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Choosing The Right Barcode Scanner

Choosing the correct barcode scanner for your application.

As most people know a barcode is a way of identifying a product or item by a number, usually 11 or 12 digits. This information is analyzed by a computer and matches the encoded barcode to a product or item in a database and retrieves the associated information while updating the inventory and purchase of the item.

Regardless of the use of the barcode, the information needs to be entered into a computer to be interpreted. That is where barcode scanners come into play.

Essentially the scanner works like any other input device, it sends data to the computer via a cord or wire and is connected via a port. Most scanners use a PS2 or RS-232 port, but newer models also use USB connections for simple and easy access and installation and they are gaining popularity for this reason. Scanners can range in price from less than one hundred dollars to several thousand depending upon the application and technology being employed by the scanner. To start choosing the correct barcode scanner it is important to know that there are two different kinds or technologies used in barcode scanners.

The first are image based barcode scanners; these work by using a small camera to capture the barcode in a digital format. The barcode is scanned into a computer for processing and interpreted. The resulting correlated data is obtained from a database and updated as needed for the sale or inventory at hand. These barcode scanners have fewer moving parts than their alternative laser based scanners, which provides less probability of damage from a drop or accidental impact. Image based barcodes scanners, although more affordable on average than laser based, have a shorter scanning distance which limits their use in some applications.

The other scanning technology is the laser based system as mentioned above. These systems work by reflecting lasers through a series of lenses and mirrors to read the barcode. The computer reads this data as it would with the image based scanners and repeats the same steps to update the necessary related data. These scanners have multiple moving parts and lenses made form glass or plastic which makes them more susceptible to breakages. It should be noted that they posses a much longer scanning distance than their image based alternatives. Some laser based barcode scanners can scan effectively form twenty-four inches.

The real question that needs to be asked is 'what is the scanner to be used for?' This will determine the barcode scanner technology needed to provide the best and most efficient result. Laser based barcode scanners are well suited in stationary environments and due to their long scanning distance, in factories and manufacturing facilities. On the other hand, if it is being used in close quartered or extreme environments, such as outdoors or in very hot or very cold environments, the image based barcode scanner is often chosen because of its durability.

The use of the barcode scanner is what will determine which style of scanning is needed.