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Buyers Guide: Barcode Scanners

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Barcode ScannersBarcode scanners are one of the most essential pieces in any Point of Sale or Inventory management system. The first step in selecting the right scanner for your business is identifying your specific requirements:

- What type of barcodes will I be scanning?
- How will the scanner be used and connected?
- Where will the scanner be used? Will it need to be rugged?

Barcode Basics:

Barcodes come in two different forms:
- 1D (1 Dimensional)
- 2D (2 Dimensional).

1D is the most common type of barcode. These are the barcodes you see on items when doing your regular grocery shop. They have a series of Vertical lines which store the product SKU or Item code.

2D are the square barcodes you see on some items and advertising, the most common you will see is the QR code. The main difference from 1D is the data is stored both horizontally and veritcally, allowing a greater amount of data to be saved in the barcode.

The most important thing to keep in mind, is 1D scanners can only read 1D barcodes. Whereas 2D scanners can read both 1D & 2D barcodes. 2D scanners have come down considerably in price as more businesses implement 2D barcodes, it is well worth the upgrade and future proofing your scanners by going with a 2D model.

Scanner Types:

Once you have decided what types of barcodes you will be scanning, the next step is deciding on the scan engine. There are 3 main types of scan engines:

Laser: This is the most well know scanner type. They use a Red diode laser to reflect off the black & white barcode and read the data. They offer fast snappy scanning and can read from a few centimetres to several metres depending on the size of the barcode.

Linear Imager: These are similar to the laser scanners, in that they can only read 1D barcodes. But instead of reflecting a laser off the barcode, they take a picture of the barcode and analyze the image to extract the barcode data. They are a great low cost scanner options, and they are more durable than laser scanners as they don't have any moving parts. Another great feature is they can read barcodes of displays and mobiles phone screens, so are perfect for scanning digital coupons in retail environments.

2D Area Imager: These are similar to Linear Imagers, in that they take a picture of the barcode to analyze it. But unlike Linear Imagers than can read 1D & 2D barcodes. They also have the advantage of being able to scan the barcode in any orientation, meaning you don't have to line the barcode up straight to scan it.

Form factors

The next step is deciding what style of scanner you require. This will depend on your environment and intended usage.

Handheld: These are by far the most common type of scanner used. They have the standard pistol grip/handheld form, and are a simple "aim and scan" scanner. Most models also come with a hands free stand, so you can scan items without picking up the scanner and pulling the trigger.

Cordless: These are similar the handheld scanners, but give you the freedom of no cable connection. The predominately have a cradle which connects to your PC or terminal, and the Scanner communicates wirelessly to the cradle to send through the data. Standard wireless range is 10-25m, but there is also models with a range of 100m.
Some cordless scanners also have the option to connect to tablets and iPads directly. With the rise of iPad & tablet Point of Sale software, these scanners are a must and allow you to connect directly via Bluetooth.

Presentation: These scanners are designed to sit on a counter top and don't need to be picked up or held to scan. They are designed for fast hands free scanning. They also offer omni-directional scanning, so you can swipe the barcode past in any orientation and it will read.
They come in 1D models, which use multiple lasers, and 2D models which are more durable due to no moving parts.

In counter:These scanners are presentation scanners but designed to sit in a recess in your counter. You will see these mainly in grocery store checkouts. They offer easy operation and quick scanning, and can also be found with integrated scales.

Fixed Mount:These scanners are designed to be integrated into automated systems and kiosks systems. They are small compact scanners and

Interface Connection

One of the most important steps is knowing what you are connecting the scanner to, and how you want to connect.

USB: The most common connection for handheld scanners is USB. Gone are the days of having to program settings when connecting your scanner, with USB-HID connection the scanner acts as a USB keyboard input. This means it's basically "plug and play" and the scanner is also powered over the USB cable. Most scanner models come standard with USB interface.

RS232 (Serial): If connecting to a Cash Register, you will most likely need a Serial interface. These normally also require a power supply, although some can be powered over the Serial cable (if the cable and host support it). These scanners also require you to program the scanner to the correct Serial settings for the host (Baud Rate, Parity etc). Serial scanners are also commonly connected to kiosks & machinery which have Serial ports.

PS/2 (Keyboard wedge): The keyboard wedge connection is hardly seen anymore, due to the rise of USB. If you require this connection please contact us, as there is only a few models left which support this interface.

Proprietary interfaces: Some scanners have interface cables to suit specific hosts (like IBM terminals). If you can't find it on our website please contact one of our experts.

Where will I use my scanner?

The type on environment the scanner will be used in is important when selecting the right model. If you use a cheaper retail based model in an industrial setting, it will most likely break soon and cause you to shut down your operation whilst you get a replacement. So selecting the right model for the job is essential in keeping your business running.

The rugged scanners are designed specifically for heavy industrial usage and have a range of accessories to suit, like forklift mounts. We highly recommend getting the extended comprehensive warranties for these as well, which will also cover accidental breakage and have fast repair turnarounds and advanced exchange options to keep your business running.

If you aren't sure on what model would best suit your requirements, please contact one of our expert staff who will be happy to assist.

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