Most of the barcodes are black and white. It is of course a consequence of a contraint : thermal printers print in black and white.

In 2008, Zebra developed a new symbol to provide a solution for inkjet printers, which can print color labels. This rugged barcodes could resist to a lot of damage and were named Ultracode.

Ultracode? The name already says a lot. This new symbol intends to exceed the current 1D or 2D code and use color.

Nowadays, these barcodes are more and more interesting when you look at how technologies and behaviors evolved. Ultracodes won’t replace barcodes and QR codes but they might be a good alternative as they take into account something important: the barcode readers sold the most today are not scanners or readers. They are smartphones.

Our phones have equal or better resolution than many scanners (2D or QR codes) on the market. And these smartphones are becoming key interfaces in every day life: they are our data holders, they can purchase our movie tickets, they help us when boarding an airplane, they give us access to a concert … all this from 2D codes, and this is only the beginning, smart phones are bound to be increasingly used to read symbols and barcodes.

In fact, 2D codes (or QR codes) are exclusively in black and white and so they do not even use 100% of the capacity of smart phones, which can identify colors. So,  color can be an interesting way to encode information, provide more data in a smaller space and, with fewer errors than QR codes. It would for instance be an interesting solution to encode URLs.

The ultracode is currently being tested, and we should know more about its possible implementation in the coming months.