The growth of the grocery businesses from 1930 to the 40s saw the need for maintaining inventories efficiently. It ushered in the ringing up of bills and the concept of coding products with machine-readable labels evolving to how a barcode scanner works today. In modern times, we all come across barcode scanners at medical shops, doctor’s reports, buying groceries, car rentals, pizza delivery tracking, and more.
So, how does a barcode work? The label looks like a series of thick lines, read by a scanner unit to track the item details. Barcode scanners have become essential to inventory management and running any business efficiently and productively. Let us now look into a bar code, the scanner, its types, the benefits of using it and more.
Did you know? It costs as much as 6 times of capital to start a business in India as compared to the US.
What is a barcode?
The name suggests it is a code with a particular product’s data and information like price, manufacturer name, weight and dates of manufacture and expiry.
- The generated barcode label is a series of thick and thin lines with spaces between the lines and some numbers or letters at the end.
- The width is variable, and so is the length of the label.
- The scanner scans the barcode label and reads all the spaces between the lines and the numbers at the end.
- This is then tallied with the computer database of barcodes to identify the product and automatically bill the teller with the details.
Handheld scanners are now a common sight at retail stores, clothing stores, and nearly every big store at the cashier’s counter. You also see barcodes on packages sent by courier, ordered online and advertisements. Quick Response Codes or QR codes scan the coded label and make digital payments, download apps, etc., from mobile phones. It is nothing but an advanced barcode system that scans the visual coded label image in how barcode works.
Types of Barcode Scanners:
The barcode scanner type depends on the data information volumes stored in the barcode. You can easily identify these two categories based on the barcode scanner technology.
1-D Code Scanner:
How do barcode scanners work? This kind of barcode scans labels having a linear pattern of about twelve different widths of black and white lines or characters. Such labels have alphanumeric data on them. To store more information on the label, you need to increase the label length. Most of the barcode systems (nearly 90%) in the market are presently 1-D scanners.
2-D Code Scanners:
How does barcode scanners work with QR code scanners and 2-D code scanners? They have a data matrix of information. They are generally in the shape of a square or hexagon with a unique pattern of black and white characters stored on them. The data matrix has horizontal and vertical patterns and allows reading of the code in two dimensions along the vertical and horizontal axes. These scanners are much smaller than the traditional 1-D scanners and can hold almost 100 characters. Thus, the 2-D scanner is used where the label contains more data.
Barcode Reader types based on its working:
Barcode scanners may be based on how a barcode scanner works as:
- Handheld scanners: Nearly 90% of barcode scanners sold are hand-held and available in cordless and wired models. Hand-held scanners are recently used as temperature scanners for flu and COVID-19 at airports and crowded places to detect higher temperature levels or fevers.
- Wearable scanners: These are worn on the finger, arm or hand. For example, the fitness and health watch range and oxygen saturation scanners are worn on the finger in hospitals.
- Presentation scanners: To scan multiple items, a presentation scanner is used and is typically also a hand-held scanner that can scan across planes or the items on the counter. Hence, they are called the on-counter scanners in check-out lines of malls and stores with such systems and multi-plane scanners as they scan over multiple planes.
- Smartphone scanners: The smartphone has phone functions, a personal computer, and a QR or barcode scanner.
- In-counter scanners: This presentation scanner is placed inside and not atop a counter and reads the items moved across it on a pulley, if automatic, or are swiped across the platform.
- Fixed-mount scanners: This is a sensor type of scanner which is also hands-free and reads or scans the barcode as and when the sensors are triggered by an item moving across its front or head portion.
How do barcode scanners work?
- The barcode scanner is generally used as an input device and uses light beams focused on the barcode label.
- The light reflected helps it digitally read and scan the product data stored in the barcode.
- The decoded information is then input to the computer, where it is compared against the database of barcodes to identify the product uniquely from its barcode label.
Various components of barcode scanner technology:
Components and process of a scanner unit:
The code scanner has a light source, a lens, and light sensors (like diodes) converting the optical signals to electric ones.
