2D barcode (two-dimensional barcode)

What is 2D barcode?

A 2D (two-dimensional) barcode is a graphical image that stores information both horizontally -- as one-dimensional bar codes do -- and vertically. As a result of that construction, 2D codes can store up to 7,089 characters, significantly greater storage than is possible with the 20-character capacity of a unidimensional barcode.

2D barcodes are also known as quick response codes because they enable fast data access. 2D barcodes are often used in conjunction with smart phones. The user simply photographs a 2D barcode with the camera on a phone equipped with a barcode reader. The reader interprets the encoded URL, which directs the browser to the relevant information on a Web site. This capability has made 2D barcodes useful for mobile marketing. Some 2D barcode systems also deliver information in a message for users without Web access.

Here's a sampling how 2D barcodes are being used:

  • Nike used 2D barcodes on posters along the route of an extreme sports competition. Mobile users captured barcodes to access sponsored pictures, video and data.
  • Some newspapers include 2D barcodes on stories that link mobile users to developing coverage.
  • 2D barcodes on products in stores link to product reviews.
  • Some people post 2D barcodes that link to their blogs or Facebook pages.

See a simple demonstration of one use of 2D barcode:

Intermec Corporation created the first 2D bar code, called Code 49, in 1988.

Learn More About IT:
> Bar code 1 provides more information and useful links related to 2D bar codes.
> Brian Acohido reports on 2D barcode adoption in North America.

This was last updated in November 2010

Dig Deeper on Wearable devices and emerging technology