using barcodes 3: scanning barcodes

The available choices for scanning and inputting barcode data for use with siso systems

Published: July 16th, 2019

In this series of articles we have covered how to use barcodes for simple inventory management, kit stores and warehousing environments. In the first article Using Barcodes 1: Barcode Conventions, we looked at the standards and conventions barcodes use and which barcode type is best for the data you want to record.

In the second Using Barcodes 2: Printing Barcodes we looked at how best to print, attach your barcodes to your assets and what kinds of printing machinery you might want to use. In this article, we will look at the kinds of scanning hardware that is available and is mostly going to be used in small to medium sized asset management operations.

We are all aware of the kinds of high output scanners that are used in supermarkets either at the checkout, by self check machines or even via apps that can scan through your phone's camera. The supermarket has a vested interest in buying in extremely robust and powerful scanners to maximise the through put of customers and also to cut down on complaints. The same thing still applies if you have a warehousing, inventory management or loan counter operation, it is important to get the best machine to speed up your workflow and therefore productivity.

The first thing to say about almost all barcode scanners, is that it is very rare for the scanner itself to record erroneous readings. This can sometimes happen if the barcode is damaged or unclear, but a scanner is essentially a textual input device, almost like an automatic keyboard for your computer. Most basic scanners are plug and play, meaning you should be able to plug the scanner into the USB and the computer will recognise the drivers. For some more advanced (RFID or advanced 2D scanners) where there are setups and options, it could be that you will be prompted to go to a website to download your drivers.

If you are using one of our products, as they are browser based, you may need to click onto the field you wish to enter into and then scan. In the same way a keyboard will write into the field your text as you type, when you scan a code the information will be entered into that field. Mostly however we create self activated fields that automatically act when a match is found (e.g. when using the 'Store Desk' feature in smarthub, the user field is already active when opening the page, once a scan has been made and there is a match against a user record, information about that user and their bookings automatically appear).

Depending on your workflow, needs and demands there are an array of different types of scanner, from wired 1D to full RFID door scanners:

-1D scanners - 1D or 1 dimensional scanners can read the linear standard barcodes (please see our first article Using Barcodes 1: Barcode Conventions). They tend to be cheap, but still can come in wire free versions (either via bluetooth or via a USB dongle). There are two main types of technology:

-Optical - These use a series of flashing LED's to record the barcode information. They tend to be slower and lower resolution than Laser scanners.

-Laser - These use a tracking intensive light that reads the information, they tend to be better quality than the optical versions and read low resolution barcodes quicker

-2D scanners - 2 dimensional scanners have the ability to scan QR and other 2 dimensional barcodes. They tend to use laser technology and can read 1D barcodes too.

-Hands free, omni-directional scanners - These are usually 2D capable and laser scanners. They have a wide field of play and can scan in 3 dimensions meaning that even if the barcode isn't held perpendicular to the scanner it should still read it. As the name suggests they are constantly active and so are useful for high turnover environments. You have probably seen industrial versions of these in your supermarket but there are a number of smaller versions on the market if this is a good option for your operation (see below the Zebex Z-6170 Hands Free Scanner, 1D only on this product but other ranges are capable of 2D).

-Handheld terminals - Handheld terminals, PDA or handheld computers are very useful for working with inventory and scanning at the same time. Most use a striped down version of Android and have 2D laser barcode scanners built in. For use with your siso system we recommend the Cypherlab RS series or the Denso BHT-1800 or 1600 Series handheld devices.

-RFID scanners/readers – RFID Scanners don’t use optical but radio frequencies to transfer data. These can be read by simply presenting the chip close to the reader, even at some distance. This means a high through put of different data can be processed. There is a downside to this in small operations, if there are a lot of chips in close proximity (such as an equipment store), the reader could pick up on a number at once, giving inaccurate information. The other downside is that this technology tends to be on the expensive side. However, much more data can be stored and transferred to RFID chips and the speed of their use can be extremely useful in certain scenarios. Please take a look at our last article for more information - Using Barcodes 2: Printing Barcodes.

If you need any further information, have any comments, or would like to have a chat with us about how our siso products could help your organisation please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us