The power of the barcode is undeniable. Without doubt, every person will come into contact with a barcode in some or other form on a daily basis. If you are a wanting to sell your product in a retail store, and need to buy barcodes, South Africa has so many different barcode sellers and resellers available it is easy to see the power of the flourishing barcode market! With the monopoly that the barcode has on the consumer world, why not take a moment to find out how they work and what information they hold?
There are many different variations of the standard barcode we are all familiar with — there is the Code 29 and Code 128, the ISSN and ISBN, the UPC code and the EAN code. All these variations essentially work in an identical manner but are designed differently and are read differently by their requisite barcode scanners. In this article, we will explore EAN-13.
The letters “EAN” stand for European Article Number and the “13” indicates that there are 13 numbers in the design. The EAN-13 is based on the Universal Product Code standard, or the UPC, but is the international form of the American code. The code was invented by the International Article Numbering Association in Europe and has two more numbers in its formation than the UPC code, which as it follows only has eleven numbers. The reason for the development of this code is supposedly because it would create a standard that was better suited for use globally. However, the fact that the UPC was created in America in reality has far more influence on this than anyone would like to admit!
EAN-13 is a version of the original barcode, UPC-A. What this means is that the computer programs that are able to read an EAN-13 symbol will also have the capability to read any UPC-A barcode symbol. The single distinction between EAN-13 and UPC-A is the fact that the system used for the numbering of the UPC-A is an individual digit from 0 to 9, whereas an EAN-13 numbering system comprises of two digits that can be anywhere from 00 through to 99, which is fundamentally the code for a specific country. Every country has an authority responsible for allocating manufacturer codes to companies that fall within its jurisdiction. This is done by GS1, which is the international authority on barcode sales. However, there are many other barcode generators selling legitimate barcodes. The manufacturer code remains five digits long, as does the product code, and the check digit is worked out in precisely the same way.
So, let’s look at this construction in a practical example: let’s say you buy barcodes with a construction like this:
The barcode above, when scanned will bring up the same text on the computer screen that is written on the barcode itself: “2929295045177”. This is done when the scanner releases a red light beam that has a sensor in it, which picks up what the light is reflected from the barcode and produces an analogue indication with the variable electrical energy that characterises the power (or lack thereof) of what is being reflected. What is picked up by the scanner is then converted to a digital signal and sent back to the decoder.
How is the EAN-13 barcode constituted?
The first and last three lines
Based on the picture above, we can see that the first and the last three lines of a barcode are one black, one white (or the empty column) and one black, which means the black line signifies a one in a set of two and the white line represents a zero. From these first lines, the scanner will ascertain the width of the one line and the width of the zero line. The first three pieces of the barcode are called the left-hand guard pattern and the final three pieces are called the right-hand guard pattern.
The lines in the middle
These are also known as the centre guard pattern, which is made up of five pieces of 01010. This numerical pattern is immovable and is always present in every EAN-13 barcode. If the scanner is unable to pick this sequence up, it will not recognise the barcode at all.
The check digit
The check digit is the very last number on the barcode and allows for checking if the barcode is acceptable or not — another method that allows for error checking.
Other components of the EAN-13 code
EAN codes can be separated into four parts: 1) The number scheme, 2) code for the manufacturer, 3) the product code and 4) the check digit. Usually, the first number scheme digit is written just left of the barcode; the second digit in the number scheme is written as the first number of a group of six on the left-hand side of the barcode; the code indicating the manufacturer is the following five numbers on the left-hand side of the barcode; the product code is indicated by the first five numbers on the right-hand side of the barcode; and the check digit is the final number on the right-hand side. All of these are contained in the number sequence that is below the barcode.
Now, when you buy a barcode, you have all this new information about the EAN-13 barcodes, so go forth and conquer the retail world!Bar C
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