Aztec Code: Characteristics, advantages, and areas of application

April 20, 2021

In Germany, the Aztec Code is mainly known in the field of public transportation tickets, as it can be found on digital rail tickets and boarding passes. However, countries such as Russia and Poland already use the two-dimensional barcode type for official tax documents or vehicle registration documents, while in Canada it can be found on more and more invoices. Find out more about the versatile Aztec Code, its attributes, and benefits now. 


The Aztec Code was developed in 1995 by Andy Longacre at the US company Welch Allyn and is standardized in the ISO/IEC 24778 standard. It is freely available under US patent number 5591956. However, its degree of widespread use is rather low compared to the Data Matrix Code and QR Code.  

The Aztec code: What are its main features?

Like the popular QR code, for example, the Aztec Code is also part of the two-dimensional (2D) barcode types. Unlike one-dimensional (1D) barcodes, it stores information on multiple layers. In the case of the Aztec Code, this means up to 32 layers. Visually, both barcode types are easy to distinguish from each other: While one-dimensional codes consist of black and white bars of different widths, two-dimensional barcodes contain squares of different sizes and arrangements. 


In the case of the Aztec Code, the pattern appears as the following: In the center, there are several nested squares, which form the so-called search element. Around this center, there are additional square symbol elements. In contrast to other barcode types, the Aztec Code does not require any quiet zones and can therefore be printed in an extremely space-saving manner.

📌 How did the Aztec Code come to be named? If you look at a pyramid of the Aztec advanced civilization in central Mexico from a bird's-eye view, the Aztec Code resembles this type of building enormously with its squares located centrally around one point - thus, a suitable name was found. 

How many characters can be encoded in the Aztec code? 

Two-dimensional barcodes are known for their high data density. The Aztec Code can likewise store an enormous amount of information: Between 12 and over 3,000

alphanumeric characters or around 1950 binary data to be exact. Therefore, this barcode type is suitable for any application where a large amount of data has to be reproduced in a small space. For example, all relevant travel data, as well as the corresponding personal data, can be stored on an area of only 2.7 x 2.7 cm.

What are the advantages of the Aztec code?

Let's now take a closer look at the advantages of the Aztec Code outlined above: 

Which use cases does the Aztec Code cover?

As already highlighted, the transportation sector makes up the largest part of the use cases of the Aztec Code. Lufthansa airline tickets contain this code, along with Deutsche Bahn tickets. The International Union of Railways (UIC) has now defined the Aztec Code as the standard for ticketing. 

In addition to passenger transportation, however, there are several other interesting areas of application: 

📌 However, problems often arise, particularly when end customers want to read out the Aztec code. Smartphones are usually unable to read this barcode type on their own. However, an Aztec Code Scanner can be integrated effortlessly into a smartphone app.

Integrate an Aztec Code scanner into your mobile app within one business day - With the Scanbot SDK

To enable end customers and employees to scan Aztec Codes with their smartphones, it is essential to integrate a reliable Barcode Scanner into your company's mobile application. The Scanbot barcode scanner is suitable for all common one-dimensional and two-dimensional barcode types and is therefore a real all-rounder. Thanks to user guidance, scanning is highly convenient, enabling even inexperienced users to achieve results quickly. In addition to the content of the code, an image of the barcode, or the entire document, can also be saved for later use. 

Thanks to the all-in-one solution, the Barcode Scanner can be integrated into your app within one business day, while color and text can be freely customized. Available for iOS and Android. 

📌 Good to know: All data is processed exclusively on the end user's smartphone to protect it from third-party and external attacks. The Scanbot SDK offers the highest level of data protection and fully complies with the GDPR and all other data protection regulations.

Want to see our Barcode Scanner in action? Download our free demo app now and test the numerous features of the Scanbot SDK. 

Scanner SDK Fact Sheet

Get the Scanbot SDK fact sheet

To access the fact sheet, Scanbot will process and use the information you provide to contact you about our products and to send you the monthly newsletter. You may unsubscribe from these communications at any time. For more information, please review our Privacy Policy.

Check out our solution demos

Expert demo

Talk to our solutions experts to see how the Scanbot SDK fits your needs.
Contact our solution experts

Demo app

The easiest way to check out our SDKs functionality.

Web demo

Explore our Web SDK live to imagine what’s possible.
Request demo link

Developers, ready to get started?

Adding our 30 day free trial to your app is easy. Download the Scanbot SDK now and discover the benefits of mobile data capture.
Try it out