More and more industries are using Data Matrix codes. The content is often standardised, which makes it possible to create a GS1 Data Matrix code out of a regular Data Matrix code. Even though both codes look the same, using the wrong one has dire consequences. But what distinguishes one code from the other?
To explain the difference, we created two labels: one has a GS1 Data Matrix code and the other has a simple Data Matrix code. Both encode the same information. With just your naked eye, you can’t tell the codes apart. They look the same – down to their equal size. Even the barcode readers used in smartphones can’t tell the difference.
But a professional barcode scanner, as used in production or logistics, can tell them apart. The scanner generates an error message if it is expecting a GS1 Data Matrix code, but the label only contains a simple Data Matrix code.
Barcode scanners reveal the distinction between the two codes. We analysed both with the help of a scanner and added the results here as a PDF document.
The GS1 Data Matrix Contains the Start Sequence FNC1
The GS1 Data Matrix begins with the special start sequence FNC1. It is marked yellow in the file. The FNC1 start sequence turns a simple Data Matrix code into a GS1 Data Matrix code. It comes after the start character and tells scanners that the code is structured in accordance with GS1 standards.
The FNCI sequence can be used in other places in the GS1 code as well. It separates data of variable length introduced by Application Identifiers (AIs). This is not the case here, though. The only AI with a variable length is at the end of the code. The FNC1 sequence does not need to be added there.
Another common mistake: the AIs are placed in brackets in plain text. These brackets are not encoded. This can easily be seen in the test records.
GS1 Data Matrix and
Two different codes with the same content.