Which Barcode Is Best?

Part I of a series about today’s smart asset IDs and their best-suited applications

When we receive inquiries about assetDNA, often the first line of questioning dives straight into asset tags – or assetDNA ID’s as we like to call them. So we’d like to kick-off a series of posts outlining some of the differences between barcodes, HF, and UHF RFIDs and their best-suited applications. Today we’ll start with a look at barcodes and why they can still be the most appropriate application for many projects, despite all the hype around RFID.

The ease-of-use and low-cost of barcodes have meant they’ve become prevalent in everyday life. We’re all familiar with the traditional 1D linear barcodes widely-used in retail and package tracking applications. More recently however, they’ve evolved into other 2D forms. Both types possess compelling benefits for asset identification and asset data management. Unless your assets are in hard-to-reach locations, or you need to be able to read many tags at once, then barcodes still tend to be the most cost-effective solution when compared with RFID.

What are the advantages of 2D DataMatrix barcodes in asset management?

Firstly, 2D DataMatrix barcodes can hold more data in much less space. This enables small-scale items that are difficult to label to be uniquely identified. Secondly, these codes are more robust so that even if they are partially scratched or damaged they can still be read. They can also perform quite reliably on curved surfaces. Thirdly, a 2D barcode can be read in any direction making it quicker and easier to scan for the user. And finally, unlike linear barcodes, DataMatrix codes do not require high-contrast printing in order to be read. This means DataMatrix codes can be directly and permanently marked onto assets, items and components without the need for a label, offering increased tamper-resistance. For this reason they are often recommended as best practice for direct part marking using methods such as dot peening or laser or chemical etching. Early adopters of direct part marking include the automotive industry, the Defence industry, the aerospace and automotive industries, manufacturing, electronic components, medical instruments and surgical implants.

Will 2D barcodes replace conventional 1D barcodes?

No. DataMatrix codes are not replacing linear barcodes but rather are being extended to new applications as outlined above. 1D linear barcodes still have advantage in low capacity applications like serial numbers. So if applications only require a reasonably small amount of data to be encoded, a 1D barcode has the slight advantage of being easily recognisable by anyone as a barcode. Another advantage of 1D linear barcodes is because they are larger in size, they can also display the code in a human-readable form so that if the barcode cannot be scanned, it can still be entered manually. 1D barcodes are also easily created and read with low-cost technology and laser scanners. At this time, most conventional CCD and laser scanners cannot read 2D barcodes, rather they rather require a digital imager scanner.

Which barcode is best?

It’s not a case of which is best, but rather which is best suited for your individual project. Relegen has helped many Defence, government and asset-intensive organisations with asset tagging and global unique item identification solutions. assetDNA’s asset intelligence software easily manages serialisation and works with 1D and 2D barcodes, direct part marking, HF/UHF RFID-based asset tagging systems as well as with its own unique, patented combination solution. The software is ‘vendor-neutral’ and able to work with a wide range of tags from leading manufacturers, ensuring clients receive the right tagging solution at the right price for each project. Our experienced team can bring this expertise to your business. To learn more, contact us at sales@assetDNA.com or +61 (0)2 9998 9000.