So if you check back over the years of this blog, you’ll see a lot written in the past about just how much you need a dedicated, built in barcode scanner if you plan on using your device for a business or enterprise application.  However things have changed and I think this whole debate needs a refresh!

Firstly just to make sure you know i’m not going to be too biased here.  We do sell a range of barcode-scanner-less devices here but we also sell some with them built in as well as offering Bluetooth options too.  I’m not going to advocate that you don;t need a proper 1D or 2D scanner but I am going to show you how technology has changed.

So what changed?

If you go back just a few years I think it’s fair to say that camera based barcode scanning tech was not that great.  I came across people doing it but they often got into trouble and ended up talking to me about getting an inexpensive device with a proper barcode scanner built in.  So just what changed?

Open source

Well, in case you missed it, a mobile operating system known as Android got released and has become the leader in the enterprise market now.  Along with this OS came apps and more importantly an open-source attitude to innovation.  This meant that the barcode scanner algorithms got better and closed the gap on hardware based modules.  Today it’s so easy to download the latest barcode applications, improve them abut still use them in your own applications.

Camera hardware

Camera technology has also just got better and better.  The CCD’s have become bigger, more sensitive and are way better resolution than just a few years ago.  The flashlights can be innovatively used to provide better lighting conditions for faster and more accurate reading and the auto focus and on board camera software allows you to tweak and change settings to make barcode reading quicker.

More powerful devices

As with the camera hardware, devices themselves got exponentially more powerful too.  This has meant that a lot of the processing required to perform efficient barcode scanning is now possible directly on the device and you don’t need a dedicated module to take that on.

Lack of innovation

Whilst all this has been going on in the Android/smartphone world, very little has happened in the barcode scanner data capture world with very little in the way of innovation allowing the gap to be closed.

Cost

The cost of a proper laser or 2D barcode scanner module hasn’t changed much over the past few years, putting at least £100 onto the cost of most devices.  This has further fueled and driven the innovation to use the built in cameras of devices.

Changing customer profiles

In the old days, most barcode scanning customers were based in warehousing, retail or some kind of logistics process where ID using barcodes is at the heart of what they do.  Proper, fast reliable barcode scanners were required and largely still are bu this grade of customer.

However

Mobile solutions have moved on, and these days every man and his cat and dog want a mobile business solution that uses barcodes but they simply either cannot warrant the cost or their scanning usage doesn’t need the pure performance of a full barcode scanner.  It turns out that most customers I see these days need to scan 20 – 100 items per day, not per minute and a camera based scanner is ideal for these users.

NFC – The death of the barcode!

Lastly, I know we’ve been going on a bout this years now, but maybe the barcode is finally seeing the sun set on it’s long and distinguished life.  NFC and RFID have really started to see a tip[ping point now where these newer technologies are proving to be quite simply way better at doing all kinds of things that a barcode can;t.  NFC especially is where innovation in data capture and ID is happening right now and most mobile devices have this built right into the OS, let alone the hardware.

Not for everyone

So I think the case for a camera based barcode scanner module in 2016 has been made your honor..!

BUT

I am also not saying that 100% of users will need to get rid of their £1000 devices with barcode scanner modules built in by any means and I still think there are businesses that still need the full barcode scanner modules in their devices.  Anywhere where aggressive barcode scanning is needed will still need good solid expensive technology to remain efficient and always will.  Whilst camera based barcode scanning technology has come on leaps and bounds in the pas few years, I still wouldn’t like to be scanning my weekly shop with one just yet!!

What do you think?  I would be interested to know.  If you want to try out a good decent camera based barcode scanner then why not download and play without very own barcode scanner demo tool.  It can be used on any Android based device with a camera and will show you just how good camera based scanning has become.