Ever wondered what those cashiers do at the billing time while purchasing any product? They take a piece of equipment and keep it near to those black and white vertical zebra stripes printed on that product. Then beams of bright light come from that equipment—the cashier clicks something on the computer—and your bill is ready! Isn’t it?
So what does the person do actually; is it some magic? Yeah, exactly—It’s the magic; the magic of technology. Had it been never invented, we have to stand in queue at the point of sale for long long hours thanks to the Barcode technology!
Yes, this is the barcode technology! And the equipment used here is the barcode scanner and those black and white stripes are the barcodes. You will remain ignorant about barcode technology until you read it here!
Barcodes are the printed dark parallel lines of varying widths and white spacing which are designed to feed data of a particular product to the computer system.
This is an automatic identification technology through which data are collected accurately and rapidly which a normal human being can’t do.
These are printed on the retail store items to get the details about different products, prices and other important things that account for the financial transactions. It plays a very crucial role in almost every company around the globe. It helps in increasing the productivity considerably.
Barcodes are not a new thing as its history goes back to the year 1949, when Norman Joseph Woodland, a professor of mechanical engineering in the Drexel university started to work on the this technology to ease the checkout process in retail stores.
He invented a methodology similar to the Morse code—this method converted the information of the product in such codes that can be readable by the machines. In 1949, he applied for patent of his “classifying apparatus and method” and in 1952 it got approved. Only four parallel lines were there in the first barcode and some barcodes were round.
Many years later, in 1974, the barcode system was universally accepted and the first thing which sold with a barcode scanning was — Wrigley Company’s chewing gum packet.
After that, many developments have been made to this technology to get the most sophisticated barcodes. And now you can find these parallel lines in almost every product manufactured today.
Two types of barcodes are there namely
Linear barcode can store up to 85 characters. Most of the consumer goods contain this type of barcode. The UPC (Universal Product Code) symbology comes under this linear barcode which contains the machine readable parallel lines along with some specified digits which is printed below the lines.
UPC symbology is basically used for the checkout process in the retail stores and in keeping the inventory up-to-date. There are other symbologies apart from UPC in linear barcode and their usability differs from each other.
2-Dimesional barcodes can store thousands of characters which is far more than the linear barcode. Data Matrix, PDF 417, and QR code are the different symbologies coming under this 2-dimensional barcode. The structure of this barcode type is totally different from the 1D. It may include patterns of squares, hexagons, dots and other geometrical representations.
Here the barcodes can store more data in a very less space which is not possible with 1D. But this is more complex than linear and you need to have a 2D scanner to scan the codes; you can’t scan these 2D codes with a 1D scanner.
The 2D barcodes can contain price, web address and even image of the product. And can accomplish much more things than the linear codes.
As computers cannot read the barcodes directly, you need to have a barcode scanner handy to decode the information written on the barcodes. Then only the computer system can process this information for the final output.
There are four different types of barcode scanners or readers are available in the market namely
Every barcode scanner works differently based on different technology.
Also the scanners come with different form-factor. Such as
Starting from the grocery store items, the barcode technology has already come a long way! Now It has become a household name in almost every sector; be it for the patients or for the library management. See below some of its applications.
It becomes too difficult to accomplish if you think of maintaining inventories without using this technology. It will take several days to count all the stock products in your shop or warehouse. It will be inaccurate too! With the help of barcode technology, you can easily and efficiently track each and every product of your shop without any single error.
In healthcare sector barcode technology is used for the drug identification, patient identification and in medication management. It significantly reduces the fatality caused due to giving wrong medicine to patient or giving medicine to the wrong patient.
This technology is also used for company payroll details, up to date attendance report and accurate working period of the employees.
Barcodes used for the quality control in manufacturing sector. It examines the sample products and check whether the products are complying with the required specification or not?
Modern libraries use this technology for the efficient operation of all the library functions. Keeping the books in the proper place and tracking one particular book was never an easy task before arrival of this technology.
Though the barcode technology has advanced a lot in the recent years, still it’s in the young stage. Still it’s improving and will serve us in many possible ways in the coming future. Anyways, all the best to the technology! Hope for the best!
Joseph Woodland’s image credit goes to: The Independent