Data Matrix code is a two-dimensional matrix barcode consisting of black and white "cells" or modules arranged in either a square or rectangular pattern. The information to be encoded can be text or raw data. Usual data size is from a few bytes up to 2 kilobytes. The length of the encoded data depends on the symbol dimension used. Error correction codes are added to increase symbol strength: even if they are partially damaged, they can still be read. A Data Matrix symbol can store up to 2,335 alphanumeric characters.
The most popular application for Data Matrix is marking small items, due to the code’s ability to encode fifty characters in a symbol that is readable at 2 or 3 square mm and the fact that the code can be read with only a 20% contrast ratio. The Data Matrix is scalable, with commercial applications as small as 300 micrometres (laser etched on a 600 micrometre silicon device) and as large as a 1 metre (3 ft) square (painted on the roof of a boxcar). Fidelity of the marking and reading systems are the only limitation.
The Electronic Industries Alliance (EIA) recommends using Data Matrix for labeling small electronic components.
Data Matrix codes are part of a new traceability drive in many industries, particularly aerospace where quality control is tight and a black market exists for counterfeit or non-serviceable parts. Data Matrix codes (and accompanying alpha-numeric data) identify details of the component, including manufacturer ID, part number and a unique serial number. The United States Department of Defense has selected Data Matrix for the mandatory unique identification of certain assets it procures for all of the services. Items from individual weapons to critical components of major systems must be permanently marked with a unique data matrix code in accordance with standards in Military Standard 130. Much of the Aerospace Industry, especially members of the Air Transport Association (ATA), aims to have all components of every new aircraft identified by Data Matrix codes within a tight deadline.
The Data Matrix format is also used by to encode 4096 bits RSA private keys that can be read by cameras or scanners.
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