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Laser Scanner or Imager for Barcode Asset Tracking - Which is better?

Many of us think of lasers when we think of scanning barcodes. Indeed, lasers were the dominant scanning technology for the first several decades of the barcoding industry. Around 2007, new imaging technology became competitive with lasers. Today lasers are no longer the best choice in all (or even most) scenarios. So the question remains between laser scanners versus barcode imagers: which should you choose for your business?

Dr Evil Meme: Frickin Laser Beams


In this chapter, we’ll explore the barcode scanning technology that is being used successfully for asset tracking. In keeping with the theme of this book, we won’t be going into great detail about how the technologies fundamentally work. Instead, we’ll focus on what you need to know to make a wise choice in technology and have good outcomes depending on your particular use case.

We'll explore:

  • Ability to read the most barcode symbologies
  • Reading a barcode on a screen
  • Reading at a distance
  • Motion tolerance
  • Reading poor quality barcodes
  • Lighting conditions
  • Discrimination
  • Labels

Larry Silverman

March 9, 2016

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Pitfall: Serial Numbers are Not Unique

Choosing a Tracking ID

When tracking your equipment, every item must have a unique identifier (ID) assigned so the system can tell them apart. This can be called the “tracking ID”, “tag ID” or “barcode”.

But how do you choose the format of that unique ID in your serial number tracking system? What do you encode into the barcode?

Depending on your industry, this might already be decided for you. The GS1 organization helps many industries standardize their barcodes. As a company, you would register a globally-unique barcode prefix with GS1. Your company is then free to use the remaining space in the barcode to encode your own unique numbers.

If GS1 barcodes aren’t right for you, then the most important thing is that you choose numbers that are going to be unique among all your supply chain partners, among all their assets and all the systems they might use.

Many assets have serial numbers assigned by the manufacturer. The serial number may be on a sticker, a metal plate, or indelibly stamped or engraved into the asset.

TrackAbout recommends capturing the serial number in the asset tracking system whenever possible. The serial number serves as an extra way to find an asset should the barcode or RFID tag become unreadable or lost.

You might think, “Hey, the manufacturer went to all this trouble to stamp this serial number on here. It’s unique, let’s use it as our tracking ID.” Please believe me when I say this is a Really Bad Idea.

Larry Silverman

February 26, 2016

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Use Shortcut Barcodes to Accelerate Your Work

Speed Up Work with Shortcut Barcodes

If you only think of a barcode as a tracking ID, think bigger. Shortcut barcodes can be used as work accelerators enabling great gains in worker productivity.

A shortcut barcode is a custom barcode that speeds data entry or makes the software do something other than just collect data. Whenever there's a chance to scan a barcode rather than type or tap on the screen, we try to use a shortcut barcode.

TrackAbout's mobile apps support shortcut barcodes in many places. We’ve worked with our customers to accelerate mobile workflows in dozens of ways through the clever use of well-placed custom barcodes.

This chapter will discuss several uses of shortcut barcodes that we've implemented in TrackAbout.

Larry Silverman

December 16, 2015

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Barcodes: A Brief History

The first barcode, with a design like a bullseye, was invented in 1948 by two Drexel University students named Norman J Woodland and Bernard Silver. They were interested in tackling the problems of the supermarket industry, which sorely needed a better method of inventory management and customer check-out. The pair received a patent in 1952. Long story short, it worked in the lab but was wildly impractical due to the limitations of the technology of the day.

Bullseye Barcode Design from Patent US2612994

The first practical implementation of a linear barcode came in the 1960s. The Association of American Railroads sponsored the project and Sylvania (Needham, Massachusetts) built the KarTrak ACI (Automatic Car Identification) system.

David J. Collins, an MIT graduate, designed the system. He had become aware of the need for tracking rail cars while working for the Pennsylvania Railroad as an undergraduate.

Collins' KarTrak system used a pattern of 3M Scotchlite blue and orange strips which encoded mainly ownership details and a unique car number.

KarTrack ACI Barcode
"KarTrak code" photo by Quinn Rossi - Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons.

Larry Silverman

November 19, 2015

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