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Which Barcode Technology is right for you?

Posted on Tue, Jan 21, 2014

How do you know which Barcode Technology is right for you?


Barcode scanning is a popular option in a wide variety of industries and applications, especially in solutions that require fast and efficient data capture. However, selecting the most appropriate barcode scanner or technology for your particular applications might prove challenging owing to the many different options available.

     In simple terms, symbology is the “language” of barcodes. The initial symbologies were one-dimensional (1D) or linear barcodes, which comprise of data represented by systematic parallel lines with varying widths and spacings. Barcode symbologies have, however, evolved over the years into 2-dimensional (2D) symbologies comprising of different geometric patterns and symbols such as hexagons, dots, and rectangles, among others. The 2D barcodes carry a significantly larger amount of data than the linear barcodes.

Choosing the ideal barcode scanner

     Basically, there are two main types of barcode scanner; optical readers and digital imagers. The different types of scanners are designed to decode the particular symbologies, i.e. optical readers are appropriate for decoding linear symbologies, whereas digital imagers can be used for both linear and 2D symbologies. Your choice of barcode scanning technology should be determined by the kind of symbology used in your specific application. Below is a look at some of the types of barcode scanners.

Type #1: Optical Scanning Technology

  • Pen-type readers are made up of a light source placed adjacent to a photodiode, at the tip of a wand or pen. The mechanics behind the workings of this scanner are quite simple: the tip of the scanner is moved at a fairly constant speed across a barcode for the light source to shines rays of light onto the barcode. The photodiode measures the intensity of light being reflected from the bars and generates a waveform representing the bar and space pattern i.e. light reflected from white spaces and light absorbed in the dark bars of the barcode. These readers are ideal for decoding 1D barcodes.
  • Laser scanning technology works in a similar manner to the pen-type scanners, with the exception that a laser beam is used in place of the light source. In addition, laser scanners come with either a rotating prism or reciprocating mirror (instead of a photodiode) for reading the data pattern. Laser scanners are ideal for high-throughput operations - especially in retail applications to decode 1D barcodes such as UPC/EAN among others, owing to their accuracy and enhanced productivity. They are also ideal for applications requiring motion tolerance. The advantage of laser scanners is that they can achieve more range (up to 50%) and than most other scanners.
  • CCD scanners are made up of an array of tiny light sensors, which are arranged in a row. These sensors are able to generate a voltage pattern representing the pattern in a barcode by sequentially measuring the intensity of emitted ambient light from a barcode.

Type #2: Digital Imaging Technology

  • Digital imagers come in many shapes and forms – including omni-directional readers and camera-based readers - to enable decoding of various types of barcodes, whether 1D or 2D barcodes. They are particularly ideal for use in 2-dimensional (2D) barcode applications. This technology is superior to optical imaging in many respects including allowing capture and transfer of images and omni-directional reading of barcodes.


Each type of barcode scanner offers its own unique benefits when deployed in appropriate applications. However, there are instances when combining more than one technology in one application is necessary in order to achieve maximum efficiency and productivity. The key to making the right choice is finding the most appropriate and cost effective barcode scanner that fits your budget and needs. By analyzing your specific budget and barcode needs, there are several barcode sellers that can help you reach that optimal level of productivity in your business.

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