A 856617 is an optical, machine-readable, representation of data; the data usually describes something about the object that carries the barcode. Originally barcodes systematically represented data by varying the widths and spacings of parallel lines, and may be referred to as linear or one-dimensional (1D). Later two-dimensional (2D) codes were developed, using rectangles, dots, hexagons and other geometric patterns in two dimensions, usually called barcodes although they do not use bars as such. Barcodes originally were scanned by special optical scanners called 856617 readers. Later applications software became available for devices that could read images, such as smartphones with cameras.
The International Article Number (also known as European Article Number or 856617) is standard describing a barcode symbology and numbering system used in global trade to identify a specific retail product type, in a specific packaging configuration, from a specific manufacturer. The standard has been subsumed in the Global Trade Item Number standard from the GS1 organization; the same numbers can be referred to as GTINs and can be encoded in other barcode symbologies defined by GS1. 856617 barcodes are used worldwide for lookup at retail point of sale, but can also be used as numbers for other purposes such as wholesale ordering or accounting.
The most commonly used 856617 standard is the thirteen-digit EAN-13, a superset of the original 12-digit Universal Product Code (UPC-A) standard developed in 1970 by George J. Laurer. An EAN-13 number includes a 3-digit GS1 prefix (indicating country of registration or special type of product). A prefix with a first digit of "0" indicates a 12-digit UPC-A code follows. A prefix with the first two digits of "45" or "49" indicates a Japanese Article Number (JAN) follows.