Barcode scanners - how to select the right POS barcode scanner or bar code reader for your application.
Learn how to select a barcode scanner or bar code reader for your POS applications!
You are here because you are in the market for a Barcode Scanner or Barcode Reader, right? Do you know the type of barcode scanner that is right for your business? Do you know what to look for when buying a bar code scanner for your business? Well, look no further. Here, you will learn how to select or choose a bar code scanner for your POS system. We will tell you what to look for, what questions to ask yourself before you buy a barcode scanner. When you are done reading these tips, the final step is to go to barcode scanner section and choose a bar code scanner for your POS system. The following questions about POS system barcode scanners will be answered in this tutorial:
- What is a Bar Code?
- A Bar Code is just a different way of encoding numbers and letters by using a combination of bars and spaces of varying widths. This is just another way of entering data into a computer. A bar code does not contain descriptive data. It is a reference number that a computer uses to look up an associated record that contains descriptive data and other important information. For example, a barcode found on a soda can does not contain the product name, type of soda, or price, instead, it contains a 12-digit product number. When this number is scanned by the cashier at the check-out, it is transmitted to the computer which finds the record associated with that item number in the data base. The matching item record contains a description of the product, vendor name, price, quantity-on-hand, etc.
The computer instantly does a "price lookup" and displays the price on the cash register. It also subtracts the quantity purchased from the quantity-on-hand. This entire transaction is done instantly. In a nutshell, a bar code typically has ID data encoded in it, and that data is used by computer to look up all specific information associated with the data. Now you may ask, but how does computer know what those bars and spaces are? Well, let's go to bar code scanning section.
- What is a Bar Code reader or Bar Code scanner?
- Computers can not read bar codes. For a computer to make use of the information contained in the bar code, the bar code data must be captured and decoded into a data format that the computer can process. The device that reads or captures the bar code information and sends it to the decoder is known as the bar code reader, generally called bar code scanner.
- How does a bar code reader or bar code scanner work?
- A typical Bar Code Reader kit consists of Scanner, Decoder, and Cable that interfaces the Decoder to the computer. The Scanner scans the Bar Code symbol and captures the bars and spaces of the bar code and sends it to the decoder. The decoder translates the bars and spaces into corresponding electrical output and transmits that data to the computer in a traditional data format. A bar code scanner can either have the Decoder built into it, or be "undecoded". Undecoded bar code scanner requires a separate box called an interface or keyboard wedge.
- What types of Bar Code readers are available?
- Currently, the four different types of bar code readers available are the pen type readers (bar code wands), laser bar code scanners, CCD (Charge Couple Devices) barcode readers and camera based barcode readers. Each of these types use a slightly different Technology for reading and decoding a bar code.
- Pen Type Readers or Bar Code wands
Pen type barcode readers have a light source and a photo diode placed next to each other in the tip of a pen or wand. To read a bar code, you drag the tip of the pen across all the bars, in a steady even motion. The photo diode measures the intensity of the light reflected back from the light source and generates a waveform corresponding to the widths of the bars and spaces in the bar code. The barcode reader sends the waveform to the decoder, which decodes the waveform and sends it to the computer in a traditional data format.
- Laser Barcode Scanners
Laser barcode scanners work the same way as pen type barcode readers. The only main difference is that Laser barcode scanners use a laser beam as their light source, and typically employ either a reciprocating mirror or a rotating prism to scan the laser beam back and forth across the bar code. As with the pen type bar code reader, a photo diode is used to measure the intensity of the light reflected back from the bar code.
- CCD Barcode Scanners
CCD barcode scanners use an array of tiny light sensors lined up in a row in the head of the barcode reader. Voltage waveform corresponding to the bars and spaces of the bar code is generated and sent to the decoder, which decodes the data and sends it to the computer. The main difference between a CCD barcode scanner, a pen type barcode scanner, and laser barcode scanner is that the CCD barcode scanner measures emitted ambient light from the bar code whereas pen or laser barcode scanners measure reflected light of a specific frequency originating from the scanner itself.
- Camera Based Barcode Readers
The camera based barcode readers use a small video camera to capture an image of a bar code. The barcode reader then uses sophisticated digital image processing techniques to decode the bar code.
- How can I connect my Bar Code Scanner to my computer?
- Bar code readers come in either "keyboard wedge" output or RS232 output. A bar code reader with keyboard wedge output plugs directly into the keyboard port on your computer and also provides a pigtail connector to plug in your keyboard simultaneously. When a bar code is scanned with the keyboard wedge bar code reader, the bar code data goes into the computer as if it were typed in on the keyboard.
