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Know the Difference Between Barcodes and QR Codes

Updated: Mar 31, 2023

When talking about product coding, it is necessary to mention the importance of barcodes and QR codes. Both store information about an item or product in a readable format, which can be easily scanned using a barcode scanner or QR code scanner. However, recently, its reading can be done thanks to smartphones equipped with scanning applications.

Even when both perform similar functions when it comes to labeling inventory, parts, equipment, and consumables, the question always arises as to which one offers more advantages than the other. The choice between a barcode and a QR code generally depends on a few variables. Among these are the amount of data that must be stored within them, the type of article that will be labeled, and the considerations to take into account to carry out this process.

Knowing the concerns that our clients might have in relation to the functions, in the following article we present the characteristics of both codes and their main differences.

What is a barcode?

A barcode is a technology for the automatic capture of information, which allows the identification of items and services by means of a numerical or alphabetical sequence. The information about each product is stored in them and can only be read by means of a barcode reader. Currently, there are various types of barcodes. Among these are:

EAN code

The EAN code is seen mainly on consumer products and is designed for scanning at the point of sale.

most common uses

Its most common uses are in the retail and food sectors. They are also widely used in warehouses to control inventory.

Therefore, if you carry out operations related to warehouse management, you may be familiar with this type of barcode.

ISBN code

The ISBN code is the international code for the identification of books or educational materials.

most common uses

Typically used to identify books, print brochures, Braille publications, publications not regularly updated by the publisher, educational films or videos, CD or DVD books, electronic publications, digitized copies of monographs, multimedia content, and maps.

Thanks to this type of code, all these elements are correctly identified worldwide, allowing better marketing and distribution.

ITF code

The ITF code uses a representation based solely on numeric characters.

most common uses

Like the EAN code, it is often used for distribution and warehouse identification purposes. If you are familiar with operations of this type, you will be able to see it by identifying boxes that contain trade items.

Code 39

Also called “Alpha 39”, the Code 39 barcode was the first code to use both numbers and letters.

most common uses

Commonly, it is used in the automotive industry, specifically to verify the receipt of auto parts.

Code 128

The Code 128 barcode features numbers, upper and lower case letters, symbols, and control codes.

most common uses

If you work in the food or medical industry, you may be familiar with this code. It is commonly used to manage food opening dates, pharmaceutical validity management, verify received products and classify items according to the destination to which they are directed.

What is the utility of barcodes?

Barcodes provide a way to monitor inventory levels with less need for human intervention, thus ensuring fewer errors. They also allow fast and efficient operations.

By providing faster and more accurate data capture, labor costs are reduced. This is because employees will no longer need to store or manipulate the information on each item manually.

Therefore, they will be able to focus on tasks that require much more effort, improving productivity and speeding up the supply chain.

What is a QR code?

The QR code, or Quick response code, is a system capable of storing information such as web links, text messages, emails, etc. It was created by the Japanese company Denso-Wave in 1994. Thanks to the rise of new smartphones, it is now used much more frequently.

Related: QR Code Free

What is the utility of QR codes?

Thanks to their ability to store various pieces of information, QR codes are used in a variety of situations. You can easily find them on posters, advertisements, museum exhibits, websites, and even on business cards.

However, while QR codes have gained recognition due to their increasingly widespread use in consumer-facing marketing applications, they can also be useful in industrial applications, such as:

operating instructions

The utility of QR codes in operating instructions lies in conveying procedures or other information needed to operate heavy equipment.

facility management

QR codes can be used to document schematics and other instructions for plumbing, wiring systems, and alarm systems. This provides an easy way to communicate these details to contractors or maintenance workers.

Maintenance and repairs

QR codes are used to easily document that routine maintenance has been performed, creating a complete audit trail of service and repair records.

Normative compliance

In industrial applications, equipment and machinery often require periodic inspections, regular maintenance, and permits or licenses to meet regulatory requirements. QR codes can be used to store this information and make it easily accessible.

How is a barcode different from a QR code?


This is one of the most visible differences between the two codes. While the barcode presents an appearance based on parallel bars, the QR code focuses on geometric patterns such as dots, squares, rectangles, or hexagons.

Information encoding

In a QR code, information is encoded in both horizontal and vertical directions. This is due to the use of geometric patterns in its appearance, which facilitates both the storage of more information and its reading. This is known as a two-dimensional code.

On the contrary, in a barcode, the data is encoded linearly by means of a set of parallel bars. This is known as a one-dimensional code. Due to this structural difference, a QR code contains a hundred times more information than a barcode.

Adaptability and bug fixes

In terms of adaptability and error correction, QR codes have a much more noticeable advantage over barcodes. This is because they have an error rate of 7% to 30%. In short, even if the packaging of the product in question or the printed code is damaged or dirty, the QR code works. This feature is cleverly used by companies and businesses.

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