9 Interesting Uses of Barcodes

Posted by Matthew Kostanecki
interesting uses of barcodes

Barcodes are generally used to help track inventory, but there are many more possibilities and interesting ways to use them. In this post, we’ll take a look at some of the more creative applications of linear and 2D barcodes (e.g., QR codes).

Events, travel, and movies

Barcodes are used in admission tickets in movie theaters and other events to uniquely identify and verify the validity of the ticket before the customer can enter the theater or the event. They’re also used to count sales generated from the event, and makes it a lot more convenient to keep track of revenue. Sometimes it even costs less for event organizers because they don’t have to spend money producing actual tickets – those who want to attend the event or watch the show can print the barcode anywhere and present it upon arrival at the venue.


Similarly, with the use of online booking systems for travel (flights, trains, and buses), travelers can even print out their own boarding pass and check in by showing the code using their smart phone.


Advertisers are taking advantage of barcodes by using them to reach out to customers in a more interactive, interesting, and unique way. With the use of smartphones, just by downloading and installing an app that can read barcodes you can discover a lot more information about the product being advertised.

You’ve probably seen advertisements like this one:


What you see above is a 2D barcode. What’s different about it is that it’s capable of storing more information (and languages). These barcodes usually contain uniform resource locators (URL) so that you can learn more about the product or service.

While not as popular in the US, the use of 2D barcodes is very popular in Japan, where it was invented. They have 2D barcodes almost everywhere: retail stores, fast food chains, and train stations.


Japan’s use of these barcodes is actually pretty creative, and also provides a lot of help since some of them contain information about your location, direction, and contact information. After the 2011 earthquake and Tsunami, QR codes were especially helpful in spreading information about how to donate to the relief efforts [So barcodes are useful for disaster relief; might want to pitch that to the government…].


Games that needed the use of barcodes have been around since the 90s. There are actually consoles created specifically for these games. You may have heard of Skannerz, which was released in 2000. The general premise was to capture monsters by scanning them and then battling with other players.

skannerz barcode game
The Skannerz barcode console

Now, you can see smartphone games being used instead of dedicated consoles.

(source: android apps on google play)

Barcode Beasties generates a monster or power ups when you scan certain items with your phone. You can then train the monster to level up and then use it for competing with other players. You can now find out if a pack of cookies can beat your TV…

Tracking food intake

(source: justataste.com)

There are actually some apps that help you keep track of the food you eat through barcodes. All you have to do is take a picture of the barcode on the food you’re eating, and the app will use the nutrition information indicated on the item to track your food intake. It’s actually pretty convenient, and you’d have a more detailed food diary.

Art and pop culture

Barcodes have become so popular that they have been used as inspiration for art and architecture. This building in St. Petersburg, Russia has been designed with the linear (traditional) barcode in mind:

(source: io9.com)

Barcodes have been used in pop culture as well. If you’ve seen the cars in the movie Back to The Future (Universal, 1985), they’re using barcodes instead of license plates:

(source: backtothefuture.wikia.com)

Tracking products

barcodes on tootsie pops
Barcode on the stick of a lollipop

Just because you have a very small product doesn’t mean you can’t come up with a creative way to track it using barcodes. Tootsie Pops have barcodes on their sticks!

Barcoding in your business?

Want to know more about how you can set up a barcoding system in your business? Download your copy of Barcode Your Small Business for free. It will show you step by step on how you can set up a complete system for your business.

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Matthew Kostanecki

About Matthew Kostanecki

Matthew Kostanecki is speaker, author, and active contributor to the small business community. He leads the marketing and business development for inFlow Inventory.

Have a question or comment? Let us know below!

    1. We wouldn’t recommend scanning as a way of checking if an item is genuine, but rather as a replacement for typing out item names.

  1. Dear Matthew,

    I’m a teacher and thinking of barcoding high school students’ papers for identification. What’s the most cost effective way to do this? I downloaded you free guide. Thanks for it. With kindest regards, Paul Robison, Brentwood Christian School, Austin, TX.

    1. Hi Mlambwende, thanks for stopping by.
      I’m not sure which point you’re referring to in this post, but if you mean barcodes, you could start off with free barcode generators. We have a few listed here: https://ec4.inflowinventory.com/blog/top-free-barcode-generator/

      Or if you mean to register barcodes, we have some information about registering with GS1 (basically the global barcode authority) in this post: https://ec4.inflowinventory.com/blog/create-your-own-barcodes/

      Hope that helps!

  2. We do car shows and was wondering IF the use of bar codes would be possible to use? One area is our photographer. Is it possible to put a barcode on the registrations that would allow him to scan the registration for and have all the info of the cars owner tracked to correspond with the picture being taken?

    Also with a national show coming up, possible the same can be used with registration there, where not only folks have their personal information and car info. But would also be buying banquet tickets, show shirts, etc. Being that each entrant would have different selections.

    I see where I can get the scanners above, where would I go to find the program to create the bar codes for the registrations? Thanks for your time and help!

    Great Lakes Classic AMC Club

  3. There are 650 members in our club and we maintain their records in an Excel file as our roster. Each member has an an ID (i.e. 123-AB). Once a year they submit a form to pay their dues. Their form includes a code 39 barcode of their ID. I would like to use a barcode scanner to scan the barcode on their form and have my Excel file automatically highlight that member’s row in the roster. How do I do that?

    1. Hi Lageerthana, most standalone barcode scanners don’t use Wifi, but rather Bluetooth or a wireless USB dongle/adapter (which you attach to your computer).
      However there are some Windows and Android devices that have barcode scanners attached — those could use Wifi to communicate. Zebra is one of the big popular brands that makes smart devices with attached scanners.

  4. Hi is there a system for the following?
    Can we print a shipping label prior to picking that has the product ID and our warehouse inventory location, that can? be set up within the bar-code.
    We scan the above label into a hand held scanner the screen then directs picker to the location of product, picker scans the bar-code at the location that verifies or not the product Id matches what has been ordered.
    We presently use a manual system one person picks another person verifies.
    Thank you
    Pat Ryan

    1. Hi Pat! Our system can help with some verification via scanning, but we don’t have a fully mobile solution at this time. If you’re interested, our recommendation for using inFlow for picking and packing is here: https://ec4.inflowinventory.com/blog/how-to-pick-and-pack-with-inflow-cloud/

      As for a fully mobile system that you could check out today, I believe Zebra has some hardware/software that could be used throughout the whole pick and pack process.

  5. Great article. Thanks! I’m looking for a way to track that an independent contractor has been to a site that they are sent to. Normally, the contractor (interpreters, in this case) have to have a worksheet signed and then scan and email or mail it back to the my client’s company.

    Do you have any creative ideas for how a bar code on an ID badge could register the person was present and send that information back to my client’s company?

    I thought it was worth it to ask. They are trying to go greener and have their contractors go through fewer hoops.

    1. Hi Arlyn,

      Unfortunately I don’t have any specific programs in mind that would help contractors log in, but I’m sure they must exist.
      Each contractor would need to be assigned a badge with a unique barcode on it. And the software would have to be able to tie that barcode back to a registered contractor’s name in a database, and also record the time and location of the scan.
      That way, every scan would record: contractor name, location of scan, and time.

      You could then filter that record to see how long a contractor was on site, which sites they visited in a given period, etc. I’d recommend searching the web for security systems and barcoded or scannable IDs, as those workflows probably go together.

      Good luck with the search!