A barcode is a simple way of data representation through a visual, machine-readable form. Representing data through a machine-readable format is an effective way that is used worldwide: from government documents to grocery billing, etc. Among its many forms, PDF417 is a popular barcode type that is in use today.
The PDF417 barcode is a variable-length, 2D stacked barcode that anyone can use to store binary data. PDF stands for Portable Data File, while 417 represents four bars and spaces and a 17-part codeword.
So, how does PDF417 work, and how does it help in identity verification?
History of PDF417
While two graduate students invented the first barcodes: Bernard Silver and Norman Joseph Woodland from Drexel Institute of Technology, Philadelphia, in 1952, it was Dr. Ynjiun P. Wang who came up with PDF417 in 1991.
The idea behind PDF417 was to develop a technique for encoding and decoding data in a machine-readable visual structure. The image would store all the data encoded and then printed over a paper or other carrier form. To decode the data, a scanner device would scan and change the image on the carrier into electrical signals that represent the image.
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What is the structure of PDF417?
In reality, PDF417 contains a group of linear codes put one over the other to give it a distinct 2D perspective. As mentioned earlier, it contains four bars and spaces, with each bar being 17units long. The barcode can have three to 90 files (rows) where each resembles a tiny linear barcode. Along with these rows, PDF417 also offers bar height adjustability. If the data encoder sets the error correction to the lowest setting, a barcode can encode or store 1,850 text characters or 2,710 numeric digits. PDF417 can support 8-bit binary data as well as 256 ASCII characters. Each individual row gets a start pattern, data code words, quiet zone, row indicators, and stop pattern.
Each of these parts has a distinct function, and they are as follows:
- The quiet zone contains the minimum amount of designated white area prior to the beginning of the bar code.
- The role of the start pattern is to identify the complete pattern as PDF417.
- The Left-Row Indicator Codeword contains information like row number, error-correction level.
- Data codewords are bars and spaces grouped together that represent numbers, letters, or symbols.
- The Right-Row Indicator Codeword contains the row’s additional information.
Dr. Ynjiun’s barcode design was competent and could store up to 929 obtainable code words. Nine hundred of these code words were designated for data storage, while the remaining 29 for specific functions. There are three ways to encode different data in PDF417.
- Byte: a single five code words group signifies six bytes.
- Numeric: 15 codewords can store a maximum of 44 digits.
- Text: A single codeword illustrates two base-30 digits. A four sub-modules system then uses these digits to create printable characters.
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What Type of Variations does PDF417 Exhibit?
The PDF417 exists as two distinct variants. They are:
- Macro PDF417: If you want to split big files into practical segments that must be encoded in one symbol, Macro PDF417 serves the purpose.
- Compact PDF417: This variant is functional if you want to get past size restrictions and lower the possibility of symbol damage in the code.
Note: You must have heard about the Micro PDF417 barcode. While it might sound like a variant of PDF417, it is an entirely different symbology based on PDF417. Micro PDF417 uses a completely different format but offers a limited number of symbol sizes.
What is the Purpose of PDF417?
The initial purpose of developing the PDF417 barcode system was to create an encoding method that could store big and intricate data in a finite space. Before PDF417, the existing encoding method would store only alphanumeric data with few special characters. Due to this reason, the world was seeking a barcode that could encode huge files and complex data. Thus, they created PDF417!
What are the Advantages that PDF417 Offers?
Some of the advantages that PDF417 offers are:
- PDF417 can store vast and complex data like numeric, binary, letters, and special characters. You can even store files like signatures, fingerprints, images, etc.
- Any handheld scanners and linear CCD scanners can scan them. iDenfy has launched a new feature that allows you to use your smartphone to scan PDF417 barcodes for identity verification purposes.
- Encoders can define the width and length of the barcode.
- Since PDF417 falls under Public Domain Format, you do not require a specific license to print them.
- It has a high damage tolerance.
- PDF417 comes with its error detection system called the Reed-Solomon error correction.
What are the Constraints of PDF417?
- While large size allows more data storage, PDF417 occupies way too much space than other barcodes.
- PDF417 is scanner angle-sensitive. It means if the scanner will not read the barcode, it is at an angle.
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What are some of PDF417’s Applications?
Considering the number of advantages that PDF417 offers, many government and private agencies use it. Here are some of the usages:
- The United States Postal Department recognizes PDF417 on its postages.
- The automotive industry uses PDF417 as QR codes.
- Airlines use PDF417 to issue boarding passes to passengers.
- Courier companies use PDF417 to label packages for tracking automation.
- The Department of Homeland Security uses PDF417 when they issue driver’s licenses.
iDenfy’s Newest Feature
Given how PDF417 plays a crucial role in both government and private sector, it is a dependable source of identity verification. The US and Canadian departments use it to store a person’s information when they issue a driver’s license. It becomes easy for the authorities to scan the QR code and match the data against the official database.
We’ve developed a new barcode reader that can extract data from a document effectively. Due to its high accuracy, it effectively lowers identity fraud and increases the speed of the identity verification process. While we’ve provided identity verification during KYC before, the PDF417 scanner feature makes it a faster operation. The scanner uses a customer’s smartphone camera directly to feed the data into the system. It maintains high-quality data input and thus, making it significantly more accurate than before.