The Importance of Buying The Correct Barcode Scanner


This article is brought to you by Retail Technology Review: The Importance of Buying The Correct Barcode Scanner.

By Bryan Luna, freelance writer.

Barcode scanners allow businesses to track the sales and volumes of their incoming and outgoing inventory. And thanks to the ongoing developments within operating systems, wireless technology and the various port connections available, it has never been easier to plug in your scanner of choice and get started. 

But with so many varieties available, from handheld scanners to barcode wands, questions about the best options for your business can be confusing. However, with the proper information and necessary features considered, the choice becomes far more simplified. 

Types of Barcode Scanners

There are many different types of stationary and mobile scanners on the market. The first step in selecting the right scanner is identifying your specific needs.


A laser scanner is considered one of the more high-tech tools for barcode reading. The laser works as a light reflected through various mirrors or prisms to read the barcode. 

This variety is designed to read linear 1D barcodes and can work anywhere from six inches to two feet from the product. However, because of the intricate structure within this scanner, with many moving pieces made from glass and plastic, this particular scanner is more vulnerable to breaking. 


Image-based barcode scanners utilise a small digital camera that captures an image of the barcode. The image is then scanned and read by a computer system attached to the scanner, typically for inventory purposes. 

Image scanners have to operate at a closer distance than their laser counterparts, but the uncomplicated setup of the internal structure means they are less likely to suffer impact damage. As with laser, image scanners work only with 1D codes. 

2D Area Imagers

A 2D image scanner works fairly similarly to the image version mentioned above, except it can function with all barcode types. 2D barcodes are often referred to as QR codes or Datamatrix. 2D Barcode Scanners can read both 1D and 2D codes from any surface.

Laser and regular image scanners only work with horizontal barcodes. At the same time, 2D can be vertical, upside down, and with some newer models, can be read off non-label surfaces like smartphones and computers. 

CCD Scanner

Charge Coupled Devices barcode scanners, or CCD, are fitted with a row of tiny sensors located at the front of the reader. These sensors generate wavelengths that match with certain bars and spaces, creating information that is decoded within the reader and sent to a connected computer system. While lasers measure reflected light, CCD scanners measure ambient light. 

Pen Readers & Barcode Wands

In a pen or wand reader, the tip is equipped with a light source and a photodiode. When the end is moved across the barcode, a wavelength is generated that matches the spaces and bars it reads. Then, the information is decoded and sent to a computer system. 

Scanner Features to Consider

Although it is essential to understand the various models of scanners available for purchase, each has a list of different features, making it ideal for different environments, business needs and data capturing. By knowing the features and functions present in each option, you can make the best decision for your company. 

Wireless Connection

As with most things in our technology-driven society, ensuring your scanner has the correct wireless connections is vital. For example, if your company collects data in real time or stores it in a cloud-based system, you will need a direct wireless connection to the internet. This can be achieved through wifi or broadband. 

A wifi scanning system will be the ideal choice for employees working in a central location or warehouse to create a stable connection. Alternatively, for employees on the road, mobile broadband connections will allow them to transmit data wherever they go. 

Wired Connection

A wired connection is the best option if you collect data with wired scanners or have a locally installed inventory system. It is vitally important to ensure that the scanners you choose to use are compatible with the system you have set up.

Most scanners that use wireless transmissions will also have wired data connections. Check for these before making your purchase.  

Barcode Reader

An important assessment to make before purchasing scanners is establishing if you will be working with 1D or 2D barcodes. 1D codes are linear, with the most common type being the Universal Product Code (UPC) or International Article Number (EAN) found on most product packaging. 

2D codes have vertical and horizontal data, commonly presented in QR codes. These have gained massive popularity on social media and through marketing campaigns. A 1D barcode contains 20-25 characters, while the 2D version has up to 2000 characters. 


Similar to barcode technology, RFID scanners recognise locations and identifications of tagged items, but they do not read laser light reflections from the printed barcode label. Instead, it leverages low-power radio frequencies to collect and store data. 

The receiver reads radio frequencies that are then transmitted into an RFID tag. This information is then further transmitted from a small computer chip within the tag and broadcast to the RFID reader. 

The benefits to this reader are tags can trigger alarms when items are moved, the data is automatically read and stored regardless of orientation, items can be labelled individually but read as a collective whole, and the tag data is compatible with WMS and ERP systems, to name a few. 


Not all scanners have a display or touch screen. If this screen is a requirement, you must consider how detailed the display will be. If your employees rely on transactional feedback, this is a key feature you need to consider.

Depending on your employee’s tasks, a simple scanner may be sufficient. It is easy to use, simple to learn and will provide enough information regarding any mistakes or errors present. On the other hand, a mobile computer scanner can push and pull information within an inventory system and can double as a cellphone.

Portability & Ideal Environment

Assess the environment in which you need the scanners to work. For example, if it is being used in a warehouse environment, you need something rugged, portable, dust and water-resistant. Whereas in retail, portability is less important than speed and efficiency. Environmental factors largely affect the type of scanner that will serve you best. 

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