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2D Barcodes: Everything You Need to Know in 2024

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In this article, we will cover what 2D barcodes are, the different types of 2D barcodes, and their benefits and applications along with real-world examples. Read on to learn more. 

what is a 2d barcode

What is a 2D Barcode?

A 2D (two-dimensional) barcode holds data in both horizontal and vertical patterns, making it more versatile than traditional 1D barcodes that store data in a single line. This allows 2D barcodes to handle various types of information efficiently.

Types of 2D Barcodes

There are several prominent types of 2D barcodes, each optimized for specific purposes. We will explore each type below.

2D Barcode

QR Codes (Quick Response Codes)

QR codes are square-shaped barcodes composed of black squares arranged on a white background. They are widely used for various applications, including marketing, product labeling, and contactless payment systems.

2D barcode examples

Data Matrix Codes

Data Matrix codes consist of a grid of black and white squares, forming a compact, square-shaped barcode. These barcodes are favored for applications such as product packaging, inventory management, and asset tracking.

2D barcode types

PDF417 Codes (Portable Data File 417)

PDF417 codes are rectangular and known for their high data capacity. They are commonly found on government-issued identification cards, driver's licenses, and tickets for transportation and events.

types of 2D barcodes

Aztec Codes

Aztec codes are two-dimensional barcodes featuring a central bulls-eye pattern surrounded by concentric square rings. They are versatile and used in various applications, including transportation ticketing and document encoding.

2D barcodes


MaxiCode is a circular 2D barcode used primarily in the shipping and logistics industry. It encodes information related to package tracking, destination details, and shipping information, making it crucial for efficient package sorting and delivery.

Examples of 2D barcodes

GS1 Composite Code

GS1 Composite Code is a hybrid 2D barcode that combines a 1D barcode (e.g., UPC or EAN) with a 2D barcode (e.g., Data Matrix or QR code). It allows for the encoding of additional data while remaining compatible with traditional 1D barcode scanners, making it suitable for product identification and traceability.

Benefits of 2D Barcodes

2D barcodes offer several benefits over traditional 1D (linear) barcodes. Here are some of the advantages of using 2D barcodes.

High Data Capacity: 

2D barcodes can store a significant amount of information, including text, numbers, and binary data, making them suitable for encoding diverse data types.

Compact Size: 

Despite their ability to store more data, 2D barcodes are often smaller in physical size compared to 1D barcodes, which makes them suitable for applications where space is limited.


2D barcodes can be used in a wide range of applications, including inventory management, asset tracking, ticketing, electronic boarding passes, mobile payments, and more. Their versatility makes them valuable in many industries.


2D barcodes are likely to remain relevant for the foreseeable future, as they are compatible with modern technology and offer robust data storage capabilities.

Enhanced Security: 

Some 2D barcodes support encryption and digital signatures, which can add a layer of security to the encoded data. This is especially important for applications that involve sensitive information.

Applications of 2D Barcodes

2D barcodes serve a multitude of purposes across various industries. We will explore each application below.

Manufacturing and Quality Control: 

In manufacturing, 2D barcodes are used to track and verify the components and parts used in production. They help ensure that the right components are used at each stage of assembly, enhancing quality control and reducing errors in the manufacturing process.

Supply Chain and Logistics: 

Within the supply chain, 2D barcodes are employed to trace the movement of goods. They enable accurate tracking of shipments, from manufacturer to distributor to retailer, providing real-time visibility into the location and status of products in transit.

Asset Management: 

2D barcodes facilitate efficient asset tracking and management in various industries, including IT, healthcare, and education. Assets such as computers, medical equipment, and educational resources are tagged with 2D barcodes for easy identification, location tracking, and maintenance scheduling.

Authentication and Security: 

Some 2D barcodes can be used for authentication and security purposes. For instance, they may be embedded with encrypted data or digital signatures to verify the authenticity of products, documents, or identity cards, reducing the risk of counterfeiting and fraud.

2D Barcode Examples

To illustrate the use of 2D barcodes, here are some real-world examples to showcase the practicality and versatility of 2D barcodes in everyday scenarios.

Product Packaging

QR codes are frequently found on consumer product packaging, such as food items, electronics, and cosmetics. Consumers can scan these QR codes to access detailed product information, including ingredients, usage instructions, and customer reviews.

Boarding Passes

Airlines use 2D barcodes, often in the form of QR codes, on electronic boarding passes. Passengers can scan these codes at airport checkpoints, allowing for a paperless boarding process and quick access to flight details.

Event Tickets

Event tickets, including concert tickets, movie tickets, and sports event tickets, often feature QR codes. Scanning the QR code on a ticket grants access to the event venue, eliminating the need for physical tickets.

Contactless Payment Systems

Mobile payment apps, like Apple Pay and Google Pay, use QR codes for contactless payments. Customers can link their payment information to the app, and merchants can generate QR codes for customers to scan and complete transactions.

Marketing and Advertising

QR codes are integrated into marketing materials, including posters, brochures, and advertisements. Scanning these QR codes directs users to promotional websites, exclusive offers, or multimedia content.

Inventory and Asset Management

In warehouses and manufacturing facilities, 2D barcodes, such as Data Matrix codes, are applied to products and assets. These codes enable efficient tracking of inventory levels and asset movements throughout the supply chain.

Healthcare and Medication Administration

Hospitals use 2D barcodes on patient wristbands and medication labels. Healthcare professionals scan these barcodes to confirm patient identity and ensure accurate medication administration.

Driver's Licenses and ID Cards

Many government-issued driver's licenses and identification cards feature PDF417 barcodes on the back. These barcodes store personal information about the cardholder, which can be scanned for identity verification.

Tourist Attractions and Museums

Tourist sites and museums display QR codes next to exhibits or historical markers. Scanning these codes provides visitors with detailed information about the exhibits, enhancing their experience.

Loyalty Programs and Coupons

Retailers and restaurants incorporate QR codes into loyalty programs and digital coupons. Scanning these codes allows customers to collect rewards or redeem discounts.

Shipping Labels

Shipping labels often feature MaxiCodes, a type of 2D barcode commonly used by courier and delivery services. This allows recipients to track their shipments and receive real-time updates on the status and location of their packages.

We hope that you now have a better understanding of 2D barcodes, including their various types, benefits and applications.

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