The Data Matrix barcode is a 2D barcode symbology that is designed to encode a considerable amount of data in a smaller area than the typical 1D, or linear barcode. A 2D barcode is labeled as such because it can be read in two dimensions- both horizontally and vertically. A Data Matrix can be encoded with alphanumeric data so that both numbers and letters are readable when scanned.
Data Matrix Design
A Data Matrix has certain elements of design that allow it to be readable:
- Quiet Zone- As with all barcode symbologies, a quiet zone must be present around the DataMatrix. This is the area around the Data Matrix that does not contain any graphic elements which may interfere with the barcode readability.
- L Finder Pattern- The solid dark line around the left and bottom sides of the Data Matrix. Primarily used to determine the size, orientation, and distortion of the Data Matrix symbol.
- Clock Track- Alternating light and dark elements around the top and right side of the Data Matrix. Also determines size and distortion of the Data Matrix.
- Data- Encoded within the the Finder Pattern and can be encoded with alphanumeric information: 2,335 alphanumeric characters or 3,116 numbers can be encoded into the data.
- Human Readable Information: Typically all or some of the text and numerical data encoded within the barcode will appear underneath the barcode for manual readability or entry in the even that the Data Matrix cannot be scanned.
Error Correction codes are added to the Data Matrix. Error Correction is a a method of reconstructing the data that may be lost if the event that the Data Matrix becomes damaged, so that it remains readable when scanned.
Data Matrix Industry Uses
Healthcare: Hospitals, pharmacies, and medical suppliers are developing standards to improve patient safety. Data Matrix codes can be used to hold batch numbers and expiration dates of certain drugs, save time and ensure accuracy in re-ordering medical inventory, and making sure the right drug is used at the time of administration.
EIA and AIAG: Have implemented the Data Matrix for marking small electronic components
Military: The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has adopted the Data Matrix as the symbology to track assets with UID (Unique Identifier) labels/tags. Any asset with a value of $5000.00 or more must include a Data Matrix encoded to the DoD Mil-Std-130 requirement.
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