Barcode Scanner

Handheld, USB or laser barcode scanners—which one is right for you?

A barcode scanner is beneficial for a number of types of businesses and can be used in many different ways. Warehouses, for example, use barcode scanners to track and manage inventory, which could include thousands of items at any given time. Another common use of barcode scanners is to track and compute pricing or check availability of products in retail stores. Less commonly, but still important, business owners can use barcode scanners in tracking their equipment, whether it's personal computers in the hands of employees, boxes of branded merchandise to be distributed at trade shows or other assets and supplies.

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To choose the right barcode scanner for your business, you need to be aware of how barcode scanners work and the types available.

How Barcode Scanners Work

Barcode scanners typically work in a few different ways, depending on their source. There are three main types of barcode technology available:

  • LED barcode scanners. LED scanners must physically touch the barcode in order to read it, as the LED passes through a single or double ball-shaped opening.
  • Laser barcode scanners. A laser barcode scanner emits a red laser beam to scan the barcode at varying intensities.
  • Imaging barcode scanners. These scanners use a small camera to take an image of the barcode, which is then decoded using digital image processing techniques.

Regardless of the type of scanner, the data collected from the barcode is electronically processed into readable text or numerical data for item pricing, retail inventory management software tracking, etc.

Types of Barcode Scanners

Often, the type of business you run and the type of inventory you have will be the two determining factors in the barcode scanner you choose. Common types include:

  • Handheld barcode scanners. Handheld scanners, which can be found in wireless or USB barcode scanner form, are perfect for retail stores that sell large or bulky items, such as appliance or home renovation stores. These scanners have a greater reach, which allows the clerk to bring the scanner to the barcode on the product box, rather than the other way around. In many cases, handheld scanners are also the ideal option for reading barcodes on shipping boxes to track warehouse inventory.
  • Stationary barcode scanners. Stationary barcode scanners are commonly seen in grocery stores, where items can be easily dragged across a scanner pad.
  • Pen barcode scanners. Pen barcode scanners (also known as wand barcode scanners) are the smallest type of scanner, but are also the most durable. On the downside, they have the shortest range and take the longest time to process because they must come in contact with the barcode and must be dragged from one end to the other of it to get an accurate reading.
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