Barcode Scanner Technology Explained – Wireless Bluetooth Scanners

So we come to wireless scanners, and we’re going to split this section up into 2 parts because there are 2 wireless technologies in WiFi and Bluetooth.  This blog talks about Bluetooth barcode scanners.

Bluetooth scanners still come in 2 different types.  Ones that are optimised for retail environments and ones that are designed to be connected and used with more generic equipment like Android PDA’s or iPads but essentially they both use the same Bluetooth technology to connect.  Bluetooth is wireless standard designed to connect devices locally.  Often referred to as PAN (Personal Area network) technology you can think of it as something that replaces all the wires you have at your desk and it could be thought of as a rival technology for wired solutions like USB or Serial etc. Despite being a commonly known standard it’s only until recently however that all the different manufacturers implementing it have actually got it talking to each other.  We’ve seen BT technology come on leaps and bounds in recent years in the Rugged market due to this and it really is a technology that can be used quite reliably now in the right environment.

Retail Bluetooth Barcode Scanners

These have been around for some time now and they literally remove the wire that connects the scanner to the till or PC.  They “talk” to their own cradle only, which in turn connects to the till or PC via a cable.  This means that you can have wireless barcode scanning in many different environments, only restricted by the type of host till or PC you have and the cable connections that the manufacturers make.  The cradle tends to charge the device and some can act as presentation cradles too so you can charge and scan at the same time (Kind of defeats the object though really!).

We’ve seen proprietary technology spring up here which has seen various flavours of BT connection.  The benefits of this are that the connections have become more secure, have better range and also have a quicker response and transmit time.  However the main problem in the past has been that you can;t just connect any Bluetooth scanner to any Bluetooth enable host, like you can with BT smartphone accessories.

These bluetooth scanners remain focussed on their retail environment and present wireless scanning that’s robust.

iPad Style Bluetooth Barcode Scanners

The world is changing however and expensive IBM/Nixdorf tills have  become £300 WepOS terminals sporting normal Bluetooth or USB connections as they are essentially just Windows XP PC’s.  Also the rise of the Tablet PC and barcoding in general have driven for ways to connect more generically using Vcom or HID protocols that most standard BT connections talk over.  We have seen quite a lot of Bluetooth barcode scanners spring up in the last few years bring often rugged, flexible and easy set-up bluetooth barcode scanning to a range of different devices.

The Pro’s of Wireless

  • Convenience – No wires = far great freedom to scan!
  • Scanning efficiency – Because they’re wireless you can get all kinds of better angles when scanning awkward, heavy items.
  • Range – WiFi and some BT scanners can give you great range and the freedom to wonder around a store or warehouse with scanning capability.

The Con’s of Wireless

  • Power – Wireless means you need to carry a battery which means it needs charging constantly or you’ll be scanning no more!
  • Weight – Again due to the battery Wireless barcode scanners are heavier.
  • Loss – Believe or not but you can lose these things!  Also they tend to need to be more rugged due to the fact they can be more easily dropped, lost and left in rugged environments (like outside!).

The Future of Bluetooth Barcode Scanners

Well at the moment the above two categories have very different looking scanners.  I think we’ll see retail style barcode scanners appearing that can just connect to anything and we’re seeing some already in fact.  They’ll be a few examples of these that we’ll talk about very soon.

Class 1 Vs Class 2 Bluetooth

Quick word on this.  Class 1 basically gives you 10M range and class 2 gives 100M range.  There are a few 100M range models that we can show you that create a rival technology for the WiFi barcode scanners that we’ll talk about in part 2 of this blog next.

The Rugged and Mobile blog.