During a shopping trip to a mall, you may have noticed the cashier scanning your purchases with a Laser device to generate a bill. What he is actually doing is reading the product barcodes with a Laser/Barcode scanner. The barcode scanner reads the code, data is sent to the computer, and the computer searches the database for the item's price and description.
Barcodes are designed to hold specific product information. They encrypt alphanumeric characters and symbols by using black and white stripes, also known as bars. Bar-coding is an AIDC (Automatic Identification and Data Collection) technology that reduces the need for human intervention in data entry and collection, reducing error and time.
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What is a Barcode?
A barcode is a printed series of parallel bars or lines of varying widths used to input data into a computer system. The bars are usually black on white, and their width and quantity vary depending on the application. The bars are used to represent the binary digits 0 and 1, which can then represent numbers ranging from 0 to 9 and processed by a digital computer.
The computer interprets the presence or absence of a bar of a specific width in a specific position in a sequence as a 0 or 1. Most of such codes use bars with only two widths (thick and thin), though some use four widths. A barcode's representation of numbers are also printed out at its base.
An optical (laser) scanner integrated into a computer system reads barcode data. A handheld scanner or barcode pen is used to scan the code, or the code is manually moved across a scanner built into a checkout counter or other surface. The data in the barcode is then stored or immediately processed by the computer.
In the United States, the barcodes printed on supermarket and other retail merchandise are those of the Universal Product Code, or UPC, which assigns a unique code to each type of food or grocery product. The five digits on the left are assigned to a specific manufacturer or maker in the UPC system, and the five digits on the right are used by that manufacturer to identify a product.
Barcoding was first used in the 1970s and has since become an integral part of everyday commercial transactions. Grocery stores use the codes to obtain prices and other information about goods at the point of purchase by the consumer.
A scanner is used to identify a product through its barcode at a typical supermarket checkout counter, and a computer then looks up the item's price and feeds that number into the cash register, where it becomes part of the bill for the customer's purchases.
The primary advantage of barcode systems is that they allow users to process detailed information as soon as the barcode is scanned, rather than simply storing data for later processing. Ski resorts, for example, can affix the codes to skiers and scan the bars when they enter ski lifts, allowing the resort to monitoring slope use patterns.
A wide variety of barcode systems are now used to track a wide variety of products as they are manufactured, distributed, stored, sold, and serviced. Products include everything from processed foods and dry goods to drugs and medical supplies, automotive parts, computer parts, and even library books.
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How does a Barcode Work?
In a nutshell, a barcode is a method of encoding information into a visual pattern (those black lines and white spaces) that can be read by a machine (a barcode scanner).
The combination of black and white bars (also known as elements) represents different text characters that adhere to a predetermined algorithm for that barcode (more on the types of barcodes later). This pattern of black and white bars will be read by a barcode scanner and translated into a line of text that your retail point of sale system will recognize.
The barcode and the barcode scanner are the two most important requirements for barcode technology to work. A scannable code with a numeric counterpart at the bottom is the most common type of barcode. It has a pattern of parallel black and white lines. Other barcodes exist, such as 2D QR codes.
Barcode scanners can read barcodes extremely quickly and feed that information to a computer or a checkout terminal, which can immediately identify them using a product database.
The decoded information of the scanned item is typically displayed on a screen, such as that of a mobile phone, laptop, or PC. In a retail store, for example, all a cashier needs to do is scan the barcode using the scanner
Then information about that item will appear on the screen, such as the name, price, and Item number. Much easier and faster than manually entering the information, with less human error.
A barcode scanner is made up of three functional parts: an illumination system, a sensor, and a decoder. You can configure the barcode scanner to scan the barcode as you hold it in front of it, or you can change the mode so that you must press the trigger for the scanner to scan.
Most barcode scanners process data by emitting a red light. The light then returns to the scanner, and the sensor recognizes the flashed light from the illumination system.
The lighting system then generates an analog signal. The sensor converts the analog signal to a digital signal, which is then sent to the decoder. Finally, the decoder sends the data to the computer connected to the scanner via USB or Bluetooth.
To retrieve barcode information, no special software is required. The decoder places barcodes in a usable context, similar to how the human brain works and how we understand the differences between numbers, letters, and pictures.
