Abstract In the fast-changing world of actionable printing, there has recently been a huge increase in the adoption of two-dimensional (2D) barcodes for enterprise and consumer applications. The Data Matrix 2D barcode has become a primary carrier of supply chain information,
most notably for track and trace. The QR (Quick Response) 2D barcode, meanwhile, has spread from Japan to the rest of the world, and is a standard means of connecting a barcode to a URL. The authors have previously developed a 3D (color + 2D) barcode that increases the barcode
data capacity and provides branding possibilities. In this article, the authors introduce the four-dimensional (4D) barcode (color + 2D + time) as a means of using the same barcode location for multiple barcodes through time. This supports many enterprise workflows,
including document lifecycles. In this article, the authors consider the theory behind incremental information objects, of which progressive barcodes are a key incarnation. The authors describe how progressive barcodes are created and utilized. They also show that the set of progressive barcodes
comprising a lifecycle can contain up to twice the data of the associated single-time 3D color barcode. Finally, the authors present some real-world applications of these new barcodes.