How accurate are bar code scanners?

We sold some badge scanners to one of our customers who later said he was getting incorrect data from his scanners. We got a sample badge from them, scanned it, printed it, and attached it to a label rewinder. We then took the badge scanner apart and mounted the scan module near the label and recorded each scan into Excel:

We were able to collect over a million characters in just over a day. The result? Zero errors. We looked elsewhere for the customer’s issue.

My favorite scanner – Part 2

I’ve written about the center decode feature in the Intermec EA30 scan engine (see part 1 below) but there are a few other features I’d like to bring to your attention.

Presentation Mode:  Sometimes scanners are used with desktop holders to let a user pass a barcode underneath it and scan hands free. Think of a library check out, a convenience store cash register, or a club scanning ID cards.

Laser scanners typically pulse their laser on and off when they are in presentation mode (which drives me nuts) in order to detect the presence of a barcode.  2D Camera based scanners have an advantage of being omnidirectional and they will have some illumination on to detect a code.

The EA30 does presentation mode right. The scanner uses ambient light to detect a bar code, so no distracting lights come out of the scanner when it’s idle.

The EA30 scanner can be set up to scan more than one barcode at a time.  Take a look at EasySet under Symbologies, and you’ll see the Multicode set up:

You can specify the number and type of codes to scan and because of the way the software scans the image, it’s works as quickly as if you were scanning a single code. Other scanners can read multiple barcodes, but you have to move the scanner around to pick up all of the codes. The EA30 works better than this; the software scans the image so you don’t have to move the scanner. Try it out.

The last feature I’ll mention is the ability to scan both UPC-A symbols and UPC symbols with supplemental codes with one configuration:

Reading both UPC and with one set up is difficult because the large portion of the UPC with supplemental code is a valid UPC-A symbol. The scanner must reliably detect the presence of the supplemental and read it. If you want to test this, use these setting from EasySet:

Consecutive validations = 2
Center decode = on
Supplemental = Transmit if found
Add on security = 100
Imager decode mode = 2D
Initial 1D search = Full

You’ll find these settings in the Symbology section, the Imager Settings, and the Operating Section.

 

 

 

The best way to connect a Bluetooth scanner

Scanners should connect differently than most of the Bluetooth devices you’re used to. Normally you’d go into Setup, Bluetooth, (or some variation of this) then find the device you want to connect and instruct the OS to make a connection to this device. This type of connection is an outgoing connection, i.e. it’s initiated by the computer.

Most operating systems will not maintain a reliable connection this way. You probably know this from personal experience. How many times do you have to reconnect your Bluetooth headset to your phone? This is inconvenient when using a phone; for a scanner user who is being paid to manage inventory this is lost time and money. Do you really want to tell a user to go into Control Panel every time he needs to reconnect?

A better way to connect is to use an outgoing connection. The scanner connects to the Bluetooth MAC address of the computer and spawns a virtual Com port connection. Intermec has been doing this for years with their vehicle mount computers. Here’s a barcode from the side of a CV31 vehicle mount computer:

This is very convenient for the user, scan the barcode and get connected. Even better, this is a much more reliable connection than on outgoing connection. I have an SF61 Bluetooth scanner in house that’s connected to a Dell tablet using an outgoing connection, and it’s been running for more than six months.

If you want to implement this on a non-Intermec laptop or tablet PC you’ll need to install Intermec’s Smart Wedge software. Once it’s installed it will generate a connection bar code on screen:

Scan the barcode and you’ll connect. You’ll hear three ascending beeps when the connection is established.

Under Tools, Options, select “Reduce Smart Wedge in System Tray” and “Start Smart Wedge with Windows” and you will have a reliable and robust connection established between your scanner and PC.

Note that the Smart Wedge software will take the incoming data from the barcode scanner and post it to the current cursor position in the application that has Windows’ focus, so you can use this with almost any software.

In the unlikely event that the scanner loses connection with Smart Wedge, jut scan the connection barcode again to reestablish it. Of course, this only works with Intermec scanners; the SF61, SG20, and SR61B will all work.

 

My favorite scanner – Part 1

The Intermec (now Honeywell) EA30 scanner has a really great feature. It is a camera based scanner, so it can read both 1D (UPC, Code 128, Code 39) and 2D (Datamatrix, QR Code, Postnet) codes. It has a bright white illuminator and a laser aimer that looks like this:

It’s now common for a labels to have multiple bar codes on them and it can be difficult to scan only the one you intend, especially if they are crowded together:

You can enable Center Decoding in the EA30 using EasySet (under Operating Settings, Data Decode Security, Center Decoding) that instructs the scanner to only decode a symbol when the center dot on the aiming pattern is on a barcode.

So this will read:

And this will not:

It’s pretty intuitive, aim the dot where you want to scan.  If you ever have to scan a large number of bar codes during a shipping or receiving transaction, serial numbers for example, this feature can save a lot of time and aggravation.

There are other scanners that have a feature that is similar to center decoding in the EA30, but without the center aiming dot, they’re difficult to use, and some scanners depth of field (range, or scanning distance) is reduced when you turn centering on. This doesn’t happen with the EA30.

There are other nice features in the EA30 that I’ll cover in later posts.

The EA30 scan engine in available in the SG20 tethered and wireless scanners, and the CK3 hand held computer.