Barcode Scanners

By Dan Barraclough

EPOS Systems can use a barcode scanner as a method of data input. There are several deciding factors determining which barcode scanner is right for your EPOS system.

Barcode Scanners for EPOS Systems

EPOS Systems are a combination of hardware and software used by retailers at the Point of Sale. The hardware components of an EPOS system often include a visual display unit (VDU) and a scanner (known as a barcode scanner, price scanner or POS scanner). In a retail setting, the scanner is used to scan the barcode of the item being purchased. There are different types of scanners available for EPOS systems depending on the needs of your business.

barcode scanner

Benefits of a Barcode Scanner

Using a barcode or POS scanner to input serial information into the EPOS system has multiple benefits:

  • Shortens time of buying process for the customer
  • Avoids manual re-keying of information
  • Inventory is automatically tracked and updated after a sale
  • Reduces margin for human error
  • Possibility for more efficient data tracking and analysis through time stamping and other data markup during barcode scanning (with RS232 serial output), to track peak sales times, best-selling items and best-performing employees

Different Types of Barcode Scanners

There are different types of barcode or POS scanners which are suited to different businesses. The two main types of scanner are hands-free or so-called fixed mount scanners, and handheld scanners. Handheld scanners can have a cord or be wireless.

Fixed mount scanners are secured to or embedded in a counter and items can be passed over or in front of the scanner, allowing for fast scanning. Handheld scanners have a handheld unit which is used to scan individual items.

Barcode scanners can also be classified by the way they read barcode information. There are different types of scanners which each read information in a slightly different way. This affects the price of the unit and the scanning it can be used for.

  • Barcode wands are handheld devices which need to be touching the barcode to be able to read it. These devices are usually the cheapest option but are used mainly for small volume scanning.
  • Laser barcode scanners employ the same reading method as wands but can be held further away from the item being scanned.
  • CCD scanners are usually cheaper than laser scanners but are limited in the length of barcodes they can read.

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Different Types of Barcode Scanner Output

Barcodes themselves contain no information about a product, but instead are an encoded version of a serial number which can be sent to database for lookup. Computers can’t read barcode information, so in order for the computer to be able to read the serial number stored in the barcode, the barcode first needs to be decoded.

In addition to simply scanning a code and relaying it to a computer, some scanners are able to also automatically decode the barcode (called decoded scanners). Other scanner types need to be combined with an external decoder (called undecoded scanners). You should ensure that you know what type of scanner you are buying, so that you know whether you will also need to purchase an external decoder.

For barcode scanners that don’t have a built-in decoder, there are different types of external decoders. The most common ones are called keyboard wedge and serial interface output.

Keyboard wedge output:

  • A keyboard wedge is plugged in between the computer and keyboard, with the scanner plugged in to the keyboard. It will automatically decode the barcode, transmitting the information to the computer as if it had been typed with the keyboard.
  • Advantages: no software necessary, no power cable necessary
  • Disadvantages: data manipulation is more difficult

RS232 serial interface output:

  • Some scanners can be plugged into a RS232 serial port and will transmit the raw data into your chosen application software.
  • Advantages: data can be manipulated easily (e.g. automatically adding a date stamp), more foolproof data transmission, especially for high-volume scanning
  • Disadvantages: extra application software necessary, data cable necessary, not all computers have a RS232 serial port

USB output:

  • Barcode scanners with a USB connection can function either like a keyboard wedge of like a RS232 serial interface. When buying a USB scanner, there is usually an option to specify the desired output type.

Next Steps

If you are interested in learning more about prices to buy or lease a barcode scanner for your business, then fill out the form at the top of this page to receive a free tailopred quote suited to your specific business needs.

Dan Barraclough

Dan’s a writer for Expert Market, specialising in a range of cool topics. He loves web design and all things UX, but also the hardware stuff like postage metres and photocopiers.

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