Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Choosing the Right Barcode Reader

by Nate Schubert


We are neck-deep in our "Choosing the Right Barcode Products" series, and while last's weeks article focused on picking the right barcode generator, this third installment asks one of the most important questions: Which barcode reader is best for me? There is a pretty wide selection of barcode scanners to choose from that can read different barcode types or have unique capabilities that other readers may not be able to provide. There is no reason to invest in equipment that has more functionality than you plan to utilize, although it is important to make sure the item you are purchasing is going to serve your needs. You can help determine your needs by asking the following questions.


Which Barcode Types are Supported?


It's important to know which types of barcodes you need to read, because you want to be sure that the scanner you purchase is going to support the reading of that particular symbology. Just about every barcode scanner on the market today can read common linear barcode types like Code 128, Code 39 and UPC among others, and many 2D Barcode Imagers are capable of reading linear barcode types in addition to two-dimensional symbologies like Data Matrix, PDF417 and QR Code. The first thing to do is figure out which barcode types you need to read, and then make sure the item you decide to purchase supports those types.

Which Connection Type is Best?


Many barcode scanner models have different connection options such as USB, keyboard wedge or PS2 or RS232. Although all connection types are still used today, USB connections are the choice of the vast majority of companies. RS232 connections are still used in some heavily industrious settings, and PS2 or keyboard wedge connections have lost favor with the rise of the USB barcode scanner. One of the important distinctions to make between PS2 and RS232 connections against USB is that PS2 and RS232 connections require the system to be powered down while the connection is made, and then the scanner will work upon system start. With USB, you only need to plug the cable into the USB port on your computer or hub, whether the computer is on or off, and it will take care of the rest.

Wireless is another popular option and is the preferred choice among those who need to scan items over a more widespread area and cannot do this effectively while tethered to the computer. Most wireless barcode scanner kits consist of a hand-held cordless scanner and a charger/base that must be connected to the computer via USB cable. When the scanner reads a barcode, the data is communicated to the cradle and then output wherever the cursor is positioned on the computer.

Can I Store Scanned Data in a Barcode Reader?


Most barcode readers only act as a medium, reading barcodes and then passing the data through to the computer which is output where the cursor is located on the computer monitor. Portable memory barcode scanners are unique in that they do not transmit scanned data to a computer in real-time because there is no connection to a computer. The scanned data is instead stored in the reader itself for later bulk transfer into a computer via USB cable. This is an extremely efficient method of barcode scanning for those who work in the field, for checking students into class and much more.

Having the right barcode scanner can make a world of difference in terms of process efficiency and increased levels of production in any environment, but there are a lot of questions to ask yourself before making a purchase. Leave any comments or questions here via the comments if you need some additional guidance, or contact IDAutomation directly!

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