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Barcoding Software and Systems

Barcoding Software and Systems

An Overview of Barcoding

Barcoding is an effective method of information management and data collection but the barcodes themselves do not contain or store any information about products and prices. They are instead something more akin to a license plate on a vehicle, a simple identification number.

The black bars and white spaces between the bars, along with the numbers, are what identify the item in question. The barcode is read with an electronic scanner and the data is then analysied by computer software, which can look up information about the cost or description of a particular item and glean further information such as how many items are left in stock.


Early attempts at electronically read product identification began in the 1960s using text instead of code but were found to be too expensive and time-consuming. In the early 1970s what had been known as Optical Charter Recognition was replaced in favour of the more efficient and less costly barcoding system.

Reading barcodes

A barcode can be read in a number of ways. The first method is with Barcode Scanning Software which uses a laser light across the surface of the whole barcode before the data is sent back to the computer. The second way that a barcode can be read is by taking a digital picture using a CCD camera, which captures the code before sending it back to the computer software to be processed into further information about the product in question.

There are also a number of other tools such as scanning wands and hand-held pens that are used by UK barcoding systems. This method is performed manually and can be time-consuming because the pen or wand has to be held at the correct angle and has to be scanned with the right motion for it to be effective.

The information of the barcode is stored in the widths of the black vertical bars and in the white spaces in between. The barcode scanner detects these widths before the barcode reader decodes the data.

Barcoding in the today

Currently there are around three hundred types of barcodes in use and the most popular and widely used is probably the UPC (Universal Product Code) or EAN (Article Numbering Code) whose applications are primarily in the retail industry and logistics.

Today barcoding is so widely used in so many different applications that they have become part of the fabric of our modern lives. From credit card slot readers to supermarket scanners, barcodes are everywhere.