The decoder unit of the barcode analyses the sensor’s data and sends the data to the output port.
Generally, it is connected to a computer host, wherein the captured information is compared with the computer system’s barcoded labels database and stored for future reference.
Components and process of a decoder unit:
- The barcode’s decoder is used to recognise the data on the label or the symbols of a barcode.
- It then translates the spaces and bars of different thicknesses as the data stored on the label and sends its output to a computer in a readable format.
- It is also used with Excel and Accel sheets and databases.
- Normally the decoder unit is present in the scanner’s handle. If not, the decoder is wedged between the scanner and the computer.
Components and process of the computer unit:
- Special software and applications are used in the connected computer where the data from the decoder is compared to the computer’s database information to identify the product uniquely and bill it.
- The data can also be directly dropped into bills, inventory records, etc.
- It is speedy and used in tracking inventories, the inter-branch inventory management processes, POS or Point-of-Sale transactions, and more.
How does a barcode scanner work with businesses?
In 1974 J une, Wrigley’s chewing gum displayed the first barcode. Barc odes today can be found even at Walmart, Flipkart, Amazon and many stores and shopping malls. Various organisations have all benefited immensely from the use of barcodes.
- The barcode has two parts, the barcode and 12-digits of the Universal Product Code or UPC.
- The 6 numbers at the start of the barcode label correspond to the manufacturer's identification number.
- The subsequent 5-digits correspond to the item or product number.
- The barcode scanner has a check digit (which is the last digit), which lets the scanner understand if the barcode was scanned or not.
Linear barcodes store textual data. The 2-D barcode scanner is far more complex and uses the image scanned and embedded in the label of 2-D barcodes and QR codes.
How do businesses benefit from a barcode system?
- Inventory Management: Businesses can speed up their processes like monitoring inventories and work-in-progress, transferring, sending and receiving files, etc., since it removes human errors and reduces manual data collection.
- Warehouse Management: Generally, warehouses find manual inventory maintenance cumbersome and use barcodes to track stocks and inventories, not just at one spot but across branches and the network. Since employees may have to climb great heights at the warehouse, and accidents may happen, at some warehouses, drones are deployed which can scan aisle by aisle at any height safely. Thus, warehouse management becomes safer, easier and efficient.
- Social Media Applications: Social media app users use their smartphones to scan the QR and barcode labels of wines and foods. This gives them the number of calories, nutritional information, reviews received and more.
- Customer service apps: These applications also use the barcode scanning app function to resolve their issues. The mobile apps are capable of reading both 2-D and 1-D digital information.
Barcode Scanners Varieties:
How barcodes works are based on scanner technology. The different types of barcodes include:
- Laser Scanners: The light source in such scanners is a laser beam. A reciprocating mirror or a rotating prism scan the barcode in a to-and-fro movement across the label. Photodiodes then measure the light intensity reflected from the white spaces of the barcode to read the information therein.
- Camera-Based Readers: These 2-D scanners measure and scan an image and have a visual-scanning image-processing method when scanning the barcode.
- Pen-Type Readers: These have a photodiode and light source placed next to each other in the pen-like device’s tip. To read the label, you move the pen across the barcode uniformly. The waveform of the diode as it moves across the barcode label is how bar code works, and the measure of the widths of the white and black spaces creates a voltage waveform.
- LED or CCD Readers: Also known as LED scanners or Charged Coupled Device (CCD) scanners, they use a multitude of light-sensing diodes lined up in multiple rows on the head of the scanner unit. The rows of sensors or diodes read the positional data voltages produced sequentially like the barcode reader.
Barcode scanners can withstand both healthcare intensive and harsh industrial environments. They are designed to provide increased speed and are high-quality machines and software that allows you to focus on other business responsibilities. They also improve your inventory, billing, and accounting management. Evaluate the different types of scanners before purchasing one for your business.
You can also improve your business accounting with the Khatabook app. It helps send timely reminders for any payments due and helps your business grow.