For years, users of linear bar codes have been able to do something 2-D bar codes users haven’t—confirm the accuracy of bar code verification systems through the use of a Calibrated Conformance Standard Test Card (CCSTC). These cards can be used for verifier calibration but are principally designed as a tool to test a verifier for conformance as per ISO/IEC specifications. In December, however, GS1 US announced the availability of the ISO/IEC Data Matrix and GS1 DataMatrix CCSTC, featuring 2-D bar code symbols of exact dimensional and reflectance values. It can be used to determine whether a 2-D bar code verifier is accurate and operating within published tolerances, GS1 US reports.The new card joins an existing product line of GS1 US test cards for linear symbologies including EAN/UPC, ITF-14, GS1-128, and GS1 DataBar.
According a November 2009 article in SCAN: The Data Capture Report (www.scandcr.com), CCSTCs “today are still the accepted means by which a bar code verifier is judged to be accurate and in conformance with ISO/IEC specifications.”
Production of 2-D CCSTCs is now possible thanks to development of the 2D Judge, a high-resolution imaging system and symbology decoder that measures and certifies the reflectance and dimensional accuracy of the symbols on the test card. The system was developed by a team including representatives from AIM (the Association for Automatic Identification and Mobility), Ohio University, Pitney Bowes Inc., and Product Identification & Processing Systems (PIPS) Inc. The 2D Judge was built under the direction of Dr. Kevin Berisso, PhD, Director of the AutoID Lab at Ohio University, part of the Russ College of Engineering and Technology. The project was funded by GS1 US, which owns the device.
PIPS has been awarded a multiyear contract by GS1 US to manufacture 2-D CCSTCs and to operate the 2D Judge for ongoing test-card production and development. The new test cards are GS1 US branded products and shipped exclusively to GS1 US, which then offers them for sale to verification manufacturers and resellers in addition to end-users. “The 2D Judge and 2-D CCSTCs are the great equalizers and have long been needed,” says George Wright IV, PIPS vice president of technology and business development. “ISO verifier conformance calls for such cards to be measured by a super-verifier ten times more accurate than standard verifiers, and that’s what we have in the 2D Judge.”
Two-dimensional code quality has often been a source of tension in the supply chain as trading partners disagree over symbol quality, Wright says. “The 2D Judge and new Data Matrix CCSTCs should resolve these arguments. Up until now, users have had to rely solely upon assertions of verifier manufacturers that their instruments were accurate.”
The 2-D CCSTCs have up to a four-year life, of which they may be in use for no more than two years, Wright says, citing guidelines established by GS1 US.
The 2D Judge’s debut comes just as Europe increases its interest in Data Matrix for pharmaceutical track-and-trace initiatives, and as FDA approaches its deadline for issuing a Standardized Numerical Identifier (SNI). The agency has expressed interest in a 2-D coded serialized National Drug Code (sNDC).