In your everyday life, we’ll guarantee that you come into contact with a barcode and a barcode scanner at least once a day; without even noticing it. Barcodes are such a huge part of our lives that it has become completely normal and even overlooked. If you think of the simple act of buying groceries at your local supermarket, how many items use barcodes? All of them, right?
How does a barcode scanner work?
First of all, let’s recap on how barcoding works. Barcoded items have a sticker or smart label on them that contains specific information about that product. Barcodes give physical objects digital labels that contain data that can be scanned and read. They transfer real world information onto a computer in a readable format and are used across a huge range of industries from retail to education.
A barcode scanner is a device used to read or scan the barcode itself and to decode the information contained in it. A barcode scanner can either read and store the information, or transfer it onto a computer to be read. Three different parts make up a scanner, namely the illumination system, the sensor and the decoder.
The illumination system does what it says on the tin – it illuminates the barcode, usually with red light. The illuminated barcode then reflects a pattern of light that is recorded by the sensor. This pattern, or image, can now be decoded so the data in the barcode can be accessed in a readable form. During decoding the scanner should also perform error checks on the barcodes to make sure the barcode was read correctly – there are devices out there that skip this step.
A lot of barcode scanners use an illumination system but it is not always necessary. Barcode sensors have improved a lot and the red laser line you see may just be an aiming light that shows where the sensor is looking. (Note: The aiming LED laser can still be harmful to your eyes, scanning your eye for barcodes is never safe).
Types of barcode scanners and uses
There are many different kinds of brands, makes and designs but most can be classified as either fixed, wireless or portable scanners.
In this type of scanner, the reader is attached to a terminal, much like those used at your local supermarket checkout counter. The scanner reads the information which is then directly transferred via the terminal to the computer system. These scanners are mounted or built-in somewhere and not meant to be moved, so barcoded objects are made to move past the scanner instead. The handheld versions however, have a cable attached to allow some movement and the idea is to use them at a fixed location.
Portable scanners can be moved around and are often powered using batteries. These scanners store the information they read off the barcode in a memory bank and are then able to transfer this data to a computer at a later stage. These units are designed to be more rugged and can be used both indoors and out. Also called companion scanners or data loggers.
Similar to portable scanners in that these units are mobile, but these scanners do not have to store the information in a memory bank for later use. Instead they can wirelessly emit the information to a computer via WIFI, or any other wireless network, in real time. These units are highly productive offering instant access to information and are often equipped with additional capabilities like text messaging and voice recording.
At Osiris, we offer barcode scanners in a variety of units including:
- Batch Terminals
- Cabled Scanners
- Data Collectors
- Driver’s License Scanner
- Mobile & Handheld
- Stationary Scanners
Who uses barcode scanners?
Barcode scanners are used for many industries worldwide and for much more than just scanning milk at the grocery store. Industries like warehousing, logistics and even education rely on this technology to store information.
Here are a few industries that use barcoding every day:
- Retailers and Supermarkets
- Online businesses
- Healthcare providers
- Schools and Universities
- Sports and Entertainment providers
- Government departments and organisations