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How Does Barcode Scanner Work

Jul. 23, 2019

As consumers, we see barcodes and barcode scanners used all the time: purchasing from any retail store, renting a car, attending major events, flying, and even going to the doctor. They're in our social media apps and on store windows.

Barcodes are more than lines and spaces on individual products: Barcode scanning systems help business track an amazing amount of information which, in turn, increases productivity and efficiency. You will improve your business' processes by understanding how barcodes work and by knowing how to use them effectively in partnership with a quality barcode scanner.

There are two types of barcodes - linear and 2D. The most visually recognizable, the UPC, is a linear barcode made up of two parts: the barcode and the 12-digit UPC number. The first six numbers of the barcode is the manufacturer's identification number. The next five digits represent the item's number. The last number is called a check digit which enables the scanner to determine if the barcode was scanned correctly or not.

A linear barcode typically holds any type of text information. In contrast, a 2D barcode is more complex and can include more information in the code: price, quantity, web address or image. A linear barcode scanner can't read a 2D barcode; requiring the use of an image scanner for reading the information embedded in a 2D barcode. Popular QR codes  are a 2D barcode that can store a large amount of information compared to a 1D barcode.

How Does Barcode Scanner Work

A barcode scanner usually consists of three different parts including the illumination system, the sensor, and the decoder.

In general, a barcode scanner "scans" the black and white elements of a barcode by illuminating the code with a red light, which is then converted into matching text. More specifically, the sensor in the barcode scanner detects the reflected light from the illumination system (the red light) and generates an analog signal that is sent to the decoder. The decoder interprets that signal, validates the barcode using the check digit, and converts it into text.

This converted text is delivered by the scanner to a computer software system holding a database of the maker, cost, and quantity of all products sold. That is how barcode scanner works. 

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