The use of Quick Response Codes, or QR Codes, is on the rise. You’ve probably seen them just about everywhere recently. But what makes QR Codes different from other Data Matrix Codes, and which code type is right for your bar code application?
A Data Matrix Code is a two-dimensional code (i.e. 2d barcode) that consists of black and white modules, usually arranged in a square pattern. As more data is encoded in the symbol, the number of modules (rows and columns) increases. An entire Data Matrix symbol can store up to 2,335 alphanumeric characters. The alphanumeric data of Data Matrix codes identifies details of the component on which it is placed, including manufacturer ID, part number and a unique serial number.
The most popular application for Data Matrix is marking small items, due to its ability to encode a large amount of data in a small amount of space. The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) mandates the use of Data Matrix Codes for Unique Item Identification (UID) of certain assets such as weapons and critical components of major systems. These assets must be permanently marked with a unique Data Matrix Code in accordance with Military Standard 130. Much of the Aerospace Industry, especially members of the Air Transport Association (ATA), aims to have all components of every new aircraft identified by Data Matrix codes.
A QR Code is another type of 2D code that consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The information encoded can be made up of any kind of data such as binary or alphanumeric.
First designed for the automotive industry to track vehicles during the manufacturing process, QR Codes have more recently become popular for more commercial uses such as entertainment and marketing that targets mobile phone users. QR Codes storing web addresses appear in magazines, on signs, etc. Users with a bar code scanner application on their phone scan the image of the QR Code to display text, contact information, or open a web page in the phone’s browser.
Although they are not typically used in traditional data capture applications, QR Codes can be useful when software programs are not available through a scanner, but can be reached through a website. By scanning the QR code, the data is then transferred to the site where it is entered.
For asset tracking, identification and data-driven applications, traditional Data Matrix Codes are generally the best choice. Though usually small in size, the Data Matrix Code can store large amounts of data for encoding, making them appropriate for a wide variety of applications.
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