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Barcode Scanner Guide

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Barcode is also widely used for asset management in companies. In this case, the information stored is about the employee and about where these can be found quickly. This eases the process of managing inventory assets and fixed assets for the company. Keeping a track of the inventory production and stocks keeps the organization informed about the whole transaction, inventory, leftovers and theft. It can help them remove the excess stocks and maintain a good turn-over ratio.

What is a Barcode Scanner?

A barcode scanner is a simple device that helps to read this code and matches it with the information stored in the database. Both barcode and barcode scanners are an essential part of every business or trading organization. It plays an important role in increasing the efficiency of a business.

Barcode scanners can read the linear barcode which is a combination of vertical lines and blank spaces. The number of characters this can store varies from 20-25. This can be detected using a simple barcode scanner. There is a light source which reads the lines and spaces.

To store more information, barcode use both vertical and horizontal lines. This can be detected using an advanced scanner. This has moving parts along with a very strong light source.

Varieties of Barcode scanner

There is a wide range of barcode scanners available in the market today. Production has risen, so has the demand for this product. All you need to figure out is the expectations and requirements you have from a barcode scanner as per your unique business practices. But, before you derive a conclusion out, regarding the kind of barcode scanner you wish to purchase, let’s have an insight on the classification of barcode scanners and also, how the barcode types are different from each other.

1. Laser

This is the most popular type of scanner and you usually come across such scanners more than often in your daily life. Barcode consists of black and white spaces or stripe-like images which are read by this barcode scanner. This is done by reflection reading with the help of a red diode. If you wish to go for the most cost-effective option, these barcodes will fulfill the requirement. However, these barcodes are only capable of being able to read standard linear (1D) barcodes.

As the laser beam passes from the barcode scanner, it is able to read barcodes from a distance of 2 to 12 inches away. But, there are some special models which have a higher intensity level and can read barcodes from a distance as far as 20 feet and even beyond. Talking about the advanced scanner, there are the Wasp Barcode Scanners, which can actually read barcodes from an impeccable distance of 35 feet away.

This class of scanners is the most frequently bought option because they cost considerably less than their peers. But, the drawback here is that they have a limited capability and quite rigid with the few features they provide. Something which is expected when the prices are low!

2. Linear Imager

The similar characteristic of linear imager scanners to that of the laser scanners is that both of them are capable of reading only the 1D barcodes i.e., the standard linear barcodes. However, the linear imager works in a different way and different technology as compared to the laser scanner. These scanners usually take a picture of the barcodes and then carefully visualize it to extract the information out of the code. They don’t work in the laser’s way of reading the reflection of barcodes which is the reason why they work faster, because they are actually visualizing an image. This, as a result, increases the efficiency in terms of processing of the scanner and also the resulting time consumption.

These scanners can actually operate at dim light surrounding because they do not need reflections of any kind. These scanners are also a better option because they would work and extract information out of even worn and torn barcodes or damaged or of slightly lesser quality.

Linear imager scanner actually provides better performance as compared to the laser scanner in a price range which is nearly just the same. If you compare the prices of both the scanners, you will find no difference in the same with better performance displayed by the linear imager scanner. This is a major reason why these scanners have become a widely preferred choice over the laser scanner.

3. 2-Dimensional Area Imagers

The technology and the process of processing the barcode used by 2D Area Imagers Scanner are the same as the Linear Imager scanner i.e., it captures a picture of the barcode and then analyzes it. The differentiated feature of these scanners is that they can read any kind of barcodes, an added advantage over the standard linear barcode. To be precise, 2D Area Imagers Scanner can read and visualize 1D, stacked and 2D barcodes.

Another great ability these scanners possess is in regards to the orientation. It is usually for the laser and linear imager scanners that the barcode’s indicator needs to be in a horizontal fashion for the scanners to be able to read the barcodes. This is an exception for the 2D Area Imagers scanners though, these scanners click a picture which is a lot more detailed and captured in an intelligent manner following which they can actually read codes from literally any direction or orientation.

