A barcode reader is an electronic device which translates barcode images into software data. It is used to automatically identify products in an efficient and accurate manner. Barcode readers use lens, light source and sensor to translate optical impulses into electrical ones.
Barcode technologies help in monitoring stock movements, inventory tracking and improved productivity. They also improve efficiency of business operations among many other uses. This technology is used across many sectors like manufacturing, warehousing, hospitality, distribution, healthcare and retail.
Type of barcodes to be scanned and the environment where the label will be used are considered when choosing barcode technology. The type of connection required by the device whether serial, keyboard or USB is also considered.
Pen- style scanners use a light source and photodiode for scanning. The photodiode measures the amount of light mirrored from the surface when the pen is swiped on the barcode. The light generates a pattern of waveform from the bar widths and spaces of the barcode which is then transformed into specific product information. Wand scanners are swiped across a barcode manually in a particular angle with consistent speed. These pens are small, affordable and durable but not ideal as they are only suitable for desktop and low volume applications.
Laser scanners use rotating prisms to move laser beams back and forth over a barcode. Laser beam sharpness and brightness produce accurate and precise barcode information. They are suited for bright light barcode reading applicable from longer distances.
Charged Coupled Device uses small light sensors to measure light intensity reflected from barcodes. This large device is suited for harsh environment with ability to scan from few inches to numerous feet away. They are used in large sectors like shipping and distribution.
Camera based readers are the latest and use small cameras to capture barcode image and decode information using advanced methods. They can read from fast moving and damaged barcodes in any directions.
Omnidirectional readers scan in any direction by dispersing laser beams in all directions. They have higher scanning capabilities with ability to scan damaged bars near and several inches away in harsh conditions.
Cell Phone Cameras are still in ascent stages with barcode scanning apps on iPhones and few Android users. They are mostly used for shopping especially in websites like Amazon and for personal applications.
It is important to choose the suitable barcode scanner technology for intended purposes.