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A scanner-readable image with parallel bars is called a barcode, bar code or bar code.


The technology first became established in the 1970s, when the US retail group Walmart required producers to label their articles. The Universal Product Code (UPC), which can be read by optoelectronic devices, was developed for this purpose. The UPC was introduced overseas in 1973, followed by the somewhat longer European Article Number (EAN)

in Europe in 1976.

In contrast to the first one-dimensional bar codes, two-dimensional and later 3D codes were used from the 1980s onwards. With the latter, the color brightness also plays a role as a recognition feature in addition to the bar thickness. Developers are now conducting research with animated 4D barcodes.

The diversity of code specifications

Although worldwide trade organizations are striving for international standardization, there is a historically grown variety of bar code definitions. Among the most important are:

  • BarcodeEAN-8: has seven digits plus one check digit, corresponds to UPC-A
  • BarcodeEAN-13: has twelve digits plus a check digit
  • Barcode GTIN: Global Trade Item Number, new designation of EAN
  • BarcodeJAN: Japanese article number, corresponds to EAN-13

2D barcodes include the very common square QR-Code. It consists of interlaced white and dark squares. Mobile phones with a camera and the corresponding App can read it. Originally developed for logistics, QR-Code can be used wherever the user wants to retrieve information quickly and easily, e.g. at bus stops.

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