Wasp Barcode Technologies: The Barcode Solution People

System ID Barcode Glossary

New to barcoding? The System ID Barcode Glossary contains terms specific to the automatic identification and data capture (AIDC) and barcode industries. Refer to it when you aren’t sure of a word’s meaning or need general information about barcodes.




1D Barcode

See Linear Barcode.

2D Barcode

A square or rectangular pattern of squares, blocks, and lines that represent alphanumeric data. A 2D barcode can encode much more information than a linear barcode.

2D Barcode Scanner

Also known as an area imager

Reads linear and 2D barcodes by capturing an image.


Automotive Industry Action Group (www.aiag.org)

A non-profit organization that sets global supply chain standards and business practices in the automotive industry.


Automatic identification and data capture

A process that automatically identifies an object, collects information about it, and stores that data into a computer system. Technologies include barcodes, RFID, OCR, bokodes, magnetic stripes, smart cards, and biometrics.


Automatic Identification and Mobility (www.aimglobal.org)

An international trade association for manufacturers and suppliers of barcode and AIDC products. It sets industry standards and promotes emerging technologies.


American National Standards Institute (www.ansi.org)

A non-profit organization that sets ISO quality standards and guidelines that improve American businesses.

Area Imager

See 2D Barcode Scanner.


American Standard Code for Information Interchange

A set of codes that represent text in computers, communications equipment, and other devices that use text, including barcodes. ASCII includes definitions for 128 characters.

Aspect Ratio

The ratio of a barcode’s height to its length.

Auto Discrimination

A feature that enables barcode readers to automatically detect and accurately decode barcode symbologies.


A 2D barcodesymbology that can encode up to 1,914 bytes of data. Aztec barcodes are the standard for electronic boarding passes on mobile devices and are widely used by European airlines for online ticketing.


A series of bars, blocks, and white spaces that represent numbers and letters. Those numbers and letters contain data, such as part and SKU numbers, shipping addresses, expiration dates, and serial numbers.

Barcode Printer

Equipment that prints barcode labels or tags using either direct thermal or thermal transfer technology.

Barcode Scanner

Also known as a barcode reader.

An electronic device for decoding and capturing the information encoded in barcodes.

Barcode System

A bundle of barcoding hardware and software. A barcode system consists of application software, barcode labels, a barcode printer, and a barcode scanner or mobile computer.

Bar Length

The distance measured between the top and bottom edges of a barcode.

Bar Width

The distance measured between the left and right edges of a barcode.


Charged coupled device

Used in digital imaging to move electrical charges from devices to areas where the charge can be manipulated.

Check Digit

A character that is usually added to the end of a barcode. Barcode scanners use check digits to detect errors.

Code 39

A variable-length, self-checking linear barcodesymbology that can encode letters and numbers. Code 39 is the standard barcode used by the U.S. Department of Defense and is commonly used in non-retail environments for labeling.

Code 128

A variable-length linear barcodesymbology that can encode all 128 characters in the ASCII set. Code 128 is commonly used in the shipping and packaging industries to identify container and pallet levels in the supply chain.


A scientific term used to define the magnetic field strength required to affect the magnetic stripe on credit cards and ID cards. Coercivity determines how difficult it is to encode data in a magnetic stripe.


Characters per second

Used to measure print speed in receipt printers.

Data Matrix

An efficient 2D barcodesymbology that can encode up to 2,335 characters. Data Matrix is used by the U.S. Department of Defense and the automotive industry for direct part marking. It is also used to mark small electronic components such as circuit boards.


The component that interprets the information encoded in a barcode and sends the data to the host computer. A decoder can be an external piece of hardware or an internal piece of the barcode scanner.


Describes how compact a barcode is. Density is determined by the size in mils of the barcode’s X dimension.

Depth of Field

The distance range in which a barcode scanner can read barcodes.

Direct Thermal

A type of barcode printer that uses heat from a print head to print images directly onto special heat-sensitive labels.


Dots per inch

Describes a barcode printer’s print resolution.