The indicator need not be essentially aligned in the same direction as the barcode, as they can intelligently read barcodes from any direction, i.e. portrait or even landscape. Being able to read barcodes multidimensional is referred to as being omnidirectional by many manufacturers.  The emergence of the scanner’s name is from the processing way, similar to the linear scanners, capturing an area.

These scanners visualize the images in a detailed fashion and alongside the additional benefits and features; they are frequently gaining recognition in the industrial sector in order to speed up the scanning applications procedure and also to increase barcodes usage in a number of other ways.

Another great significance of these scanners is that they can read barcodes off any surface, be it on computer screens, product labels or adhesive label barcode.

4. CCD Barcode Scanners

CCD here is referred to as Charge Couple Devices and these scanners are made up with placing a miniature sensor in the front-end of the readers. These scanners work by producing a waveform which gets in contact with the bars and spaces resulting in the decoding of the information from the barcodes. The decoded information is then forwarded to a computer.

5. Pen Readers and Barcode Wands

You may refer to these scanners as a combination of both the technologies because the tip of the scanners is made up both by placing a light source and also a photodiode. All the user needs to do is, drag that particular tip on a barcode following which a waveform will be produced which fits onto the spaces in between the bars. This would decode the information and then pass it onto a computer system.

Form Factors

We are sure by now you would have already figured out which kind of barcode you are in need of. It is time we move further and take the next factor into consideration, which is the form- factor. The form factor here means the kind of shape the scanner would be in. The most basic shape for a barcode scanner is the gun style scanner and the in-counter scanner which can be found all around you in various stores you visit on a daily basis. But there actually are 5 popular form factors possessing an individual set of merits and demerits, which would differ according to your need and use.

1. Handheld

The most commonly used scanners is the handheld one. They are absolutely easy to use and operate and are the best for the work they perform. The way of using this scanner is to aim it directly at the barcode and click on the trigger present in the model. These scanners come as wired and also cordless. The cordless one is in demand because of the absence of issues related to the wires and also increased mobility.

2. Presentation

These scanners are not meant to be held by hand as they are supposed to be placed at the countertop, facilitating handless operation. One does not need to pick the scanner and do the job and therefore it does not need any kind of triggers. These scanners are omnidirectional in nature which makes it easy for them to read barcodes in any direction. These scanners are capable of covering a wide area reading, a downside of the handheld scanners which are unidirectional. This is the reason why they are actually used mostly in the retail and departmental outlets where bulks of products need to be scanned. Since there is a reduction in the need for aiming, they are able to scan a lot of items absolutely quickly. All, the user needs to do it, bring up the item’s barcode in front of the scanner and the scanner would do the remaining job.

3. Mobile Computer

It is usually that other scanners need to be connected to the computer system, but for the mobile computers, both the PC and the scanner are present in the same device. They are embedded with a lot of features which are more than what the basic scanners do. One can move the scanner around easily since there is no connection or equipment required. These systems work in the fashion of saving the information gathered in internal storage or by sharing the same via Wi-Fi or WAN network. These scanners are used in places like industries where high mobility is required in order to keep a check on inventory management and asset tracking.

4. In Counter

These scanners are similar to that of the presentation scanner in the way they are placed on the counter and how a product’s barcode simply displayed in front of the scanner will read the barcode easily. The difference is, they are meant to be placed on the countertop. These are vastly used in the grocery store and self check-out stores with most of the models embedded in the POS line.

5. Fixed Mount

Speaking in terms of specialization, these scanners occupy the top position. Because of the largely automated system integrated within them. They are not integrated with any kind of buttons or triggers to scan and are to be placed up against a conveyor line or kiosk. They are always switched on and have sensors which trigger external controllers. The models available in the market vary and they vary in terms of the speed they can work at.

Know your Business Requirements

As mentioned before, it is the first thing you must consider while buying a barcode scanner. Here are some examples of how the nature of your business may have an impact on the barcode scanner you need. Durable and rugged scanners are the priority of the utility companies in order to stand grounded in extreme weather conditions. Warehouses demand different in-house scanners for easy inventory management which are a lot more durable because they would be frequently used at the loading and unloading docks.

