Barcode readers ensure better functioning of business processes with
efficient and accurate automatic identification of products. Various
barcode technologies have evolved that help in tracking inventory
tracking, monitoring stock movement, increasing operational efficiency,
improving employee productivity, etc. Various types of barcode
technologies are used effectively across various sectors like
healthcare, hospitality, retail, manufacturing, distribution,
Barcode Reader Technologies:
Deciding on which barcode reader technology depends upon the type of
barcode that will be scanned, the environment in which it will be used,
and the connection type required (i.e. USB, serial, or keyboard).
Pen-style barcode readers, also called wand barcode readers, consist
of a light source and a photo diode placed next to each other at the tip
of the pen. As the pen is swiped across the barcode number the photo diode
measures the intensity of light reflected from the surface. A waveform
is generated that represents the exact widths of bars and spaces in the
barcode. The dark color of bars absorbs light while the white spaces
reflect light, thereby making a specific pattern of waveform. This
voltage waveform is then converted by the pen-type reader to retrieve
product information quickly. Because wand readers are manually swiped
across the barcode, they are not limited by the width of the barcode.
They do require the user to pass the wand over the barcode at a
consistent rate of speed and at a particular angle. The pen-type readers
are not the most efficient scanners, but they are small, extremely
durable, and economical. Pen-style barcode readers are suited for
low-volume and desktop applications.
Laser barcode scanners offer more precise readability of barcodes as
a laser beam is employed instead of a light source. An oscillating
mirror or a rotating prism is used to move the laser beam back and forth
across the barcode. The brightness and sharpness of laser beam ensures
preciseness and greater accuracy in reading barcodes. Laser scanners can
read the barcodes from greater distances and are ideal for applications
where barcodes need to be read in bright light.
CCD (Charged Coupled Device) readers, also called linear imager
barcode scanners, consist of a series of tiny light sensors that measure
the intensity of light that is right in front of them. Linear imagers
can effectively read barcodes from a few inches to several feet away.
They are more robust and are designed to withstand harsh working
conditions. Linear imagers are suited for use in various sectors like
retail, distribution, shipping, receiving, and inventory.
Camera Based Readers
The latest in the barcode reader technology is the camera-based
barcode readers or 2D imaging scanners. They utilize a small camera to
take an image of the barcode and then process this image using advanced
digital image processing techniques to decode the barcode. This reader
forms an image using sensors arranged in hundreds of rows. 2D barcode
scanners can even retrieve information from barcode labels that they are
wrinkled or damaged. These scanners have capability to read barcodes
moving at faster rates like cartons on a conveyor belt. 2D Barcode
Scanners read barcodes omnidirectionally, so the barcodes can be
orientated in any direction. Some 2D barcode scanners can also capture
digital images and signatures.
Omnidirectional Barcode Scanners
Omnidirectional barcode scanners disperse laser beams in every
direction making it possible to read the barcode from every possible
angle. A rotating mirror and a set of fixed mirrors are used in
omnidirectional barcode scanners to generate the pattern of laser beams.
These scanners have higher barcode scanning capability with scan ranges
varying between few inches to several feet. Omnidirectional barcode
scanners can be put to use in retail environments where barcodes have to
be read at a distance of few inches or in industries where barcodes
have be read from a distance of few feet in harsh conditions. It can
also read barcodes if they are torn, wrinkled, or damaged.
Cell Phone Cameras
Barcode scanning apps are now available for certain cell phones with
cameras. Some 2D barcodes like QR and Data Matrix codes are optimized
for scanning by cell phones. Although this technology is still in its
nascent stage, it opens a wide range of opportunities for possible
applications. At present, iPhone and a few phones using the Google
Android platform have barcode scanning apps available for use. Most of
these apps are designed as shopping tools. They use the barcode number
to search a number of web sites, like Amazon and Google, to pull up
product information, price comparisons, and customer reviews. Some will
even utilize the GPS in the phone to locate the nearest store that has
the item in stock. Cell phone barcode scanning can be put to various
other uses like giving access to valid ticket holders at venues,
personal finance, inventory reporting, asset tracking, shopping etc.