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EAN-13 is the most commonly recognized barcode in Europe, used in supermarkets and other retail establishments for basic product identification. It is the European equivalent of the UPC-A barcode in the United States. While EAN stands for European Article Number, the code is now technically called an International Article Number and is used outside Europe as well.
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Specifications: As their name implies, EAN-13 barcodes store a total of 13 digits, as opposed to UPC-A codes, which store 12. The first two digits are the GS1 Prefix, which identify the product's country of origin. Then is a five digit company number, to identify the brand, followed by a five digit item number, to identify the product itself. After that, there is a check number, to ensure the code's accuracy. Finally, there is a > symbol, indicating a "quiet zone," which signifies the end of the barcode.
Advantages: EAN-13 is popular, recognizable, and useful for general day to day retail transactions, since it can be read by any barcode reader. The check number also helps ensure accuracy when entering in the code by hand. It combines numbers together mathematically in a certain way to get a specific, one-digit outcome. If the check digit does not match that outcome, then the code has been entered incorrectly.
Disadvantages: The character limit on the EAN-13 barcode limits its potential uses. While it's fine for general supermarket use, it cannot identify more complex items.
Related Bar Codes:
UPC-A - The American equivalent of EAN-13.
EAN-8 - A more condensed version of EAN-13, for smaller products.