Lighting conditions are also a thing and some companies demand effect scanners for dim light as well as wireless connectivity feature. Go through the below-mentioned points which will help you know your unique business requirements.

  • Indoor or outdoor use, or both: If you want a scanner for outdoor use, your consideration must be a rugged and durable scanner. If you wish to measure the exact durability of the scanner, search for a scanner which has an IP rating to that of IP54 or IP65. This IP rating determines the power of the scanner in regards to environmental hazards.
  • What kind of symbols do you need to scan: Assets or a barcode tag is usually displayed in symbols ranging from 1D and 2D to PDF417, Postal, OCR, DPM, and others. Determine the kind of symbols and what the scanners which would scan them. Some scanners can scan diversified symbols, whereas some can on scan 1D and 2D.
  • Will you use the scanner frequently: Do you need to scan a ton of devices one after another or a few ones limiting your activity? Some scanners can scan many images per second whereas some would take some time to scan.
  • Is your work environment hazardous: Even the activities performed indoor can affect the barcode scanners and if your line of work is actually hazardous, consider scanners of with an IP rating of IP54 or IP65.
  • Determine the scanning distance: The distance by which you need to actually scan the matter of the code as well. Determine the distance in inches or feet and select the scanner which would perform as per the described distance requirement.
  • Is there a lot of mobility for the workers and assets: If your workers actually need to move a lot, scanning tons of items around the clock, a wireless scanner should be your sole choice. Make sure you make the decision as per your needs.

Important Specification of Bar Code Scanners

Once you have figured out your business requirements, go through all the specifications in detail and evaluate the end need.


The scanner has to be connected to a PC in order to communicate all the information it decodes. This started with the traditional ways wherein the connectivity was only via cords and cables. These are still on the run because of the reliable connectivity and cheaper prices. Cordless scanners have started gaining significance as well because of their affordable prices and also lack of wires. Corded scanners are highly-mobile and connected generally via Bluetooth.


Even though you have a decent work environment, choosing a rugged scanner will result to be in the best of your interest. Any possibility of mistreatment arises and rugged scanners can actually stand them. This is because rugged scanners are dustproof and also shockproof, withstanding up to 6-feet drops. They are a bit expensive but are great long term investments.

Mobility and Bluetooth Connectivity

You might have considered a cordless scanner is your need but it is important to know that all the cordless barcode scanners do not generally have the same functions. Some scanners have a stored chip in the handle which stores in all the data and is required to be updated every now and then.

If you want the provision of timely update and evaluation of the items you are entering, a Bluetooth device is what you are in need of as they are tethered to a system facilitating instant update.

Power and charging requirements

Companies may have an employee working with the scanner for a duration of 10-12 hours which makes it extremely important for you to actually check on the battery retaining the power of the scanner. Some scanners have extended life batteries which are suitable at long field operations. It is always on the safer side to keep some spare batteries handy.

Software Compatibility and Additional Functionality

Each barcode works in a way and some companies are even required to make their own custom software application through an SDK. Choose a barcode scanner which is actually compatible with your existing software application.

Types of Barcodes

Barcode is the system of categorizing different objects. This is easy to perform because each of the products available in the market has a different set of unique numbers and barcodes helps determine the same. Each barcode has a special algorithm according to which it stores data.

A. One-Dimensional (1D) Barcode Types

Linear or 1D barcode is the collection of encoded data in a series having different width lines and spaces.

  • Code 39

It is the oldest, yet widely used code. It is basic linear code finding operations in electronics, healthcare, and other such sectors. It is an inclusion of all the 128 ASCII characters. The contents of Code 39 have character, an optional check character, a stop character and data digits,

  • Code 128

It is of a higher density linear code and is used in worldwide packing and shipping industry. It is generally known for its simplicity and has a large amount of data encoded.

  • Interleaved 2 of 5

This barcode is just a combination of numerical which is combined in a set of 2. This code is used in warehouse operations and typically need to be in even as a result of which a 0 is added in case of odd numbers.

