exhausted), increased cost per tag, and varying report rates.EMV STANDS FOR EUROPAY, MASTERCHARGE, AND VISA. THE CARD USES NFCOR NEAR FIELD COMMUNICATION TOWORK, WHICH IS SIMILAR TO RFID.

For people who go to DisneyWorld, MagicBands and cardsare secure all-in-one devicesthat allow you to effortlesslyaccess the plans and vacationchoices that you’ve madewith ”My Disney” Experience.They are colorful, waterproofwristbands—resembling a watchor bracelet—that you canquickly and easily touch to asensor called a touch point.Cards work in a similar fashion,but physically resemble aplastic credit card or driver’slicense. Both MagicBands andcards allow you to travel lighterthroughout your vacation.They both work as RFID(Radio FrequencyIdentification) devices.

An interesting use of a QR code is to providebackground information about a picture in acalendar, for persons who are Blind orVisually-Impaired.The Clovernook Center for the Blind printedtheir 2019 calendar in an antique format, usingpictures made from wood blocks of scenes frommany years ago, with poetry written by one of thewomen – Alice Cary, who with her sister, startedClovernook.When a person scans the QR code at the lower leftof the page, which is on each page, it describessomething different for each of the months.The scanned QR code connects to words that wereprofessionally read, some with sound effects, andthen saved to a “SoundCloud” website.This is what the person hears for the month ofMay, which shows an image of a womanmaking a wool blanket while she sits at awood loom. (the reading is actually for blindandvisuallyimpaired/june-1

Amy GoodmanFor this portrait by the artist Scott Blake, a total of 2,304 QR codes were used, and each one links toall of the parts of 9 years of videos from the online program – “Democracy Now” that is hosted byAmy Goodman.


A company called PillDrill launched an RFID-enabled pill-dispensing system designed to helppatients manage their medications and monitor their well-being.The solution, also known as PillDrill, is based around a device called a Hub, which contains a builtin RFID reader.Users can attach passive RFID tags to pill bottles, pill packs and other types of medicine containers.The company also offers an RFID-enabled weekly pill organizer consisting of seven removable pillcontainers (pods), each with its own RFID tag attached to its base.Once a person's medication schedule is programmed into the PillDrill website, the Hub flashes alight and emits a tone whenever it is time for a user to take his or her pills, and its large LCDscreen displays precise dosage information. To indicate that the dosage has been taken, the patientwaves the appropriate pill container over the Hub.

Savi ST-656-030 Active RFID tagThe Savi ST-656 is an active RFID tag forshipping containers that enables shippers,carriers and logistics service providers tomonitor their shipments in real time as theymove through the global supply chain.The ST-656’s unique C-clampdoor-mount design places the sensitive RFIDcomponents inside the shipping container. Onlythe low profile, external antenna casing is onthe outside, which significantly reduces therisk of tag damage during the loading,unloading and transportation of shippingcontainers.It supports 400 feet (122 m) of RFIDcommunications range, and delivers real-timeasset information to guide supply chainoperations.

Near-field communication (NFC) is a set ofcommunication methods that enable twoelectronic devices, one of which is usually aportable device such as a smartphone, toestablish communication, usually for making afinancial transaction, by bringing them within4 cm (1.6 in) of each other.NFC devices are used in contactless paymentsystems, similar to those used in credit cardsand electronic ticket smartcards and allow mobilepayment to replace or supplement thesesystems.NFC is also used for social networking, forsharing contacts, photos, videos or files.NFC-enabled devices can act as electronicidentity documents and keycards and offers alow-speed connection with simple setup that canbe used to bootstrap more capable wirelessconnections.These are thedifferent types ofcommunicationLocal (LAN)Networks: (the lettersHome (HAN)AN stand for AreaStorage (SAN)Network)Wireless (WLAN)Campus (CAN)NanoscaleBackboneNear-field (NFC)Metropolitan (MAN)Body (BAN)Wide (WAN)Personal (PAN)Cloud (IAN)Near-me (NAN)Internet

RFID and NFC (Near Field Communication), the third rapidly rising trend we are seeing in the future ofbarcodes, is the incorporation of radio tags, like RFID or increasingly NFC tags, being incorporatedinto more and more items.These types of tags enable non-connected objects, like boxes or clothing, to become an active part ofthe “Internet of Things,” transmitting their location in the warehouse or triggering your smartphone toshow you a product video when you walk by.

NEW CONCEPTS IN PROTECTIVE PACKAGINGPhoto recognition is becoming a large scale reality has a fantastic potential application in replacingthe way we traditionally think about barcodes, because the entire object becomes scan-able byitself.As scanner technology continues to evolve, there will be less need and demand for 1D barcodes.

THE SMARTLABEL SYSTEM - With consumer needs in mind, the Grocery ManufacturersAssociation (GMA) in 2015 announced plans for an unprecedented initiative that brings moretransparency into and more information about what’s on store shelves.This U.S. initiative, ultimately named SmartLabel, uses QR code as well as onlinetechnology to provide extensive product details for any item in the food, beverage orconsumer goods space in an easy and uniform way.The Coca-Cola Company became an early adopter of the GMA program. “The purpose behindeverything we are doing with SmartLabel is to provide full transparency and promote clear facts forall of our products, to make sure shoppers have access to every possible piece of information tohelp them make informed decisions,” said Tim Goudie, Director of Social Commitment at Coca-Cola. jdpIBK7BsSo

These 5 images give examples of information found when scanning a “SmartLabel” QRcode, with your Smart phone.Nutrition, Ingredients, Allergy information, Other Information, and info about the Companyand Brand.


Major brands have been busy developing their SmartLabel programs, and recent updates from USDAregarding GMO/BioEngineered food marking have provided brands that were waiting with a clearpath forward.Detailed product information from more than 36,000 products from over 826 brands are alreadyonline with more being added every day. To compete, companies in the CPG space need to includeSmartLabel!

Insignia Technologies ( has launched a new smart label aimedat improving customer confidence in the quality of their food while cutting down on unnecessarywaste.Easily incorporated into any film lid, the label is activated when a packet is opened and triggers atimer that changes color as the food within loses freshness – meaning hungry fridge-raiders cantell straight away if their snack is out of date or not.

1D barcode made up of two parts: the barcode and the 12-digit UPC number. The first six numbers of the barcode is the manufacturer’s identification number. The next five digits represent the item’s product code. The last number is called a check digit which enables the scanner to determi