The information will appear wherever your cursor is on the screen. For more complex requirements, you may require specialized software to enter data into inventory records, for example. If your applications require barcode printing, you'll also need a barcode/label printer and barcode design software like BarTender or Nicelabel.
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Types of Barcode Technology
Here's a simple explanation of how barcodes work: Consider them a more technologically advanced method of transferring strings of characters. They are essentially license plates linked to data files. These character strings can represent any type of data.
Rather than writing and copying this information by hand, it is encoded in barcode languages (symbologies) for quick transfer via scanner to the computer. For standardizing the encoding and storage of these characters, each symbology follows an algorithm.
Some of the major types of barcodes are as follows:-
Types of Barcode Technology
MSI Plessey (or Modified Plessey) barcodes are used in retail environments for inventory management, such as labeling supermarket shelves. They're also used in warehouses and other storage facilities to help with inventory accuracy.
MSI Plessey codes can only encode numbers, but they can be produced in any length, allowing them to encode almost any amount of data. Its binary format is also less trustworthy and efficient than newer, more cost-effective barcodes.
UPC barcodes are used to label and scan consumer goods at points of sale around the world, primarily in the United States, but also in the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. The UPC-A variant encodes twelve numerical digits, whereas the UPC-E variant encodes only six numerical digits.
UPC is an abbreviation for universal product code. The purpose of this barcode in retail is to make it easy for users to identify specific product features (such as size or color) when an item is scanned at checkout.
UPC codes, besides making the checkout process more efficient, aid in inventory tracking within stores and warehouses. UPCs allow for accurate and efficient product tracking throughout the manufacturing process.
EAN barcodes are also used to label consumer goods for point-of-sale scanning around the world, primarily in Europe. They resemble UPC codes in appearance, with the main difference being their geographical application. While EAN-13 (13 digits) is the standard form factor, EAN-8 (eight digits) barcodes can be found on products with limited space, such as small candies.
The main benefit of EAN codes is their adaptability. EAN-13 codes are high-density barcodes that can encode relatively large amounts of data in a small area, whereas EAN-8 codes are ideal for identifying extremely small products or assets. EAN codes are also simple to read by 1D scanners, making the scanning process quick and easy.
Code39 barcodes (or Code 3 of 9) are widely used to label goods in many industries, including the automotive industry and the United States Department of Defense.
It supports both digits and characters, and its name derives from the fact that it could only encode 39 characters—though the character set has been expanded to 43 in its most recent version. It is comparable to, but not as small as, the Code 128 barcode.
One disadvantage of Code39 is its low data density. Because of the size required for these barcodes, they are unsuitable for tiny goods and assets. However, Code39 remains a popular and versatile option, because it eliminates the need to generate a check digit—and can be decoded by almost any barcode reader.
Code 128 barcodes are compact, high-density codes used for ordering and distribution in the logistics and transportation industries. They are intended for non-point-of-sale products, such as when supply chain applications label units with serial shipping container codes (SSCC). Code 128 barcodes can store a wide range of data because they support any character from the ASCII 128 character set.
The most significant advantage of Code 128 is its high data density. Because these barcodes can store large amounts of linear data in a small space, they are ideal for identifying shipped or packaged containers and items. Because of these advantages, Code 128 barcodes are an obvious choice for shipping and supply chain operations.
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Benefits of Using Barcode Technology
While barcodes were designed to speed up the sales and transaction process, there are also several other several other advantages of barcode technology.
Using a barcode to process a product's data is far more accurate than having a sales associate enter that data manually, which is prone to human error.
Data about inventory levels or sales is immediately available due to the speed with which the information is processed.
Training requirements have been reduced. Employees don't need much training to use a barcode scanner because of its simplicity (just point and click).
Improved Inventory Management Retailers benefit from faster cycle counts and more accurate inventory turnover estimations thanks to improved accuracy and real-time data.
Implementation Costs are Low. The process of creating barcodes is quick and easy, and retailers can anticipate savings after implementation due to improved transaction speed and inventory and sales data accuracy.
To summarize, barcode scanners come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and forms, ranging from pocket fixes to handheld, fixed, rugged, and corded models. Cordless, 2D, and so on. Barcodes and barcode scanners are now an essential part of most businesses and shops that want to improve their organization's efficiency, productivity, and asset management.
Many industries and applications, including retail, logistics tracking, inventory control, medicine, manufacturing plants, warehouse floor, government, office environment, and many others, have become economically profitable