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Why Smartphone-Based Barcode Scanners are a Business Game Changer

Cognex Smartphone-based scanners

In recent years, purpose-built mobile barcode scanners have had a transformative effect on many businesses. With hardware and accompanying software developed from the ground up for specific scanning functions, these units have given users freedom beyond the capabilities of cabled handheld or fixed-mount scanners. But in the long-term, this type of mobile scanner has limitations. They require user training and IT support for their device-specific platforms and additional investment to operate effectively in the long-term. These scanners are typically sealed units so they are difficult or impossible to retrofit with new innovations to keep them up-to-date. For example, many mobile scanners today rely on obsolete operating systems like Windows CE. And when these units fail completely, they either need to be refurbished with original parts from the manufacturer, or replaced with a new unit—resulting in unplanned capital expenses and costly downtime.

However, smartphones are quickly emerging as the solution to all of these problems. Thanks to the advancement in technology over the last decade, today’s contemporary devices are more than capable of running software that powers the scanning software for 1D and 2D barcodes. They can easily transmit and receive scanned barcode data and associated information across a wider network due to the range of wireless connectivity options available like 3G, 4G, 5G, and Wi-Fi. Additionally, they can quickly be updated with the latest software innovations and security patches across widely-used software platforms (such as Android or iOS) that users are already accustomed to through their own personal devices. 

Of course, for all the capabilities of smartphones, they are not especially well-suited for heavy, industrial-level scanning on their own. This is because they do not have the long-range reading capabilities for quick and accurate read rates, and they can be damaged if dropped, which can easily happen in busy working environments. To remedy these shortcomings, accompanying hardware solutions have been developed to provide the physical scanning capability, lighting, user comfort, and rugged protection that smartphones themselves lack. These modular mobile terminals can accommodate most major makes and models of smartphones interchangeably, and can connect to an easily-installed software application on iOS and Android operating platforms.

Whether in retail environments, distribution centers, on busy factory floors and production lines, or out in the field, smartphone-based barcode reading solutions help businesses across a vast spectrum of industries maximize efficiency and traceability. 

  • For the logistics industry, standard and extended range barcode reading capabilities are ideal for reading barcodes on pallets, packages, shipping labels, and high shelves.
  • In airports, mobile barcode reading solutions enable efficient bag tag reading as well as baggage tracking and security. This can help reduce aircraft turnaround times and lost luggage. 4G and 5G connectivity is especially useful as airport Wi-Fi coverage rarely stretches outside terminal buildings.
  • For field services, scanning capabilities can easily be integrated with existing smartphones to read 1D and 2D codes on work orders, replacement parts, and equipment.
  • In the automotive and other heavy manufacturing industries, advanced smartphone-based barcode readers can quickly decode direct part mark (DPM) codes found on a variety of parts and assembly lines. This helps track production status and part stock in real time.
  • For food and beverage producers, mobile scanning solutions aid in food allergen management, traceability and compliance, inventory tracking, and product quality. Even small efficiency improvements in these areas can have a great impact in reducing waste. 
  • Pharmaceuticals and high-end consumer products industries use invisible (to the human eye) ultraviolet (UV) codes for component traceability, authenticity, and quality control. Advanced mobile terminals provide a way to illuminate these invisible codes so businesses can identify counterfeit products or mark codes without affecting the aesthetics of the product design.

Warehouse and automotive applications

Taking all of these benefits into account, smartphone-based barcode reading solutions can be a game changer for businesses across diverse industries looking for more profitability and efficiency. To learn more, download the Smartphone-Based Mobile Solutions Whitepaper.

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