The Ultimate Symbology

 In Barcode Symbol Types

 In our recent article Why Are There Different Kinds of Barcodes?  we posed the rhetorical question  “…is there one barcode type that could do it all?” There is a symbology that does a lot. It is called Ultracode. A draft of the international technical specification is completed, the symbol generator software is  available for Windows 7 and 8 along with instructions and release notes, symbol test files are available, and a public review period ended late last year.


Sidebar: The usual path for the adoption of a barcode symbology into an open loop system starts with research and standardization by the Association for Automatic Identification and Mobility (AIM), a trade association in the AIDC industry. This is how UPC, Code 39, Code 128 , PDG417, Data Matrix and QR Code became part of the library of symbologies used today.


Not the Ultimate Symbology–the Next Symbology

Ultracode is not the one symbology that could do it all. But Ultracode is proposed to be the symbology that will do what is next. Consider this:

  • The largest selling barcode scanner on the planet is not a scanner—it is a smartphone
    • Smartphone camera resolution is equal to or better than some industrial 2D scanners
  • Many barcode applications are moving to 2D symbologies
    • 2D symbols are more size efficient and have error correction not available in 1D barcodes
  • Smartphones are increasingly used as data carriers
    • Smartphones are replacing printed airline boarding passes, event tickets and access control

Ultracode is designed for smartphone scanning

But printed 2D symbols are generally designed for black on white printing. They do not utilize the full capacity of smartphone color displays and color cameras (all smartphone cameras since 2010 are color).  These factors created an opportunity to take advantage of color as a way to encode information. This gives Ultracode a technical advantage over Data Matrix and QR Code: Using color, Ultracode contains more data in a smaller space and it can has more error correction capability.

Ultracode is more efficient than QR Code

Ultracode is similar to QR Code, using the same error correction and user-adjustable levels of error correction. Like QR Code, Ultracode also has an interior finder pattern and a surrounding quiet zone. But Ultracode is more efficient than QR Code at encoding a URL. It can encode common URL phrases such as http://www/ with a single codeword.  For a typical URL, a similar error correction level and the same module size, Ultracode uses 46% of the area of a QR Code.

The QR Code and Ultracode below both encode





Footnote: Ultracode became an official AIM Standard and was recognized at the 22nd ISO/IEC JTC1 SC31 plenary meeting in Sapporo, Hokkaido (Japan).


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