How to Read A Barcode

You would have noticed a pattern of numbers and parallel lines on the covers of certain grocery products when you are shopping. Are you wondering why these vertical lines of varying widths and numbers are there on the cover? Well, they are known as the barcodes and serves different purposes in different industries. In today’s day and age, businesses need to stay competitive in order to earn market success.

The best way to improve the image of the business and to improve its bottom line is to use the barcode data technology. Some of the businesses that can make use of the barcodes technology include manufacturing units, the point of sale applications, healthcare industry, retail businesses, warehousing and distribution and the packaging industry.

What is a barcode?

A barcode is a data that will describe the product or the object that is carrying this code. These codes can only be readable using an optical, code reading machine. They are normally represented as parallel vertical lines with varying space widths between them. There would be certain numbers printed just below these parallel lines. This is what a barcode is.

The code will contain the detailed information about the product and once you use a barcode scanner to read the codes, you will get details about the product. These bar codes that come in parallel lines and numbers are known as a linear or one-dimensional barcode. Later, two-dimensional barcodes came into the picture and they are represented using dots, rectangles, hexagons, squares and other geometric patterns.

How to work with barcodes?

As mentioned earlier, the barcode will be given as wide and narrow vertical bars. Each of the code will start with a special start character and the end of the barcode will be carrying a special stop character. You will need to use a barcode scanner or a reader to interpret the data that is printed in the barcode.

The barcode reader will use the photo sensor in it to convert the lines and the numbers in the barcode into electrical signals. This will be done as the sensor moves over the barcode from its start character to the end character of every line. The scanner will measure the width between each of the parallel lines as well as the spaces.

Once it gets the different details, the scanner will convert the patterns into regular characters. This gathered information will be instantly sent to the computer for storing the data. The barcode scanners or readers are the optical scanners that are commonly used to interpret the data in the bar codes.

With the advancements in technology, there are application softwares available now for all kinds of devices that can be used to read the codes, even on smart phones with camera facility. The barcodes became a huge rage when it was introduced in the supermarkets to automate the checkout systems as it helped in speeding up the billing process to a great extent.

Reading barcodes

The normal UPC barcodes are an identity that is assigned to a company that manufactures or sells products. There will be specific code that the company will assign to every product apart from the UPC barcodes to easily identify a particular product.

If you want to know what the barcodes of a certain product mean, then you will have to make use any barcode scanner to get the data in the codes. In some rare cases, you will be able to find out more information than just the 12 digits.

Reading barcodes using scanners

If we do not have the technology and the device to read barcodes, then it is as good as not having a barcode. The barcode scanners have turned into a blessing for all the retail chain grocery stores to make bills for the customers quickly and efficiently.

Just run the barcode scanner over the barcode on the product and the data will be interpreted by the computer and will instantly be reflected in the grocery bill. There is no need to sit and type the product name or the barcode numbers provided on the product to generate its bill.

The barcode scanners will scan the black as well as the white vertical lines that are seen on the product very quickly. Just run the code in front of the scanner and the code will be picked up by the scanner. The scanned information will quickly be fed to the computer or the checkout terminal. The computer will be able to quickly identify the product that is scanned using the barcode scanner from its product database and show it up in the bill.

How is the reading done?

  • The scanning head of the barcode scanner emits an LED or a laser light on the barcode when the product code is brought close to the scanner
  • The light will reflect back after hitting the barcode into an electronic element known as the photoelectric cell, which can detect the light
  • The white spaces seen in the barcode will be reflecting more light than the dark black areas of the barcode
  • The cell will create an on-off pulse pattern as the light moves over the barcode and this pattern will match with the zebra stripes
  • The barcode scanner is attached to an electronic circuit and this will help in converting the pulses seen as on-off options into binary digits
  • These digits are then sent to the computer that is connected to the barcode scanner and this will read the code as 11011001 and will check it with the product database

If you are having a low-end barcode scanner, then you will find the unit to have just a single photoelectric cell. This cell will detect the black and the white stripes of the barcode one by one when the scanner is moved after the code.

The sophisticated scanners have many such cells and can detect the full code at the snap of a finger. The sequences of the black and the white stripes are what the scanner is looking at and not the zeros and the ones. They will convert the binary numbers that they read as decimals and this is the final output that you get from the scanner.

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