Tag Archives: guide

QR Codes… not just for the living!

I have covered this news story previously when an American funeral directors and head stone producer started included QR Codes on head stones. I did not think I would see it again as I was doubtful people would wish to do anything novel with a grave stone.

However the BBC have now reported that it is taking off as a trend in Denmark. Since it has reappeared it seemed worth giving it another thought and it occurred to me that this was an excellent use of the technology. I am still not sure I would use the service myself but it solves the issue of a graveyards anonymity. If you see a head stone all you can gather from it is a name and some dates, you may be lucky to get a small quote but other than that there is nothing else we can find. Therefore as a system to neatly provide more information it is perfect, although the links must of course be well maintained.

Despite the fact I will not be rushing out to invest in this industry it does show the potential of QR Codes. With less than an inch square you can provide unlimited information through any media format you wish; not just text. If you wish to find out more about the potential of barcode reading for your company then check out our website.


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Something Fishy Going on in Norway: New Barcode Standard Appears

There are a steady stream of news stories talking about what is next in the world of barcodes, RFID and NFC dominate headlines. However around the world it appears industry is sticking with the mantra of if it isn’t broke then don’t fix it. While QR Codes are heralded as a break through 1D barcodes are still clearly in the driving seat. They are cheap, simple and when linked to a database even a small barcode can provide more than enough information.

It is no surprise then that Norway have just launched a new barcode standard for fish boxes and pallets. Fishing is a huge industry in the Nordic country and has had to become highly regulated to ensure high standards. Barcodes can do this with ease and the investment in a new standard shows that they are far from on their way out. The reason for the change was to bring together several different systems and to established a single standard to which all could conform. Luckily in the world of barcodes such changes are not too expensive, simply means a change to the software and changing which barcodes you print; hardware can remain the same.

So don’t believe the hype, 2D barcodes and Near Field Communication may be all over the news but 1D barcodes offer the reliability and ease of use required by huge industry and will be with us for decades to come.

Do you agree 1D barcodes are far from obsolete?


For more information on barcode reading visit out website.

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London Olympics – Reflections on the Games and Future Legacy

So the London Olympics have come to an end, and sadly I have been beaten. No, I was not competing, and neither did I get fed up of it, quite the opposite. As I settled in to watch the opening ceremony the cynic within was ready to start lampooning the cheap efforts to replicate Beijing’s extravagance. However I found myself enjoying a great evening of entertainment (almost patriotic!) and have not looked back for the past sixteen days. If I’m not at work or out on my bike then I’ve been firmly parked infront of the box shouting and screaming in support of the South Korean Handball team or a Grenadian sprinter. As a company we all sadly missed out on tickets to the games, such was the demand, but we did make it to some of the free stuff. The ‘training team’ we sponsor were there to cheer on Team GB in the men’s road race, although that particular event didn’t go to plan the dominance of GB on two wheels has been a highlight of the Olympics for us (especially after Wiggo’s win at the Tour). 

This last week I have been working in Edinburgh where another of Britain’s great events is held, the Fringe Comedy Festival. I had read many articles talking of the Olympics damaging the festival but there was no sign of that, the city was as packed as ever during the festival month. The city centre a constant crowd of different nationalities and people flyering. The BBC had erected 2 huge screens in the centre where you could enjoy a drink and watch the sport alongside a huge enthusiastic crowd. Even better, the sun was out, in Scotland! A great evening was spent with a Gin and Tonic watching the 200m final with the Jamaican clean sweep. There was also time to get out into the hills with some of the Softek Software training team, and the hills around Edinburgh do not disappoint!

So as a business based near London, but experiencing the Olympics across the UK, all I can say is it has been brilliant. Too often the UK seems in the news for negative reasons and as a company dealing internationally it can knock the image and consequently sales. However in the wake of this event British business should have a new confidence in the world market. Maybe we no longer have the overwhelming muscle now enjoyed by China, and reflected in their Olympics, but we can deliver a good job which most importantly will last the test of time. It astonished me that London 2012 is the first games to have an emphasis on legacy, no throw away lavish celebrations but an attempt to ‘inspire a generation’. This is a great image to share with the world and to associate with Britain, quality which will last for centuries not just a quick short term success.

I will end this post before I get too misty eyed, after all the world goes on and we have the Vuelta Espana to get excited about next. What was your lasting impression of the games? Is this a fair reflection or is it seen differently from around the world? For more reflection check out this report card from Yahoo USA.



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Code 25 Barcode Specification

We have already covered Code 128 and Code 39 barcodes so it seemed right to move onto Code 25 barcodes. Now these are generally a much simpler affair than many other 1d barcodes since they only encode numeric data. Now this is no bad thing if you only want to encode numeric data to link up with a database since simpler of course means there is less to go wrong. This has made it commercially quite popular and has been widely used on cartons/grocery products.