  • UPC

The abbreviation is for Universal Product Code and is used commonly over all areas of operations. Every product is given a unique 12 digit code which is assigned GS1 (Global Standard Organization) found at retail and shopping centre.

  • International Article Number

It abbreviates to EAN and is a combination of 13 digits for all the literature industry for identifying bookstores and libraries. These 13 digits and are made from International Standard Book Numbers (ISBN).

B. Two-Dimensional (2D) Barcode Types

2D barcodes are a combination of all such figures and symbols encoded in the patterns of geometrical shapes like hexagons, squares etc. These figures are arranged both vertical and horizontal fashion and are a reason why they are referred to as 2 Dimensional. These bars are smaller than the 1D bars but have much more storage capacity i.e. up to 2000 characters.

  • PDF417

These bars are found in government documents like Aadhar Cards and Driver’s License. They are 4 times larger than normal 2D bars and store a range of data in a sophisticated way.

  • Data Matrix

Being the most used barcode, they are widely put up in the go-to barcodes in electronics, healthcare and software industries.

  • QR codes

They are the most popular code because of their use in web applications. They have lesser storage capacity but are popular because they can be read even by Smartphones or a simple bar code reader application.

How Barcode Scanners Work

A computer cannot identify human language i.e. 0-9 alphabets but rather uses a special language in the form of black and white lines distinctively for different numbers. These codes are difficult to be read by human and this is where the need for barcode scanner arises. The working of a barcode scanner is simple too.

A barcode scanner consists of 3 essential parts, namely illuminator, scanner and decoder.

  • An illuminator shines over a red beam of light onto the barcode making it easy to be read.
  • The scanner actually has a built-in photoelectric cell which traces the light which reflects the black and the white lines, deriving a voltage fluctuation in the form of a wavy pattern if it is jolted down on a graph.
  • The decoder saves the image sent by the scanner and manages to successfully derive or extract the information out of it.

These scanners first record, and then translate the barcode into digits. This extracted information is sent to the computer database which stores all the barcode digits. The computer finds an item that matches the barcode after scanning them. Later, the information stored in the bars is displayed on the computer. Generally, it will include the number of items in stock, the price and the name of the item. In advanced barcode, a picture if the item is also displayed. Now you can change the stock value if it has increased, change the price or the description of the item too.

A barcode scanner helps to connect with the point of sale system of the organization. They can read all kinds of barcode very quickly and extract all the information you need. It can be connected to the database either through a wireless or wired medium. The most useful part of a barcode scanner is that it helps you update information about the product. So, this is the best way to track and audit the stock information of a business organization.

 Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is it important to consider a rugged scanner for my standard business organisation?

Indoor businesses having a standard environment, and hence, do not need a rugged scanner because there is hardly any chance of the scanner getting in contact with harmful particles. However, it would be a great option to go for a rugged one because the normal scanner cannot handle drops and there is a possibility it might be dropped by your employees.

2. Should I consider scanners only as per the price?

Price is hardly a factor here. It is the requirement you have with the scanner and the kind of scans it can provide. It is not necessary that only a costly scanner can fulfill your need, or that a cheaper one would not. Primarily consider the work you expect from a scanner, and then your budget.

3. What are the software requirements for a scanner?

There is no special software required as the scanners work just like any other input device. However, some companies have special existing software they want the scanners to work with.

4. Are there different types of cordless scanners?

Yes, there are 2 different types of cordless scanners. One, which is not tethered to a system and rather has a storage unit in the handle itself! This storage system has to be updated to get it synced with the product inventory. The second one is the Bluetooth enabled scanner which is directly connected to the server or the system, storing and tweaking the information in the database instantaneously.

5. Should I choose a wireless scanner over wired scanners?

It entirely depends upon the need for mobility. If you need your employees to move around and scan products at different places and also ranges, then you must consider a cordless scanner. If your scanning process would not be remote and be restricted to only one place, it is best for you to choose the wired scanners. They are fast, easy to use and also available at cheap prices which would also help you save a few bucks.

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