Jonas Neubert

Jonas is a robotics engineer and software developer who writes Python to control machines and factories. Among the many places where he has caused downtime are a steel processing plant, an automated genomics lab, and a cinema projection room (during a Harry Potter screening!)

Jonas currently writes laboratory automation software at Zymergen in Emeryville. Previously, he has been building big robots at Counsyl and tiny robots at Cornell University. He's also interested in geography and 3d printing, and won't stop talking about roundabouts.

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Zebras and Lasers: A crash course on barcodes with Python

Fun & People, Novice
8/18/2018 | 4:40 PM-5:10 PM | Robertson


Factory automation and logistics are industries full of software and full of technologies that seem simple but aren't. This talk is a Python-filled deep dive into the surprisingly complex world of the humble barcode, a true workhorse at the interface between software and the physical world. There will be shipping labels, sidewalk mosaics and even DNA!


Because software is nothing but electrons in a box, writing code that deals with tangible objects in the physical world is tricky. To make things easier to identify by software, we have sprinkled our world with machine-readable artifacts like RFID tags and magstripes. The most popular such tag is the barcode, clocking in at an estimated 5 billion barcode reads per day!

Despite being the ubiquitous interface between the worlds of hardware and software, barcodes rarely get much attention from engineers on either side of software/hardware divide. Only few barcode connoisseurs geek out about the nuanced benefits of the many different barcode symbologies and hundreds of industry-specific data encodings. This talk is a guided tour through the wonderful world of barcodes, curated especially for Pythonistas.

I will start with a live demo of how to read a barcode with nothing but pen, paper, and a few list comprehensions, followed by a brief barcoding theory 101. After we’ve seen the nuts and bolts, I will go over a brief survey of the packages and tools for generating and reading barcodes that are available to Python developers. We’ll finish with a few application examples, ranging from interesting to mischievous.

Warning: There might be lasers (but probably no zebras).