Code 2 of 5 is a popular barcode for encoding numeric data

However although it is a simple barcode set it is worth remembering that there are still conventions which must be obeyed, which of course make it a safer read. There are only 2 widths of bar/space and each of the characters is made up of 2 wide and 3 narrow spaces. Importantly there is also a specific start sequence of narrow bar, narrow space, narrow bar, narrow space and an end sequence of  wide bar, narrow space, narrow bar. There are various other specification which are worth knowing about if you are still having difficulties and these can be found well explained on our knowledge base.

There is also an optional checksum which is explained below:

  • Identify odd/even character positions. The right hand most character is always even.
  • Sum all the characters in odd positions.
  • Sum all the characters in even positions and multiply by 3.
  • Add the values from steps 2 and 3
  • Determine the smallest value, which when added to result of step 4, gives a multiple of 10. This is the cheksum character.

This obviously decreases the chance of a misread, but remember as said in earlier posts, it only decreases the chance so if you are processing large volumes of barcodes and need highly reliable data there is no replacement for good quality barcodes and scanning!

Any questions? Just ask!


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Code 39 Barcode Specification

Following on from last weeks post about how store barcodes work, and the limitations of checksums which is often missed, here is a guide to what makes a Code 3 of 9 Barcode.

The basic principle is that it is two different widths of bar/space (kind of like the principle of morse code) which represent symbols from a set of 43 characters containing letters, numbers and some special characters (punctuation essentially). Each of the characters is made up of 5 bars and 4 spaces with a space between each character. Therefore by simply counting the number of bars you should be able to work out whether you have a valid code 39 barcodes.

Code 39 Barcode

Code 39 Barcode

The checksum is seen by many as a guarantee that you don’t receive a misread. However if you understand how it works then it becomes clear that it only reduces the chance of a misread. Code 39’s checksum is modulus 43, which in English means that if you add up the value of all the characters (letters have numeric values too) and then subtract 43 you are left with your checksum. I have included an example below.

For example, if you are encoding the string ABCD1234 then the checksum values will be 10 + 11 + 12 + 13 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 56.

56 mod 43 = 13. So the checksum character should be D.

Therefore although greatly reducing the chance of getting a false read it can still produce a misread in a certain percentage of cases, which may be a very low percentage. However if you are processing thousands of barcodes a day, relying on checksums to make up for shoddy scanning, don’t be surprised at various anomalies.

For more information please see our website’s knowledge base. If there is anything else you want to know about Code 39 barcodes, or any other barcodes, then just comment below!


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Choosing the Appropriate Barcode

Although 1D barcodes may largely look similar there are in fact a multitude of types; all with their own unique characteristics. It is these unique characteristics which determine which is best for which job. The most widely used and widely recognised barcode is probably the Code 2 of 5 (or Code 25) barcode and can be used in many different situations when linked to a database.

In addition to several very versatile barcodes there are also several highly specialised and specific barcodes such as SCC-14 which is used for shipping containers; although based on UPC. With such variety out there it is important to make sure that the correct barcode is used for the job. It is very often the case that the when people contact us about a difficulty reading a barcode the root of the problem is poor selection.

For example if you require highly reliable data then ensure a barcode with a checksum is used, although it must be noted that this only stops a percentage of errors. The correct barcode is worthless if scanned or printed poorly.

Therefore when I stumbled across this website I was greatly impressed. It tells you the main characteristics of each barcode and has an interactive barcode guide to help point you in the correct direcention. Don’t be put off by the slightly odd looking lady in the corner, the information here is worth a look if you think the barcode you are currently using isn’t quite up to the job.

However this website does not really venture into the world of 2d barcodes where far more redundancy and security can be found. Furthermore many barcode readers such as the Softek Barcode Reader SDK now charge no extra for the ability to read 2d barcodes. Got to be worth a go?

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Barcode Printing

Just in case you weren’t aware Barcode printing isn’t really our thing at Softek. However with the Barcode Reader Software we produce there is an obvious link with the quality of barcodes being produced. It never ceases to amaze me how poor the quality of printing and scanning or barcodes can be. Although the ability to still read such poor quality barcodes is even more astonishing. In this article though we are simply going to look at the printing.

One of the most obvious trade offs is between speed and quality (and most likely price of the printer too). When looking at the speed of printing it is worth considering the speed of reading in the equation too. A poorer quality barcode will take longer to read, as will a barcode at a peculiar angle.

Also whether a Barcode is printed directly onto something or stuck on as a sticker it should be remembered that for a more reliable read a ‘quiet zone’ around the barcode should be allowed for. If a barcode is placed within a tight fitting box for example it becomes much harder to decipher what line is the box and what line is the start of the barcode without giving extra instructions and thus taking extra time.

Although these are just some of the points to consider from the angle of barcode reading there are many other consideration to take into account. This though is not my area of expertise so I have compiled below a list of useful websites for barcode printing information.

Hope this helps, let me know what your best barcode printing tips are with any comments below!


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