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Types of Serialization

According to research market consultancy Statistics MRC, the track and trace solutions market is expected to grow from USD1.35 billion in 2017 to USD6.60 billion by 2026 at 19.3% CAGR.

To combat the global trade of counterfeit products—estimated at USD1 trillion in 2016—businesses and organisations around the world are utilising various forms of serialization to increase and optimise supply chain visibility, from 1D barcodes to RFID technology.

1D and 2D Barcodes

The most frequent form of serialization is imprinting goods with 1D (or single dimensional) barcodes, regularly used in the retail industry. 1D barcodes consist of vertical, parallel lines encoded with an alphanumeric code and are convenient for goods whose prices may fluctuate, as data can be changed without altering the item’s original serial code.

However, 1D barcodes are constrained in that alphanumeric codes must be lengthened in order to store more data. On the other hand, 2D barcodes—such as QR Codes and Data Matrices—can store more data while taking up less packaging space. Composed of a black and white matrix of rectangular shapes and squares, they can store more information than just price and description, including quantity and lot number to verify the product’s original manufacturer.


2D barcodes are also more robust than 1D barcodes, because they can still be scanned and read even if substantially damaged, due to integrated error-protection formulas. Moreover, 2D barcode scanners can read both 1D and 2D barcodes, while 1D barcode scanners can’t. As with all serialization methods, assets that are serialized are recorded onto a database linked to the scanning system.

3D Barcodes

3D barcodes are similar to 2D codes. However the components of 3D barcodes vary in depth—and are engraved using laser, instead of ink, creating a unique and complex reflective effect. More frequently used in the manufacturing industry and jewelry business, 3D barcodes are virtually impossible to duplicate, even with the most advanced inking technologies and materials. Moreover, 3D barcodes can withstand extreme temperatures and chemicals, making them an increasingly favourable method of product serialization.

RFID Smart Labels

Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) involves the contactless reading of data stored in smart labels via radio waves. The most cost-effective forms of RFID in serialization are battery-less “passive” RFID smart adhesive labels, rather than RFID battery-powered tags. The RFID reader emits radio waves that are picked up by antennas embedded in the labels, which are then prompted to relay stored information back to the reader.

Although RFID technology itself isn’t new, RFID smart labels are now more sought after as part of serialization solutions: they allow for precise updates of the locations of assets, can store more data than other alternatives, are durable and are highly efficient (several hundred tags can be read at any one time).

While each serialization method offers its own set of advantages, a combination of techniques—including additional tamper evident seals and labels—is always best in order to optimise supply chain visibility and prevent counterfeiting.

Together with its cloud-based platform and mobile application, Identem’s™ end-to-end traceability solutions can incorporate various serialization methods to suit your business needs, so that your assets reach their intended destination.

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