As with any other invention, the idea of a barcode scanner was invented out of a need. At the time of its invention, the need was to find a speedier checkout system at local stores. Unfortunately, the first barcode scanners did not live up to the expectations of their inventors as they were coupled with a ton of scanning errors.
But unlike the first barcode readers, the current models offer better functionality and durability. The best barcode scanners are also more convenient to use, if you factor in the wireless technology of some of them. So, how exactly do barcode scanners work? The primary role of this device is to capture and convert barcodes into a series of numbers and letters. However, this information has to be transmitted to a software, which helps to make sense of the details.
The Best Barcode Scanner
What’s the Best Barcode Scanner?
The best barcode scanners are versatile enough to be used for automatic re-ordering, at point-of-sale systems and stocktaking point. These barcode scanners are simple enough to be used in any sector; by home entrepreneurs to the individuals working at a library or supermarket.
1. Symcode 2d Portable Barcode Scanner
Designed for a hands-free operation at a checkout counter, the Symcode 2D scanner can read nearly all 1D codes. Plus, it offers a great deal of versatility; it’s compatible with a range of Bluetooth devices such as smartphones and iPads; it can also work with PC.
In addition, the Symcode 2D reader is equipped with three different modes: the normal configuration, which transfers information instantly; the Storage mode for saving information in the scanner and the No-loss mode.
2. Inateck 2.4GHz 1D Wireless Barcode Scanner
If you’re looking for a barcode reader with excellent decoding capability, the Inateck 1D scanner is your best option. It’s fitted with an intelligent machine learning algorithm for the best decoder.
Another plus of this barcode scanner is its PA wireless tech, which boasts a transmission range of up to 60meters. This is five times longer than most barcode scanners on the market. Also, this barcode reader uses a 2600mAh capacity battery, providing an uninterrupted 180,000 scanning times when fully charged.
3. Nuberopa USB Barcode Scanner
If your primary concern when purchasing a barcode scanner is the battery life, then you should consider Nuberopa Barcode USB barcode reader. It’s equipped with an advanced battery that enables it to continue working for days.
The 1.8-inch TFT screen of this scanner is another feature that makes it admirable. Users are able to see the barcode content, type and duration in real-time. They can also keep tabs on the battery residual and strength of signal.
4. TaoTronics TT-BS003 USB Barcode Scanner
Have you been shopping for a high-end handheld scanner that can read barcodes in the split of a second? If so, this laser scanner by TaoTronics is an excellent choice. Fitted with more than 180 settings, this scanner gives you the freedom to add a ton of prefix and suffix codes as well as erase characters.
Another highlight of this scanner is that it supports a variety of barcode types; from UPC to Code 39, Trioptic code 39, code 128 among others. Furthermore, this scanner is designed according to the international safety standards.
5. NADAMOO Wireless Barcode Scanner
Even with a limited budget, you can get your hands on a quality barcode scanner like the NADAMOO wireless barcode scanner. In addition to its low price tag, this scanner boasts a long transmission range of about 400m. And the good thing is that you won’t have to worry about cables getting tangled up.
The NADAMOO barcode scanner also has one of the friendliest interfaces. All you need is the mini USB receiver. It has a simple plug-and-play mode, so you don’t have to install any other devices.
What is a barcode scanner?
The purpose of this device is to recognize and then translate the barcodes on a given image into alphanumeric symbols. After translating into alphanumeric, the barcode scanner transmits the information to a computer either wirelessly or using wired connections. These digits are usually preconfigured to represent specific items. So once the barcodes are scanned, the database pulls up an entry with more information regarding the item’s price, units of the item that are in stock and a brief description of the item.
Since their invention, barcode scanners were designed to read those barcodes that most people are accustomed to. For instance, they can read and translate ID codes. They also read linear barcodes that are often represented as an image with parallel lines and spaces. The spaces, which are popularly referred to as a quiet zone, help to prevent the scanner from picking up details that are not wanted or needed in the barcode scan. Since a blank space cannot transmit any information, it’s defined as a quiet place.
Throughout history, ID barcodes have been the standard, and they are still used extensively today. However, these ID barcodes have one limitation, in that they can only accommodate a small amount of information. More specifically, they carry between 20 and 25 characters. In contrast, 2D barcodes are able to store details either horizontally or vertically, and this results in a much bigger storage capacity. So while an image scanner can record and translate 2D barcodes, a basic barcode scanner can only tackle linear codes.
