We haven’t blogged for a while about barcode scanners so I wanted to update the site with a fresh look at them, sort out the lingo, what choices there are and when you need or don’t need them.

Camera based scanners

Starting at the bottom, there’s the lowly camera on your smartphone or tablet. I think we have to be honest here and say that camera based API’s, especially on iPhones and iPads are getting pretty good now.  I was at the Tour of Britain cycle race, queuing up for our “Sky Ride” the other week and they used iPads and scanning our tickets pretty effortlessly with them so times are changing.

However in order to work really well like this you must understand barcodes, the types that are best to scan and you must make sure that the barcodes are the correct size and prin quality or efficiency will be really hampered. Also despite reading fairly quickly, the queues did move slowly and with a better barcode scanner they could have easily tripled the throughoput rate.  In this case it was OK, but in the case where you need to scan more qucikly a full barcode scanner is needed.

So what are my choices?

Budget LED Imagers

LED imagers are becoming more and more common as their technology actually catches up with laser scanner efficiency and are easily identified by a blurry red light being emitted on use.  However, although the technology is still generally slightly slower and less efficient than a laser scanner, they do bring major benefits.

  • Barcode scanning is accurate.
  • Mis-reads are less common.
  • Aiming and scanner use is familiar.
  • Imagers have no moving parts so are generally a little more rugged.
Laser scanners

Laser scanners are still the most recognisable barcode scanning technology emitting that familiar “Checkout style” laser light onto the barcode in order to read it. laser based scanners are fast and efficient, they are very accurate and if time and no-nonsense scanning is needed where accuracy, speed and being able to scan a range of barcode types and states is needed then a laser scanner is probably what you need.

[ divider]2D Imagers[/divider]

However the above 2 barcode scanners will only scan 1D barcodes.  These are the typical upright barcodes you see in the supermarket and with more than 30 different types there’s usually one to suit your needs.  However 2D imagers still have their place!  Although very slightly less efficient than a laser scanner and still more expensive to buy, a 2D scanner has the following main benefits:

  • Ability to read all barcode types
  • Ability to read from LCD screen.
  • Able to read 2D barcodes that can store lots more data in a tighter space
  • Hugely more tunable, with lots of options to tweak settings.

This makes a 2D scanner far more future proof.  So if you need to scan a broader range of 2D barcodes or simply have a need to scan form a smartphone screen then a 2D imager is what you need.



About The Author

Dave's one of the founders of Raptor, his rants are memorable, his thoughts are stimulating and his heart is set on helping, entertaining and making things like mobile, Android, ruggedness, 3D printing and IOT simple.

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