Monday, 6 May 2013


At Accusoft, we’re wild about barcodes.  Seriously wild.   So as we started seeing more and more GS1 DataBar barcodes adorning fruits and vegetables in our local supermarkets, naturally 
our first thought was, “We need to decode that!”gs1_databar_example_300
Here is a brief overview of the GS1 DataBar barcode:

The barcode type GS1 DataBar was created by the international standards body GS1, which is headquartered in Brussels. 
GS1 DataBar started out being called the Reduced Space Symbology (RSS), which was designed for greater data density than is available in the current UPC symbology.   However, there was a concern that this acronym would be confused with Really Simple Syndication (RSS), so it was renamed to GS1 DataBar.
There are three variants of GS1 DataBar: Omnidirectional, Limited and Expanded.   Omnidirectional codes are designed for point of sale laser scanning in stores, where Limited, with its smaller size, is not designed for laser scanning.   Omnidirectional and Limited codes encode 14 digits, Expanded allows a greater range of data to be encoded, such as expiry date, weight, and batch number.  
The original UPC codes were designed to encode a 1 digit “numbering system” code, a 5 digit manufacturer code and a 5 digit product code.  However, as utilization of the UPC system grew, the available codes were depleted quickly, so the planners at GS1 decided on a new numbering system which could be used around the world, which they called the GTIN (Global Trade Item Number).   The GTIN encodes a 3 digit country prefix and nine digits of manufacturer/product information, prefixed by a 1 digit logistical variant, to accommodate multiple levels of packaging within a supply chain.  Omnidirectional and Limited barcodes are designed to encode a GTIN. 
The diagram below shows the difference between the original UPC code and a GTIN in a GS1 DataBar barcode, according to Roger C. Palmer's The Bar Code Book
The GS1 DataBar Omnidirectional barcode actually has four sub-types:  Omnidirectional, Stacked, Stacked Omnidirectional and Truncated.  They all encode the 14 digit GTIN, just with different form factors.   Here are the Omnidirectional and Truncated barcodes for the value (01)24012345678905:
omnidirectional_example     truncated_example
Here are the Stacked and Stacked Omnidirectional barcodes for the same value:
stacked_example     stacked_omnidirectional_example
In a future article, we’ll look at the GS1 DataBar Expanded format, which can encode even more data than GS1 DataBar Omnidirectional.  We told you we were wild about barcodes at Accusoft!
If you have GS1 DataBar barcode images you’d like to scan, please let us know and we’ll give you early access to our Web based scanning demonstration program.  We expect to deliver Barcode Xpress v9 with GS1 DataBar reading functionality later this year (2012).   Stay tuned to this blog for the announcement!
For a closer look at other types of barcodes check out this website about Barcode Symbologies , which provides an in-depth look at the differences and similarities between many common barcode types.