If you’ve tried shopping for a barcode scanner, then you may have come across different kinds. While some models use lasers, others use cameras to record and convert the barcode image into electric format. There are also pen readers that have no mobile elements. Essentially, a pen reader will have a light source and a photodiode for estimating the lines and spaces on the ID barcode.
Laser scanners utilize lasers as sources of light. One advantage of using laser scanners over pen readers is that they result in fewer scanning errors, especially when it comes to scanning items from a long distance. The way a laser scanner works is by first measuring the ambient light instead of self-reflected light, a process that records multiple readings per scan, and subsequently, minimizing the chances of errors. If you’re looking for a cheaper scanning device, the camera-based readers are your best bet. They work by capturing the image of the barcode, which they then read and translate.
But if you are not limited by budget, you can go for the most advanced scanner known as the omni-directional scanner. It’s a type of a laser scanner, but one that has more mirrors and lenses, which help in minimizing errors. Also, the omni-directional scanner is capable of complex tasks such as scanning from ripped or crumpled barcodes at a very fast rate. Ordinary scanners would take a much longer time reading such damaged barcodes.
What are the benefits of a dedicated barcode scanner?
Even though barcode scanners come with different features, they offer similar benefits. A well-equipped barcode scanner offers these perks:
Integrates into your system
A barcode scanner is merely a keyboard, which you can link directly to an existing system. But if you’re connecting to a smartphone, you may need a Bluetooth adapter or a driver to link to your point of sales system.
Has few software issues
Another perk of using barcode scanners is the fact that they can never acquire viruses, and they don’t require any updates on their software. Plus, these scanners are not disrupted by texts or calls from other scanners.
Barcode scanners are some of the most durable models on the market. They will give you years of service without getting any issues.
Barcode scanners are designed to read from a long distance, and to do so quickly. If you’re looking for a scanner that offers the perfect balance between an efficient system and battery life, then a barcode scanner is your best bet.
Types of Barcode Readers
As the name suggests, this barcode reader is a tiny wand-like stick resembling a pen. It has two main parts: a LED light and a photodiode at the tip. Once an individual passes the tip over a barcode image, the LED element lights up the black and white bars. The purpose of the photodiode is to calculate the reflection of light. In doing so, this photodiode establishes the width and color of each bar. It is these details that are then translated to digital information, which is then sent to another component for processing.
One reason why pen barcode readers are so popular is because they’re cheap and durable. With this barcode reader, you’ll be able to scan a ton of items within a short amount of time. But since very few people have hands as steady as those of a surgeon, one may need a bit of practice to get used to it.
This is a more advanced barcode reader than a pen. But unlike the pen barcode reader, the laser scanner can tackle light readings, and this helps in preventing scanner errors. With the laser reader, there’s a laser beam that gets shot at a mirror placed inside the main unit. Once the mirror moves, the laser sweeps across the barcode image in a straight stretch. This light is then bounced back to a diode, which serves to measure the level of reflection. The reflection is converted into a digital format. Laser scanners can be used as part of a handheld device or mounted on a scanning system.
A charge coupled device, abbreviated as CCD, is a scanner with tons of tiny LED lights arranged in one row. These lights are captured directly onto a barcode while a sensor estimates the voltage of the light glaring at the front of every lightbulb. The voltage estimation provides a digital snapshot of the barcode. Even though CCD scanners are pricier than most models, they provide more accuracy and versatility.
Unlike other barcodes that have black and white bars, these scanners consist of white and blank spaces in a 2-dimensional target. Such 2D barcodes cannot be scanned using the ordinary machinery. On the brighter side, they are versatile pieces of equipment since they can hold more data than conventional barcode. To scan these barcodes, you will need a 2D camera image scanner, which comes with tiny lights just like the CCD scanner. The difference with a 2D camera scanner is that the small lights are arranged in several rows. The lights illuminate the barcode before taking a digital image of the barcode, which is transmitted to a software in the form of a digital signal. The software translates the signal into meaningful information.
Handheld – these are the most popular barcode scanners and for good reasons. Not only are they capable of performing an array of functions but they also come in both wireless and wired technologies.
Mobile computers- the key highlight of these scanners is how they blend the functions of a PC and a scanning device under one unit. A good example of this is a tablet.
Presentation- With a presentation scanner, you’ll be able to scan multiple items at once.
In-counter- As its name suggests, this is a scanner that has to be placed inside a counter so that it can read and scan the codes.
Fixed-mount – these kinds of scanners make use of sensors, which are triggered whenever an items are placed in front of them.