European Article Number

A linear barcode that encodes a retail product’s GTIN (Global Trade Item Number). EAN codes are recommended for international use because they read both UPC and EAN barcodes.

Face Stock

Also known as facestock.

The printable part of a pressure-sensitive label.

First Read Rate

The percentage of time a barcode will be read with the first scan.


An international non-profit that develops and implements global specifications for managing supply and demand chains across multiple industries. (www.gs1.org)

GS1 DataBar

A family of 2D barcodesymbologies that use less space, yet hold more data, than UPC or EAN codes. GS1 DataBar codes are commonly used on small items in the POS, grocery, and healthcare industries to encode a product’s GTIN.


The American branch of GS1. (www.gs1us.org)


Global trade item number

A unique number assigned to each retail product by the GS1. A GTIN includes identifiers such as serial numbers, expiration dates, weights, and lot numbers.


Graphical user interface

Refers to the design and usability of a software program. A well-designed GUI allows users to easily interact with electronic devices.


Health Industry Business Communications Council (www.hibcc.org)

An industry supported and internationally accredited nonprofit that develops standards for exchanging and communicating information among healthcare partners. The HIBCC’s scope includes a wide variety of standards, including barcode labels and auto ID.


High-frequency radio frequency identification

A version of RFID technology that uses a high radio frequency of 13.56MHz to track products as they move through the manufacturing process.

Human Readable

Refers to the encoded data that appears at the bottom of a barcode in the form of alphanumeric characters that are easily read by a human being.

Infrared Laser Diode

A barcode scanning technology that uses an invisible light beam to read infrared barcodes that are invisible to the human eye. Infrared barcodes are more secure since they cannot be easily copied.

Intelligent Mail

A fixed-length linear barcode commonly used in the U.S. Postal Service’s high-speed, automated, mail-sorting machines.

Interleaved 2 of 5

A variable-length, numeric barcode that is commonly used in the industrial, distribution, and warehouse industries.

IP Rating

International protection rating

Classifies the amount of protection a device has against the intrusion of water and solid objects, like wires, dirt, and dust. The first number of an IP rating designates the sealing against solids, while the second number indicates the sealing against water.


Inches per second

Used to define a barcode printer’s print speed.

Keyboard Wedge Communication

See PS/2 Connector.

Laser Scanner

A popular barcode scanner that uses a laser line to read linear (1D) barcodes.


Liquid crystal display

Used for display screens on mobile computers, barcode printers, computer monitors, and other devices.


Light emitting diode

A semiconductor light source used on various types of electronic devices.

Linear Barcode

Also known as a 1D barcode.

A one-dimensional barcode that contains a sequence of vertical black bars and white spaces that define a set of numbers or letters. Because of their limited storage space of up to 85 characters, linear barcodes are used to retrieve information stored in a database.

Linear Imager

Also known as a CCD (charged coupled device) scanner.

A barcode scanner that captures an image of the barcode to decode it. Linear imagers are commonly used for a variety of applications, including retail, shipping, receiving, and inventory.


Low frequency radio frequency identification

A version of RFID technology that uses low radio frequencies, such as 125kHz and 134.2kHz, to track products as they move through the manufacturing process.


A 2D barcodesymbology that can encode up to 93 characters. Maxicode is commonly used on shipping labels for global address and package sorting.


Magnetic ink character recognition

A character-recognition technology used primarily by the banking industry to automatically read and authenticate account information on the bottom of a check.


Used to measure a barcode’s density. A mil is equal to 0.001 inch or a thousandth of an inch.


The result when the data encoded in the barcode does not match the data the barcode scanner returns.


Also known as Modified Plessey.

A variable-length linear barcodesymbology that only encodes numbers. MSI is commonly used to mark storage containers and warehouse shelves for inventory control.

Mobile Computer

Also known as a portable data terminal (PDT), portable data collector, and handheld terminal.

An uncorded, handheld mobile device that is used for data collection. Today’s mobile computers include handheld, wearable, and vehicle-mounted devices, along with enterprise tablets and single-device hybrids.

Multi-Line Scanner

See Omnidirectional Scanner.


Optical character recognition

Automatically converts scanned images into machine-encoded text that can be easily scanned, searched, and stored.


