Digital watermarks instead of barcodes

What are Digimarc watermarks?

Digimarc® watermarks are digital watermarks from the Digimarc Corporation. Like traditional paper watermarks (in banknotes, for example), Digimarc watermarks are not perceptible to humans at first glance. They can be inserted into various carrier media and thus transport additional data.

Unlike paper watermarks, which can be made visible by holding them up to the light, Digimarc watermarks cannot be read without technical aids such as a smartphone. Surfaces enhanced with Digimarc watermarks may have minimal deviation from the original upon close inspection, but the content cannot be read by humans.

Are Digimarc watermarks barcodes?

Digimarc watermarks are not barcodes. However, just like barcodes, they can encode a unique number. Therefore, they can be used similarly to barcodes and have some additional advantages over barcodes. Thus, Digimarc watermarks could replace barcodes in the future.

Since Digimarc watermarks, unlike barcodes, are not perceptible to humans, the entire surface of a product can be enhanced with Digimarc watermarks. In this way, it is virtually possible to apply barcodes to the entire surface of a product without disturbing its appearance.

This area-wide application opens up completely new possibilities for the use of barcodes.

Visualization Digital Digimarc watermark on a chips packaging everywhere barcodes

The human sees the left image: no barcode. The camera system sees the right image: barcodes everywhere.



The HolyGrail 2.0 initiative is a pilot project designed to demonstrate the benefits of digital watermarks for packaging waste sorting.

On the initiative of AIM – European Brands Association and with the support of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, more than 160 companies and organizations from the entire value chain of the packaging industry have joined forces for the Digital Watermarks Initiative HolyGrail 2.0.

The basic idea here is that digital watermarks cover the surface of packaging across the entire surface. As a result, these watermarks can be read in sorting systems even on deformed and semi-degraded packaging.

The watermarks can contain various characteristics such as material used or food/non-food packaging. This information allows packaging to be better sorted and thus recycled to a higher quality.

At the same time, the GTIN can also be transported via the watermarks, making the classic barcodes on the packaging obsolete.

Phases 1 and 2 of the initiative have already been successfully completed. Currently, the final phase 3 is underway and is expected to be completed in Q3 2022.

For more information, visit the HolyGrail 2.0 Initiative website.

More advantages of Digimarc for the packaging industry

In addition to the HolyGrail 2.0 initiative, there are other benefits to using Digimarc in the packaging industry.

Faster checkout process

Since the barcode is applied to the entire surface of the product, there is no delay due to searching for the barcode during the scanning process at the checkout.


Barcodes no longer need to be considered in packaging design. Designs can be created without a visible barcode.

Printing costs

No special ink is needed for printing. Digimarc watermarks can be printed with existing printing processes at no additional cost.


Up to now, mixing of types has been prevented by means of barcodes or the print design. Both methods have disadvantages.

With the use of digital watermarks, unambiguous variety identification is simple and reliable.


The Digimarc watermarks allow additional information to be applied to the packaging. This allows better traceability of the products.


The watermarks can be used to interact with the consumer. For example, additional information can be accessed via the smartphone.


How do Digimarc watermarks work?

Digimarc watermarks use a patented process that embeds minimal color deviations in individual color channels into the design. These variations are imperceptible to the human eye.

For more information, visit the Digimarc website.

Try it for yourself with the Digimarc Discover app!

With the Digimarc Discover app, you can read Digimarc watermarks using your smartphone.

The next image is enhanced with a Digimarc watermark.

Try it out right now!

Download the app and scan the image directly from the monitor.


Donwload on the App Store    Get it on Google Play

Example image enhanced with a Digimarc digital watermark

Ready for the future

We are convinced that Digimarc will establish itself worldwide in the packaging industry and become the standard in the next few years due to its many advantages. Be prepared for the future with mevisco vision systems now. Offer your customers the possibility to use this future-oriented technology already now.

Existing mevisco systems can also be expanded to include Digimarc reading capability. Talk to us about it.

The Digimarc reading capability can of course be combined with our other quality control inspections.

Let's talk about your use case