Wearable – this is a scanner than can be worn on the hand, arm or finger.
What you need to know before buying a barcode scanner
What barcode type are you scanning?
Before choosing a scanner, establish whether you want to scan one-dimensional or two-dimensional barcodes. Although 1D barcode works well for most cases, a 2D barcode may be needed in a few instances.
They are the most popular barcodes. You’re likely to find 1D barcodes in warehouses, retail and other areas that use point-of-sale systems. Examples of these barcodes include Code 39, which come with alphanumeric attributes, EAN codes used in the European market and UPC codes which are incorporated on consumer goods.
2D barcodes- 1D
Barcodes contain a maximum of about 30 characters. In contrast, 2D barcodes are capable of holding more information in a small space. In fact, they can store up to 3000 characters. What’s more, 2D barcodes can integrate text and website addresses which direct the shopper directly to the online purchase section. Examples of 2D barcodes are PDF417 and QR codes.
From 1D to 2D
The disadvantage of a 1D barcode scanner is that it cannot scan 2D barcodes. Conversely, a 2D scanner can read 1D barcodes efficiently. But what about a small business that needs 1D scanning one minute and 2D capabilities the next?
Thanks to technological advancement, manufacturers have invented devices that have both 1D and 2D capabilities.
At what distance do you need to scan your barcode labels?
After determining the barcode type, the next thing you need to take into account is the scanner range. For example, are you planning to scan product labels that are more than 15 feet away or will you be using it to scan items that are at close range?
When shopping for a barcode scanner, look for the barcode scan range. This is simply the distance at which the device will be able to read the barcode image. Different barcode scanners have different scan ranges as highlighted below:
- Standard range- the barcode reader can scan from 2.5 feet.
- Medium range- the barcode scanner can work from 3.5 to 4 feet.
- Long range- this barcode scanner is capable of scanning items that are about 25 feet away
- Extended range- the scanner can work from a distance between 3 feet to 50 feet.
If you have to scan barcodes on items that are far away and others at close range, you may have to purchase two different scanners as each one works differently.
Barcode size refers to the distance at which the product barcodes need to be scanned. Essentially, the longer the scan range, the larger the distance that your barcode needs to be positioned to help it scan accurately. Other than the scan range, you should ensure the barcode is printed in the right mil size and dpi to help the scanner work optimally.
Retro-reflective material- this is only needed when you’re dealing with long-distance barcode reading. This material provides a higher depth of field, enabling the scanner to scan any laser beams that are reflected back to it.
What is your environment?
The environment in which the barcode scanner will be used also plays a role in its functionality.
What level of durability do you expect from the barcode scanner? Is the scanner likely to get damaged by external elements? Or will it be used in a grocery store?
The good thing about scanners used in retail store is that they’re not exposed to any fall accidents. They may fall on the counter sometimes, but this is just a short distance, which cannot cause any significant damage.
Shipping and receiving, warehouse or stockroom
For such applications, you may need a more heavy-duty barcode scanner, capable of withstanding constant drops on concrete and hard surfaces. Advisably, you should go for industrial barcode scanners as they’re designed to provide optimal durability, especially in harsh settings. Also known as rugged scanners, these devices are slightly pricier than ordinary scanners. However, they are more economical in the long-term since their sturdy design saves you from multiple repair and maintenance expenses.
When buying an inventory scanner, assess the setting where it will be used. Do the workers move about often or are they stationed at one point when scanning the barcodes? Remember than the barcode scanner has to be linked to a software on a computer or base station to transmit data. Ideally, it can be connected wirelessly or via tethered technology.
Tethered- Corded scanners are sometimes referred to as “tethered”. To put it simply, it means that the scanner is connected to a PC or base. However, it’s easy to use as all the user has to do is plug the device into the PC. And the good thing is that most scanners come with a ton of different ports ranging from parallel to the RS-485 and the keyboard wedge.
Bluetooth- with this form of connectivity, the scanner is paired to a laptop, tablet or base unit. This eliminates the need for additional hardware and software for the connection process. In fact, using Bluetooth barcode scanners has been proven to increase efficiency and productivity significantly. On the flipside, Bluetooth connection has a limited range as it can only operate up to about ten meters. However, this range differs depending on the conditions in your current environment.
Nearly every business utilizes barcodes for a variety of reasons. Whether you want to keep tabs on the company equipment or own a warehouse, whereby you have to keep count of tons of items, a barcode scanner makes it easy to record and tabulate the date of all your items.