Understanding How Barcode Scanners Actually Work in Practice

Ever wonder how barcode scanners work in everyday life?

When was barcode scanning technology invented? How does laser barcode scanning capture the right content? Can the best barcode scanners compete against mobile phone scanning apps?

Read on to discover how technology that was first used decades ago is now perfected in a modern application.

History of Barcode Scanning Technology

The first barcode scanners were introduced in the early 1950s as a way for retailers to track their stock.

The original adoption used a type of Morse Code but developed into the vertical lines we know today. It wasn’t until 1974 that the first barcode scanner made its way onto the shop floor. As a fun fact, the very first scanned item was a pack of Wrigley’s chewing gum.

Today, billions of items contain a barcode or the new QR Code design.

Traditional barcodes use a one-dimensional format with a series of vertical lines. The width and spaces between these lines represent data. International standards like EAN-13 and Code-128 ensure that the information gets read in the correct way.

Types of Barcode Scanners

There are 4 types of barcode scanners:

  • Pen readers – use an LED light to read barcodes
  • Laser barcode scanners – handheld or mounted scanner that uses a laser beam and mirrors
  • Charged Coupled Device (CCD) – accurate but expensive multi-LED scanner
  • Imager scanner – takes a picture of a barcode and translates it through code

Wasp barcode scanners are a common choice for many retailers and manufacturers. However, lower-cost Bluetooth options that pair with a mobile phone are becoming more popular.

Laser Barcode Scanners vs Mobile Apps

Modern cell phones now include powerful digital cameras that can scan any type of barcode including QR Codes.

The app analyzes a photo or live video of the barcode and identifies the information. Like the laser barcode scanner, it attempts to match that data with a known format to retrieve the correct result.

The beauty of a mobile app is how it connects to a wider platform.

For example, the best warehouse management systems work alongside a fleet of mobile phones. The mobile apps can update stock instantly and managers can view that data from anywhere in the world.

See more here for information on a fully-inclusive stock management platform.

How Do the Best Barcode Scanners Work?

Traditional barcode scanners use sensors to detect the intensity of light from the white space between the parallel bars. That signal gets converted into an electronic format that matches against known patterns. The result is a correctly formatted serial number.

Mobile phone apps can achieve the same outcome but in a different way.

Results depend on the amount of light available when taking a photo. Blurred pictures won’t work and neither will a dirty lens.

Combining a phone application with a portable laser scanner using Bluetooth is an ideal compromise. And it won’t cost a fortune.

More Information on Barcode Scanning Technologies

The familiar beep of barcode scanners has been music to our ears for generations.

From its infancy to QR codes, barcode scanning system help keep track of inventories for millions of businesses. Modern phones work in tandem with traditional laser barcode scanners to make this process even easier. Even a rudimentary system works well and won’t break your bank account.

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Adrianna Tori

Every day we create distinctive, world-class content which inform, educate and entertain millions of people across the globe.

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