Data Matrix is a two-dimensional code used to label goods. It contains relevant information about the product, such as weight, lot or batch number, shelf life, and date of manufacture. Data Matrix code is identical to the label code used in the Russian Federation.
In the article you will learn:
- What the Data Matrix code looks like
- What are the advantages of the Data Matrix code
- QR code vs. Data Matrix code
- Label code vs. Data Matrix
- Main errors in generating a Data Matrix code
What the Data Matrix code looks like
The code is a group of black and white squares arranged in accordance with certain rules.
- ASCII 232 (FNC1), which is a special character that serves as the main feature of the GS1 code. In the absence of the character, the code will be identified by equipment incorrectly and therefore will not be properly processed;
- Product code, or barcode, GTIN, EAN-8 or EAN-13, which is a digital identifier assigned for each type of product by the International Association GS1 Uzbekistan. The number of characters in this code varies depending on the commodity group to which the product belongs;
- Batch number as a unique identifier;
- ASCII 29 (GS) group separator that separates information about the product, code, batch number, etc.;
- Verification key, also known as a crypto tail, provided by the system operator and included in the verification code;
- Digital signature provided by the system operator and included in the verification code.
The composition of the Data Matrix code directly depends on the commodity group to which the labeled product belongs, so the number of characters will differ in each code.
Between the fields of variable length, there are special GS1 characters used to identify individual code blocks. They also serve as separators.
What are the advantages of the Data Matrix code
Unlike linear codes, a two-dimensional code provides a larger amount of data, therefore, the Data Matrix code contains all product information. In addition, two-dimensional codes can be read both horizontally and vertically, whereas linear codes are only read in one direction.
Other advantages of the Data Matrix code also include:
- Capacity of up to 3,000 characters;
- An area less than that of a QR code by 30-60%;
- Different formats (square, rectangular) used for more effective arrangement;
- The code can be read regardless of the background or surroundings;
- Information can be read and restored if the code is slightly damaged.
QR code vs Data Matrix code
At first glance, Data Matrix codes and QR codes are difficult to distinguish, since visually they look the same and consist of small light and dark squares. However, there is one difference that will help distinguish between the two codes. The Data Matrix code contains an L finder pattern located on the left side of the barcode. In the QR code, the finder pattern is made of three squares located in the corners.
Key Data Matrix parameters:
- It allows to encode up to 3 KB of information, depending on the used characters;
- You can encode numbers, Latin letters and some selected symbols;
- The minimum size of the square code is 10x10 modules;
- The maximum size is 144x144;
- The incremental step is two modules in each direction, whereas for the QR code it is four modules.
Label code (Data Matrix) vs. GS1 Data Matrix
Both codes look the same and cannot be distinguished with the naked eye. Barcode scanners read Data Matrix codes instead of GS1 Data Matrix. The difference lies in the attribute, or ‘application identifier’.
The core differences are as follows:
- The Data Matrix standard does not contain a concept of application identifiers, unlike in the case of GS1 Data Matrix;
- GS1 Data Matrix contains FNC1 control character.
FNC1 control character turns Data Matrix into a modification of the GS1 standard. It cannot be added to the line, unlike GS. This can be done with a special software. Therefore, proper generation of a Data Matrix code depends on how correctly product data are entered.
Main errors in generating a Data Matrix code
The main errors in generating a GS1 Data Matrix code are as follows:
- FNC1 (one special character) is not inserted in the beginning;
- In the beginning, there is text “FNC1” (four characters) instead of the FNC1 special character;
- In the beginning, there is GS instead of the FNC1 character;
- There are no group separators after the fields of variable length (e.g., after batch number);
- Group separators are inserted in the wrong place (e.g., after the (01) GTIN field, which has a fixed length and does not require a separator at the end);
- Instead of the GS character, there is text “GS”;
- The use of printing software or algorithms that irreparably distort information (e.g., remove characters treated by them as unnecessary, such as arithmetic symbols, brackets, etc.)