How do 1D and 2D barcodes compare?

Compare the differences between 1D and 2D barcodes.

1D codes are the barcodes that most food and beverage suppliers rely on to identify products at retail POS, e.g. EAN-13 barcode. They are also known as linear barcodes.

2D barcodes differ from traditional 1D barcodes with a smaller design and ability to hold a greater amount of information.

Compare 1D and 2D barcodes using EAN-13 and GS1 DataMatrix:

  1D Barcode EAN-13 2D Barcodes GS1 DataMatrix
Design A series of vertical lines – the thickness and distance between lines determines a specific code tied to that product.
Requires a Quiet Zone (white space around the barcode) for scanning.
Square or rectangular design made up of small squares.
Requires a Quiet Zone for scanning.
Size Standard size (100%) is 38mm wide x 25mm high Smaller than 1D codes - Depending on the amount of data embedded, the square symbol can be as small as 10 x 10 modules and as big as 144 x 144.
Data capacity Encodes a GTIN-13, made up of your company prefix, item reference and check digit at the end
Does not support attributes, e.g. use-by date
Up to 2335 alphanumeric characters or 3116 numbers (in squareform)
Type of data Encodes a GTIN-13
Does not support attributes, e.g. use-by date
Batch and serial numbers, best before or use-by dates, variable quantities, and more.
Regulated Regulated by the GS1 global standards body Regulated by the GS1 global standards body
Scanned by Omnidirectional scanners Optical (camera-based) scanners
1D and 2D Barcodes
1D and 2D Barcodes Using Ean-13

Are 1D barcodes being replaced by 2D barcodes?

Not yet! Not every industry or product requires 2D barcodes. If there is no need to add additional machine-readable data (such as expiry date or batch/lot number) to product packaging, switching from 1D to 2D barcodes is not needed.

Do I need to keep two barcodes on my product for a transition period?

At present, there is still a substantial proportion of linear scanners in use in retail– though optical scanners are becoming more common. Until POS systems are updated to be able to scan 2D barcodes, both the 1D and 2D barcodes will be needed.

This will ensure that products can be scanned by retailers who have already upgraded their hardware and software as well as retailers who have not.