Big Changes in Barcode Scanning Technology: New VDC Research Report

Laser ScannerVDC Research, a leading technology market analyst form which specializes in barcode and other auto-id technologies, published a new report today (October 1, 2013). The report claims that barcode scanning is changing from old laser technology to new  camera/software technology; the report further claims that this will transform barcodes from a low-tech, mature technology into a powerful tool with far-reaching implications for businesses and consumers.

While this is hardly news to members of the auto-id community, it is meaningful that others are noticing. Not many years ago the demise of barcodes was said to be imminent as RFID technology began to rise. That has not happened and seems increasingly less likely, and new barcode scanning technology to read new 2D barcodes is certainly a factor.

But what does new barcode scanning technology mean for barcode quality? Will camera/software scanners be more tolerant than laser scanners of poorly printed barcodes? Does VDC’s research report imply the demise of barcode verifiers? Hardly–and here’s why:

  • Barcode quality is not just limited to the quality of the printed image. If camera/software scanners are more tolerant of poor print quality, this is only part of the barcode quality story.  Data structure is equally important and yet often overlooked in a barcode quality program.Area Imager 1
  • While the ability to encode higher and higher volumes of data has justified the use of barcodes in more and more critical roles, where there is less toleration for no-reads and (especially) mis-reads.  Although there is no research evidence as yet to suggest that more aggressive camera/software scanners are also more prone to misreads, it seems likely.
  • Barcode quality is becoming a risk management issue.  Barcodes are being used in food safety, pharmaceutical tracking, healthcare delivery and national defense –to name a few of the new, mission-critical uses for barcodes. These new uses also have new requirements for barcode performance: the consequence of poorly performing barcodes can be catastrophic not only to a company’s bottom line, but to its reputation and its future.

Verifiers will have to mature as the barcodes they test are maturing. New verifiers will need to test for attributes beyond the ISO specification for print quality; new verifiers will also need to validate the barcode to ensure that the data is correctly structured and represents an actual entity, whether that is a consumer product, a serialized barcode on a medical device or an authorized shipment in a supply chain.

At least for the foreseeable future, barcode verifiers will continue to have an important job to do, because as barcodes find new things to do, the associated risks are higher and higher. Some advanced verifiers already have validation and data structure checking capabilities.

VDC Research was founded in 1971 and provides critical market intelligence for the auto-id industry.

John Nachtrieb

About John Nachtrieb

Mr. Nachtrieb has 30+ years of hands-on experience in barcode technology. His team imaged the film master for the first commercially scanned barcode in North America (1974). His specialty is barcode quality. He created and hosts a highly customized barcode quality seminar which has been presented to 100's of companies, reaching thousands of quality-concerned people, helping them to avoid barcode problems and manage barcode-related risk.

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