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How to Choose the Right Handheld Barcode Scanner?

  • Mahesh Tiwari
  • Jan 10, 2024
  • RFID
How to Choose the Right Handheld Barcode Scanner

The implementation of barcodes has had a massive impact on the efficiency & productivity of businesses. These small codes contain product information that you can input into the system within a second, using barcode scanners.

Most places of business prefer using handheld barcode scanners nowadays. These devices are portable & save a lot of time in billing & tracking inventory, by automating data input. In addition, they eliminate the possibility of human error & save the business a lot of money.

However, there are many types of handheld barcode scanners, of different prices & utility. And it’d be best if you chose the product that is best for you. So, let’s discuss the things you need to keep in mind while selecting a handheld barcode scanner.

How Does a Handheld Barcode Scanner Work?

The basic principle behind most barcode scanners is the same. The reader uses a source of light (Laser or LED Light) to illuminate the code, this is reflected & captured by the sensor. The sensor transmits the light signals into binary forms to the decoder, which converts it into readable format.

The scanner can distinguish between the black bars & white spaces by differentiating between the intensity of the reflection. The intensity of the reflection is strong in the white bars & weak in the black bars. The black bar represents ‘1’ & the white bar represents ‘0’.

Almost all scanners use this same principle to read barcodes, except one, the Area-Imaging Scanners. These scanners use a camera that captures the image of the code and uses software to decode it internally.

Types of Handheld Barcode Scanners

Handheld scanners come in all shapes & sizes, depending on your business. There are a couple of ways you can use to differential barcode scanners into different categories-

Scanning Technology

There are four types of techniques/technology that barcodes can use. Depending on factors like the size of the barcode, type of business, etc, you may choose any one of them.

Charged Coupled Device

As the name suggests, this type of scanner uses a Charged Coupled Device (or CCD) to read codes. The device contains an array of LED lights that illuminates the barcode. The reflected light is captured by a CCD and converted into binary signals.

These types of scanners are low-cost & have a low readable range of up to 3 inches. These are suitable for places with a lower volume of scanning.

Laser Scanner

These types of scanners use a laser that is reflected by an internal mirror in the device onto the barcode. The mirror then swings on a fixed axis sweeping the laser beam in a straight line across the barcode. The reflected beam is then redirected to the sensor by the mirror & converted into digital format.

These scanners can scan objects from a greater distance than most other scanners, up to 24 inches. They are suitable for tracking inventory & entering purchases into your system. Primarily used in places like supermarkets & restaurants.

Photodiode Scanner

This scanning technology is used primarily in wands or pen-type barcode scanners. It contains a single LED that acts as an illumination source for the scanner. The reflected light is then captured by the photodiode, which interprets different intensities of reflections into ‘1’ & ‘0’.

These scanners are portable & very inexpensive, but due to the narrow illumination area, you may need to practice using them. These are mostly used by parcel services, where the scanning volume is low.

Area-Image Scanning

This is a complete overhaul from the other types of scanning techniques. Instead of lasers or LEDs, these scanners use camera sensors to capture an image of the code. Then utilize image recognition software to decode the barcode into binary & then readable formats.

These are usually the most expensive type of barcode scanners, but they can be used in every situation. They also have the longest reading range; they can scan codes from 12 – 15 meters away.

Decoding Capability

Another criterion for scanner classification is the type of codes it can decode. Barcodes generally come in two types: 1D (One-Dimensional), and 2D (Two-Dimensional).

One-Dimensional Barcodes

Also known as Linear Barcodes, because these contain information along the horizontal axis. These are severely limited in their capacity to hold information, up to 20 characters. Most types of barcode scanners except area-image scanners are only capable of decoding 1D codes.

There are several types of 1D Barcode scanners, like – CCD Scanners, Laser Scanners & Photodiode Scanners. These are suitable for use in businesses, such like:

• Pharmacies

• Clothing Stores

• Small Warehouses

• Offices

• Banks

• Field Services

• Retail Stores

Two-Dimensional Barcodes

This type of barcode contains information along two axis – horizontal and vertical. They are capable of holding much more data than 1D codes & also contain more data per unit area. In addition, these codes also have many error-protection elements that allow them to be readable even after it is damaged.

This type of scanning technique is used by Area-Imaging Scanners, Smartphones Barcode & QR Code Scanners, etc. They are suitable to use in situations, like:

• Healthcare

• Supermarkets

• Logistics

• Parts Manufacturing Units

• Toll Plaza/Stops

• Cinema, etc.

What All to Remember While Choosing a Handheld Barcode Scanner? 

There are some important factors you need to keep in mind while selecting the right type of scanner for your use-

Type of Barcode

First & foremost, you need to determine, which type of barcodes will you use on your products. There are two types of barcodes 1D (Linear Barcodes) and 2D (Two-Dimensional Matrix Barcodes). If your business utilizes 1D barcodes, then you are applicable to use any type of scanner. Be it, CCD, Laser or Area-Imaging Scanner.

On the other hand, if you are using 2D barcodes, then your only option is an Area-Imagining Scanner. However, the benefit of these scanners is that they can read any type of barcode & have the longest read range. 

So, in case you are planning to use both 1D & 2D barcodes, then you better choose the area-imaging scanner.

Risk of Damage

Statistically speaking, the biggest cause of damage to handheld barcode scanners, is the physical impact on the floor. Therefore, you have two options, soft & impact absorbing floor coverings. Or you can invest in Rugged/Ultra-Rugged Barcode Scanners

These types of scanners are highly resistant to impact damage, high temperatures, water, dust & other environmental factors.

Reading Range

Another important factor that plays a big role in determining the correct handheld barcode scanner for you, is range. The reading range of a barcode scanner can be anywhere from 3 inches to 15 meters, depending on the scanning technique.

In the case of billing counters for shops & supermarkets, you can choose either CCD or Lazer Scanners. As the item will be close to the scanner. However, in warehouses, logistics, etc, it’s better to use something with a long-range, like an area-imaging scanner.

Wi-Fi Accessibility

A lot of scanners come with Wi-Fi capability, giving them an advantage over traditional scanners in terms of versatility. These scanners are very portable & send recorded signals to your system using Wi-Fi. The computer then decodes the signal & registers it in the database.

However, these types of scanners may face problems in large places like warehouses, with dead zones & weak signals. In such scenarios, it’s better to use traditional handheld scanners with an attached system.

Disclaimer: The information presented here is for general information purposes only and true to best of our understanding. Users are requested to use any information as per their own understanding and knowledge. Before using any of the information, please refer to our Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions.

  • Created on Mar 20, 2023

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