- Advantages of the keyboard wedge
Simple and easy to interface to the computer. No software is required.
- Disadvantages of the keyboard wedge
1. When you scan a bar code, the cursor has to be in the correct input data field, and in the correct application otherwise the bar code data will end up in whatever application that is active. This can cause all sorts of problems.
2. The keyboard output is limited, in the sense that you cannot modify the data in any way before sending it into the program in the computer. For example, if you needed to parse a bar code message into multiple pieces or remove some of a bar code messages, you can not.
- Advantages of Bar code reader with RS232 or "Serial Interface"
1. This type of bar code reader is connected to an available serial port on the back of your computer.
2. When you read a bar code, you have control over how and where your data goes.
3. You can perform any modifications on the bar code data before sending it to the computer or translating the data.
- Disadvantages of Bar code reader with RS232 or "Serial Interface"
It is more complex than the keyboard wedge.
- Which BarCode Scanner should I buy?
- With all the choices available, it is important to understand your environment and application very well before making decisions. Answer these questions to help you determine which scanner is best for you.
1. What type of environment will the bar code scanner be used in? Harsh (as in factory or normal as in a store)
2. Is continuous or periodic scanning needed?
3. Is hands-free or hand-held capability required?
4. Will scanning be conducted close to the bar code or from a distance?
5. What will the bar code scanner connect to?
6. Will the information scanned be needed in real time?
Remember, there are a variety of bar code scanners suited for each application. The least expensive bar code scanner might work well in an application where scanning is infrequent, but it wouldn't work well in a harsh manufacturing environment where a rugged bar code scanner may be needed. Let us look at each of the different types and determine which best fits your need.
- Pen Type/Hand Held Wand BarCode Scanners
This is the simplest and least expensive barcode scanner available. It is durable and contains no moving parts. However, when scanning, the wand must come into contact with the bar code, which can present a challenge. Since the wand must touch the bar code, if a bar code must be read more than once, it may become smeared or damaged and, in essence, unreadable. Also, a wand is "human powered," which means that it must be held at the proper angle and moved at the proper speed. For these reasons, a wand is the best choice when cost is the largest determining factor.
- CCD BarCode Scanners
A CCD barcode scanner can to read bar codes quickly and easily. But it has two primary limitations. First, it has a short "read" range, and must be held no more than 1 to 3 inches from the bar code. Further, the CCD has a limited width, and will not read bar codes that are wider than the face of the scanner. It is largely popular for use in point of sale applications.
- Laser BarCode Scanners
This is the most popular bar code scanner. A laser bar code scanner need not be close to or touch the bar code to do its job. A standard range laser bar code scanner can read a bar code from about 6 to 24 inches away, and a long range scanner can read bar code from about 2 to 8 feet away. An extra long-range scanner can read a bar code 30 feet away. Laser barcode scanners vary in price from $200 to $2,000 and come in a variety of models.
- Hands-Free or Fixed Mount Barcode Scanners
This type of scanner is anchored so that the user can scan bar codes using both hands. Versatile, durable, and extremely reliable, high-throughput scanners, boost productivity to greater levels with minimal employee effort. This scanner is best used for high volume general retail, liquor stores, and convenience stores.
- Wireless/Cordless Barcode Scanners
This scanner is for factory or warehouse applications where the cable/cord restricts movement. In a harsh environment where the cable can get damaged and make your scanner system inoperable, cordless scanner is the best solution. In shipping and receiving applications where the cable denies access, cordless scanner is the answer. In retail applications where a cabled scanner limits access beyond the counter area, cordless scanner is the solution. Cordless scanner is ideal for scanning heavy, oversized or bulk items that are difficult to place on the counter at checkout.
- Portable Data Terminals
This is a handheld battery operated bar code reader that stores the data in memory for later uploading. In addition to a bar code scanner, a portable bar code reader has an LCD display and a keyboard. The user can walk around, scanning and keying in data and getting a response from the computer with each entry. Portable Palm Terminals combine palm computing with integrated bar code laser scanning.
- Wearable Barcode Scanners
This bar code scanner functions in two ways. A ring or hand Scanner is worn and activated by either pointing the finger at the bar code, while pressing the thumb against a trigger at the base of the finger, or by simply pointing the scanner at the bar code.
- Bar Code Decoders
Bar code decoder is used to translate the bar code information into a data format that the computer can use. Some bar code scanners can not decode bar codes (Un-decoded Scanners), therefore a decoder is required. Some users prefer to use the undecoded scanner with decoder unit so that they can remove the scanner for use with a portable terminal. Other users prefer not having to replace both a scanner and decoder should a problem developes.
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