Specialty Barcodes, Symbologies, and Parsing Capabilities


Barcodes are usually divided into two types - 1D and 2D. As previously discussed in our Barcode Symbology article, the most common 1D barcodes are UPC-E and UPC-A, along with ISSN, ISBN, UPC, and Bookland EAN. The most common 2D barcodes are QR codes, PDF417, and Data Matrix Barcodes. However, because of advancements in barcode and scanning technology, new types of barcodes and barcode symbologies are becoming available with new features that boast more functionality for customers.

1D Specialty Barcode - Digimarc

Digimarc Corporation is a technology corporation founded in 1995 that provides software and services for various industries. Shortly after being founded, Digimarc released its first product - a digital watermarking software bundle that could be incorporated into Adobe Photoshop, Corel, and Micrografx. The core concept behind the software bundle was to protect images that could be vulnerable on the internet, but since the inception, the concept has broadened considerably.

The concept of a digital watermark took off with these popular milestones that are still being used today. Digital watermarks for authentication are used in:

  • Currencies

  • Driver’s Licenses

  • Documents and photos

  • Packaged retail products

Read by using a specialized visual imaging software called Digimarc Discover, Digimarc watermarks are ‘nearly imperceptible patterns that can be recognized and converted into some form of identifier (or barcode symbology), such as UPC-A or a GS1 number sequence’.(1)

Previously only available for highly-protected items, like currencies and licenses, in 2015 Digimarc gained its first retail client, a regional grocery store called Wegmans. After the initial push into retail, Walmart jumped on board in 2019, quoting similar reasons for their leap into RFID: ‘in order to improve the efficiency and accuracy of checkout for their packaged fresh foods’.

Because Digimarc barcodes have expanded heavily in the retail sector, barcode scanners are now being outfitted with Digimarc Discover software in order to enable reading and decoding capabilities. When looking for a barcode scanner/image with Digimarc decoding capabilities, ensure that the barcode reader has “Digital Watermark Technology” or includes the Digimarc Discover software. Below are some Barcode scanners/imagers and mobile computers that are able to read and decode digital watermarks.

Zebra DS3608-ER

Zebra PS20 Plus Personal Shopper

Zebra EC50 Android Enterprise Mobile Computer

OCR Symbologies

OCR, or Optical Character Recognition, is a type of technology that recognizes specific text within an image. OCR is mainly used so that documents, photos, receipts, mail, or any other type of digitized print material can be scanned and the words can be indexed and searchable. If a device can decode OCR symbologies that means that it can decipher the text from an image of the document or photo, which is commonly used for:

  • Data entry for business documents

  • Automatic license plate recognition

  • Passport recognition

  • Automatic insurance document extraction

  • Traffic sign recognition

  • Extracting business card information

  • Google Books

  • CAPTCHA services

  • CAD image instructions

  • Digitizing records, history (2)

Although OCR symbologies are not traditional barcodes, barcode scanners/imagers and barcode-enabled Mobile Computers are being released with OCR capabilities. Most of the time, OCR capabilities are associated with a scanner or printer form factor that sends the image to a computer and installed software (like Adobe Acrobat) to be processed.Handheld combination barcode and OCR scanners are commonly used to:

  • Scan items for checkout and to scan checks for payment

  • Scan car VINs quickly and easily

  • Scan retail barcodes and printed prices for verification

  • Scan passport and license data

  • Scan logistics barcodes and labels together

  • Scan pharmaceutical barcodes and additional data like LOT or REF codes (4)

Below are some Barcode scanners/imagers and mobile computers that have OCR capabilities.

IUID Parsing

IUID stands for Item Unique Identification, which is a system for establishing and assigning machine-readable, unique IDs to items that meet certain criteria, purchased/received by the DoD. (5) The purpose for creating the IUID system is to create traceability for items purchased and owned by the United States Department of Defense.

Each item that is either owned or received by the DoD has a mandatory label on it with a few different items - one of which is a 2D Data Matrix barcode. This 2D barcode is a permanent addition to assets and represents an item’s UII, or Unique Item Identifier. An asset’s UII is created from ASCII characters and different pieces of the string represent different important data. The DoD specifies that each UII be created by using Construct I or Construct II, which are basic templates for creating a unique UII that differ depending on the specific part and manufacturer.

In order for barcode scanners/imagers to read the 2D Data Matrix barcode and correctly decode the data, the barcode scanner must have the IUID Parsing capability. The IUID Parsing capability allows the DoD and suppliers of DoD parts and equipment to scan the barcode and easily pull the relevant data contained within the UII and make sense of that information. For instance, when a DoD 2D Data Matrix barcode is scanned, the scanner can pull the UII and correctly separate the information and then decode what each bit means. For example, if the barcode scanner reads a UII of D1HLD98K55042977209901, it can be separated into its relevant bits of data as D1 HLD 98K55 042 977209901.

Data Parsing is not only used for the DoD and their IUID system, but is also available for decoding GS1 labels and Blood Bags through the ICCBBA Organization.

For more information on:


If you have experience with barcode imagers and data parsing, comment below with any additional information. For more information on all things RFID, checkout our blogresources page, and YouTube channel, and for any questions - don’t hesitate to contact us via our form or in our chat feature!

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digimarc

  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Optical_character_recognition

  3. https://www.globalspec.com/learnmore/data_acquisition_signal_conditioning/data_input_devices/optical_character_recognition_ocr_products

  4. https://www.scandit.com/products/ocr/

  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Item_Unique_Identification