GS1 DataMatrix

The GS1 DataMatrix symbology can be used for labelling small items where there is limited space for a barcode. The symbol can contain information that enables traceability and authentication.

GS1 DataMatrix is a small, robust symbology that can encode large amounts of information. Furthermore, it can be etched into metal which means it can be used, for example, for health care equipment that need to be sterilised. Other applications include labelling planks and boards in the wood products sector.

Example of a GS1 DataMatrix symbol.

GS1 DataMatrix can encode more information

The GS1 DataMatrix symbology is a variant of the more general Data Matrix ECC 200, which in turn is a variant of ISO/IEC 16022 Data Matrix. All three variants of Data Matrix are ISO standards.

GS1 DataMatrix differs from Data Matrix ECC 200 and ISO/IEC 16022 Data Matrix in its use of application identifiers (AI) and a specific start character, Function Code 1 (FNC1).

Application identifiers

Application identifiers describe what type of information is encoded in the symbol. An application identifier consists of two to four digits and is printed in parentheses under the symbol together with the information it describes.

Read more about application identifiers.

Using application identifiers, a single GS1 DataMatrix symbol can encode different types of information, for example:

  • GTIN (Global Trade Item Number)
  • Dates
  • Weight
  • Serial number
  • Lot/batch number

Application identifiers describe what type of information is encoded in the symbol.

Function code FNC1

Function code FNC1 enables the scanner to process the information according to GS1’s standards.

The function code is also used to delimit a variable length information element such as batch number or serial number.

Symbol construction

Data Matrix is a two-dimensional symbol. This means that it is constructed from a matrix of dark or light squares in a square or rectangular pattern. Information in the symbol is encoded in the matrix.

The matrix of light and dark squares consists of a number of rows and columns. GS1 DataMatrix always consists of an even number of rows and columns. This means that GS1 DataMatrix always has a light square in the top right-hand corner.

GS1 DataMatrix always has a light square in the top right-hand corner.

Data Matrix can be recognised from its “finder pattern” which the scanner uses to find the symbol when scanning. The finder pattern delimits the symbol and determines the size, orientation and layout. The finder pattern consists of two parts:

  • “L finder pattern” – two solid lines that form an “L”
  • “Clock Track” – alternating dark and light squares than for an inverted “L”.

Data Matrix encodes information in a matrix of dark and light squares. The finder pattern is used by the scanner to find the symbol.

Module width

The module width is the height or width of one square in the symbol’s matrix.

Light margin

There must always be a light margin around the symbol. The light margin is an empty area that is needed so that adjacent information, such as the package artwork, does not interfere with the scanning. The light margin for Data Matrix must be at least one module width.

There must always be a light margin around the symbol.

Symbol size

The symbol size depends on the amount of information encoded and the module width. The more information the symbol contains and the larger the module width, the greater the size of the symbol.

Information content

GS1 DataMatrix can contain up to 2,335 alphanumeric characters.

Equipment for reading GS1 DataMatrix

Since GS1 DataMatrix is a two-dimensional symbol it must be read using a camera-based scanner. This differs from a one-dimensional barcode, such as EAN-13, which can be read by an optical scanner. A camera-based scanner can also read one-dimensional barcodes, but an optical scanner cannot read two-dimensional symbols.

More information

GS1 DataMatrix An Introduction and Implementation Guideline (.pdf)