Outer Diameter

The exterior surface of a round object such as a full roll of barcode labels.

Omnidirectional Scanner

Also called a multi-line scanner or a retail scanner

A type of barcode scanner that uses mirrors and other reflective devices to quickly read barcodes at any angle. Omnidirectional scanners are commonly used at the point of sale in retail stores.


A 2D barcodesymbology that can encode up to 1,850 characters. PDF-417 is commonly used for printed U.S. postage, airline boarding passes, driver’s licenses, and state ID cards.


Portable data terminal

See Mobile Computer.

Print Head

Also known as printhead.

A component in a printer that forms a printed character.

The part of a barcode printer that uses heat to print an image on a barcode label.

PS/2 Connector

Also called Keyboard Wedge Communication.

A six-pin mini-DIN connector that connects some keyboards and mice to a PC-compatible computer system. Barcode scanners with a PS/2 connector allow you to plug directly into a PS/2 port or use a Y-cable to plug one end into keyboard cable and the other end into the PC.

Quiet Zone

The area on either side of a barcode. In some cases, you must leave the quiet zone blank to enable successful readability.

QR Code

Quick response code

A 2D barcodesymbology commonly used to quickly encode marketing URLs on items such as magazines, mailers, billboards, and product packaging. QR codes are easily read using apps on mobile devices, including smart phones and tablets.

Retail Scanner

See Omnidirectional Scanner.

Real Time

The actual time it takes for a process or event to occur.


Radio frequency

Radio waves that use alternating currents to carry radio signals. Often used synonymously with “radio,” RF uses 802.11 communication standards over WLANs (wireless local area network).


Radio frequency identification

A data collection technology that uses radio waves to send and receive data. RFID tags can be embedded into an object for easy tracking. The primary benefit of RFID is readability; unlike barcodes, objects with RFID tags do not have to be within line sight of the reader. This allows companies in all industries to effectively track a variety of items including assets, pharmaceuticals, inventory, and livestock.


Used in thermal transfer printing. A ribbon transfers ink to a barcode label using heat generated by a print head.

RS232 or RS-232

Also known as serial communication.

The method of sending data one bit at a time in a series.

Serial Communication

See RS232.

Start-Stop Character

Characters at the beginning and end of a barcode. Start and stop characters provide reading instructions, including the direction in which to scan.


The surface on which a barcode is printed.


Universally recognized code languages that are standardized by ISO so there is a consistent definition of what the bars and spaces mean. Barcode symbologies are regulated by various trade associations and include both a linear barcode and a 2D barcode.

Thermal Transfer

A type of barcode printer that transfers ink from a ribbon to a label using heat generated by a print head.


Universal code council, which is now known as GS1 US.

The American branch of GS1, which is an international non-profit that develops and implements global specifications for managing supply and demand chains across multiple industries.


Ultra high frequency radio frequency identification, also known as Near Field UHF

Uses very high radio frequencies that span the 433, 840 – 960 MHz and the 2.4 GHz range. UHF RFID tags can be placed anywhere and read anytime because of their low cost and the long range of RFID readers.


Unique identifier

A system used by the U.S. Department of Defense to track assets.


Universal product code, also known as UPC-A

A numeric linear barcode that encodes a retail product’s GTIN (Global Trade Item Number). The most well-known symbology in the U.S., UPC codes are widely used on consumer goods in retail and grocery stores.


Universal serial bus

A standard connection for computer peripherals, such as keyboards, smart phones, printers, digital cameras, tablets, and scanners. A USB also supplies power to these peripherals.


A device that measures the overall print quality of a barcode. Verifiers evaluate barcodes against a set of industry standards and give them a grade.


A barcode scanner that is shaped like a pen. A wand must physically connect with a barcode and swipe across it at a consistent angle and rate of speed.


Wireless local area network

Links two or more devices by providing a wireless connection through an access point.


What you see is what you get

Describes a user interface that allows users to view a layout, design, or document as it is being created.

X Dimension

The narrowest bar in a barcode. X dimension determines a barcode’s density.