Guest Column | September 2, 2014

Not All Bar Code Scanners Are Created Equal: What Makes Them Different?

By Mike Poldino, Vice President of Data Capture Solutions, Motorola Solutions

Motorola Symbol LS3578-FZ Rugged, Cordless Scanner With Integrated Bluetooth

Most of today’s bar code scanners do a very respectable job scanning good quality bar codes.  However, when selecting a bar code scanner, one size does not fit all.  Today’s bar code scanners are highly specialized and designed to go beyond the traditional paper-based bar code. They are designed to match specific environments and are packed with features that increase productivity and streamline operations. As such it can sometimes be difficult to choose between the various scanners available. Below are some of the key features to consider when selecting a bar code scanner for your customer.

1D Or 2D Bar Codes — Printed Or Electronic

The first step in selecting the right bar code scanner is to understand the type of bar code your customer needs to read and how it will be presented to the scanner. Is the bar code a standard 1D bar code printed on a label or a hangtag or is it a mobile coupon presented on the screen of a mobile device?  Is the bar code a very small, high-density 2D bar code printed on a curved reflective surface? If the bar code is a simple printed 1D bar code and the customer has no future need to read any other type of bar code, a 1D laser or linear imager will likely suffice. But, if there is a need to read mobile or high density bar codes or a 2D bar code of any type, a 2D array imager is required.


The environment where a scanner will be deployed will dictate the necessary durability requirements. Of course, every scanner should be built to handle the occasional tumble to a tile or concrete floor without breaking, but some scanners are purpose built to handle the rigors of certain environments and provide a better ROI over the life of the scanner. For example, in a dirty distribution center where workers are scanning bar codes from a forklift or on loading dock, it’s imperative that the scanner is designed with a rugged housing, has an IP sealing that is impervious to dust and can withstand the elements as well as the frequent tumbles to a concrete floor.  In a hospital or other healthcare setting, a scanner must be sealed and be made using disinfectant ready plastics to ensure that the device can be frequently disinfected for infection control.

Performance On Less Than Ideal Bar Codes

Even in the most pristine environments, bar codes can become torn, damaged, or smudged. Your bar code scanner should be equipped with the software decode algorithms necessary to decode even the most degraded bar code without hesitation. Look for devices that specifically tout the ability to read poorly printed or damaged bar codes.

Out-Of-The-Box Experience

Setting up a bar code scanner should be quick and simple. Features such as auto-host detect cables that detect the host eliminate the need to scan multiple bar codes to configure the scanner. Software configuration tools make deployment easy and remote management possible.

Easy Bluetooth Pairing With Tablets And Smartphones

Across multiple verticals, the use of mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones is dramatically increasing. While these devices are equipped with digital cameras that can be used with off-the-shelf bar code scanning applications, using this solution for scan-intensive applications such as inventory or route accounting can be awkward and counterproductive. Consider pairing small, lightweight companion scanners with mobile devices to provide the enterprise-grade scan performance required. When selecting a device to pair with a tablet or smartphone, the pairing process should be quick and simple. If the mobile device is an iPad, iPod or an iPhone, look for companion scanners that are Apple-certified and are embedded with an MFI chip.

Taking the time upfront to select the right features in your next bar code scanners can save time and money as the devices are deployed.

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