Recently the Uniform Code Council (the organization that governs UPC barcodes) announced that starting in January 2005, they will require that all retailers and trading partners in the United States and Canada that presently scan 12-digit UPC barcode symbols be capable of scanning 8 digit EAN-8 and 13 digit EAN-13 barcode symbols as well. Furthermore, the UCC strongly recommends enhancing systems to accept barcode data of up to 14 digits in preparation for a new numbering system called GTIN (Global Trade Identification Numbers) that will eventually be used to identify products world wide.
There is a great deal of confusion about what this all means among companies that both print barcodes on their products as well as with companies that scan barcodes into retail point of sale or inventory systems. Many people mistakenly believe that UPC barcode numbers are going to be phased out altogether or replaced with a new type of barcode called a GTIN barcode.
A GTIN barcode is not a new type of barcode at all. GTIN numbers are simply 14 digit numbers that will be used to identify products. GTIN numbers are fully compatible with standard UPC-A, EAN-8 and EAN-13 barcode numbers therefore UPC and EAN barcodes will continue to be used well into the future.
All that is really going on is that the Uniform Code Council is recommending that anyone that currently has a system in place for reading 12 digit UPC barcodes should modify their barcode databases so that they can accept up to 14 digit numbers in barcodes used for identifying products. This will allow existing barcode scanning systems to be used to read any of the 4 primary types of barcode numbers used for product identification (UPC-A, EAN-8, EAN-13 and the newer GTIN numbers).
UPC barcodes will continue to be encoded using the UPC-A barcode symbology, EAN-8 numbers will continue to be encoded with the EAN-8 barcode symbology and EAN-13 numbers will continue to be encoded with the EAN-13 barcode symbology. The newer GTIN numbers will be encoded using either the Interleaved 2 of 5, the EAN/UCC-128, or RSS14 barcode symbologies. The Interleaved 2 of 5 and EAN/UCC-128 barcode symbologies have been in existence for many years and almost all barcode scanners already have the ability to scan these types of barcode symbols therefore no changes will need to be made to existing barcode scanner hardware. All that has to change is the way that the numbers are stored in a database. The RSS14 barcode symbology is a relatively new symbology therefore only a small percentage of the existing installed base of barcode scanners are capable of reading RSS14 barcodes.
For example, suppose that you have a retail point of sale or inventory system that stores all barcode data in a database and the data field that stores the barcode data is restricted to hold only a 12 digit number (standard UPC-A numbers). To support the new standard, you would need to modify the database so that the barcode data field will be able to accept either an 8 digit, 12 digit, 13 digit or 14 digit number. If your database already contains existing data that is shorter than 14 digits in length, they are recommending that you pad the existing data with leading zeros so that all numbers will end up being 14 digits in length.
All TAL barcode software products including our Barcode ActiveX control, our Barcode DLLs and B-Coder Professional have always supported UPC-A, UPC-E, EAN-8, EAN-13, Interleaved 2 of 5, EAN/UCC-128 and RSS14 barcodes therefore you will be able to continue using the version of B-Coder Pro, our Barcode ActiveX control or our Barcode DLLs that you have for a very long time - even with the changes that are supposed to occur in 2005.
For more information on the 2005 changes to the barcode world, please visit