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  A Standards Update - AIDC Bar Code Standards

Welcome to this edition of a regular column about standards in the Automatic Identification and Data Capture (AIDC) industry. This column will be updated regularly to keep you current on news of standards and their impact on the industry.

In the coming months, we will try to educate you on the various technologies covered under the AIDC umbrella as well as bring news of the standardization process and its progress. If you have news about standards that you want to share, or questions you want to ask, send them to steve@hightechaid.com and we will try to incorporate them into the next column.

In last month's issue of this column, we started looking at the various AIDC technologies and who is involved in standardization in these technologies. In this month's column we will start to delve a bit deeper into each technology and the standardization work that is being done.

Last month I explained the difference between a technology standard and an application standard. In most cases the technology standard comes first and an application standard is built round the technology. Many people create application standards, but usually there is only one, or maybe two, sources for the technology standards.

In the barcode arena, AIM has long been the traditional source of the technology standards. Currently AIM offers technology standards for the following barcode symbologies.

Linear Matrix Stacked/Packet
Code 39 MaxiCode PDF 417
Interleaved 2 of 5 Data Matrix Micro PDF 417
Codabar Aztec Code EAN.UCC Composite
Code 128 Code One SuperCode
Code 93 QR Code Code 16K
Reduced Space Symbology Aztec Mesas Code 49
Code 93i Dot Code Codablock
Channel Code    







Symbology standards are also available from other organizations. For example, the U.P.C. and EAN symbologies are available from UCC and EAN. Most proprietary symbologies are only available from their respective inventors.

A symbology specifications give all the details necessary to print or scan a barcode. The documents range from 8 pages to 120 pages, so you can see that there is of information needed to create a barcode.

Looking at a standard from a very simplistic level, it must contain:

  • A definition of the width of the bars and the spaces.
  • A method to define each character that is encodable (whether numeric only or full ASCII).
  • The start and stop characters
  • Any check character support built in
  • Any free space needed around the symbology to allow for a clean decode

From these basic definitions, it then gets to be complicated as error correction becomes a factor and as we start to talk about non-linear symbologies. With some of the two dimensional symbologies allowing the encodation of several kilobytes of data, on a symbol that may be several square inches in size, it become important to fully define the "rules" for a symbology.

Once you have the basic technology standard written then it becomes available for everyone to use and interpret for their particular use. An example of the use of the barcode technology standards would be the use by the Health Industry Business Communications Council (HIBCC) (http://www.hibcc.org/barcodel.htm) of various barcode symbologies in the health care industry. HIBCC have written a series of application standards that use several symbologies to define how bar code technology is used in healthcare. Each of these application standards refers to a technology standard for the rules on creating the symbology, but they add the rules for the data side of the barcode.

So, if you are looking for a standard for barcode technology, then you need to look in two places, the symbology standard first and then the application standard from the industry association. From the American Production & Inventory Control Society Inc. (APICS) to the Warehousing Education and Research Council (WERC) there will be an association for your industry that has created an application standard.

Next month we will look at card technology standards.