What is a 2D barcode and how does it work?

2D barcodes are two-dimensional barcodes that are embedded with data. They look like squares or rectangles made up of lots of small dots.

A single 2D barcode can hold a significant amount of information in a small space. This information is revealed to the retailer, supplier or customer when the code is scanned by 2D imaging scanners or vision systems.

Information may include:

  • Producer name
  • Batch / lot number
  • Product weight
  • Use by / best before date
  • Grower ID
  • GTIN number
  • Serial number
  • Price

Types of 2D barcodes

There are two main types of 2D barcode:

  • GS1 DataMatrix
  • QR code

GS1 DataMatrix is the most common 2D barcode format. Woolworths is currently using GS1 DataMatrix for its 2D barcodes.

GS1 Datamatrix 2D barcodes are compact symbols made up of square modules. They are popular for marking small items such as fresh produce.

Breaking down GS1 DataMatrix

  • 2 separate parts: the finder pattern used by the scanner to locate the symbol, and the encoded data
  • Even number of rows and columns
  • A light ‘square’ in the upper right-hand corner
  • Can encode variable length data – the symbol size varies according to the amount of data encoded
  • Can encode up to 2335 alphanumeric characters or 3116 numbers (in squareform)
Gs1 Datamatrix

QR codes

QR codes are primarily used for connecting to URL sites and are currently not used for point-of-sale. They are often used for consumer-facing packaging, because they can be read by smartphone cameras.

Using GS1 Digital Link, QR codes can work as multi-use barcodes that allow both consumer engagement and price lookup, eliminating the need for multiple codes taking up valuable packaging space.

Learn more about QR codes

What Are 2D Barcodes

Who uses 2D barcodes?

2D barcodes can be used in a wide range of industries, from retail and fresh foods, including meat, poultry, seafood, deli, dairy and bakery, through to manufacturing, warehousing and logistics.