Mobile & Wireless: It’s a 1D world, but 2D is coming on strong

Camera-based imaging is one of the fastest-growing areas of data capture.

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2D bar codes and camera-based imaging is one of the brightest spots in the data capture space. That was one of the takeaways of our annual look at the top 20 suppliers of automatic data capture technology, which Modern does in conjunction with VDC Research Group.  VDC is predicting the demand for 2D imaging will outpace all other bar code technologies through 2015.

You’ll get no argument about that prediction from John Britts, senior director of product management for advance data capture at Motorola Solutions, which was once again number one on the top 20 list. “We’re seeing the same thing at Motorola Solutions as they’re seeing at VDC,” he says.

The ostensible reason for our conversation was the announcement of some new camera-based products from Motorola. But most of our conversation was about the market. In part, Britts says the growth is being driven by new service-oriented applications that are bringing bar coding into new territories, such as the hospitality desk at hotel chains, retailers sending coupons to mobile phones, quick response codes for retail promotions and using your mobile phone to check into an airline. But 2D is also finding a home in data rich industries, like consumer electronics and auto manufacturing.

“If you look at a cell phone package, you’ll see there are four or five bar codes on the side of the box,” says Britt. “With a traditional laser scanner, I have to capture those one at a time. With one pull of the trigger on a camera-based imaging system, I can capture all of those images simultaneously and distribute them separately to a host system.”

Similarly, camera-based imaging is allowing more efficient processes at work stations in a manufacturing facility. Rather than print and apply bar codes that are read by a laser scanner, a camera-based imaging system can read a 1D or 2D bar code displayed on an LCD. “I can read the code directly off the display and eliminate the printing step,” says Britts. 

Behind it all is the demand for more information. In addition to the product information contained on a 1D bar code, a 2D code can provide a product description, a product date and a lot code, all of which can be used for tracking and tracing after a product is distributed or sold.

“It’s still a 1D world in the supply chain,” says Britts. “That’s because most of the governing bodies and many countries still have 1D standards, but that will change.”


About the Author

Bob Trebilcock
Bob Trebilcock, editorial director, has covered materials handling, technology, logistics and supply chain topics for nearly 30 years. In addition to Supply Chain Management Review, he is also Executive Editor of Modern Materials Handling. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.

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