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Get your hands on the best handheld scanners for your business

Handheld scanners enable your team members to carry out important tasks off-site or at multiple locations within your business premises.


Johannesburg, 30 Jan 2019
Read time 3min 40sec

Handheld scanners enable your team members to carry out important tasks off-site or at multiple locations within your business premises. Beyond their obvious usefulness in warehouse situations, handheld scanners are becoming an increasingly common sight in hospitals, and offer ergonomic advantages in retail POS scenarios. As technology advances, handheld scanners are becoming lighter and therefore easier to use for prolonged periods.

With a wide range of handheld scanners available, it's important to know which features to look for. At their simplest, these devices feature a scan engine to capture 1D bar codes. High-density resolution enables the reading of very small bar codes, and it's increasingly important to have the ability to successfully scan bar codes that are presented on device screens.

Corded models remove any concerns about battery life, but only at the expense of reach and mobility. They are, however, ideal for POS settings, where typically the items to be scanned will be brought to the scanning station.

What to look for in a mobile scanner

Other factors to consider, especially where multiple bar codes need to be read in quick succession, are the decoding speed, and also how close together the scanner and bar code need to be brought to each other. Even basic models now offer a scanning distance of up to 150mm, which can make life easier for checkout operators in particular. More advanced handheld scanners are able to read bar codes from 1m away.

Whereas 1D handheld scanners can only read bar codes, 2D scanners can handle a greater variety of inputs, including information-rich bar codes and 2D symbols such as MaxiCode, DataMatrix, QR Code and Aztec. This greatly increases the information that can be captured in each instance.

With cordless handheld scanners, the trade-off is between their "go anywhere" flexibility, and their endurance as determined by their battery life. The speed of recharging, typically achieved by resting the scanner in a cradle, is also a key consideration. Increased operator safety (without cords, there are no potential tripping hazards) are another advantage of these devices.

Any mobile scanner is only as useful as its data interface and ability to interact with your stock control, inventory or sample tracking systems. Look for Bluetooth and USB connectivity to be able to upload scanned data to a laptop.

May we illuminate you?

In terms of the actual scanning, the main choice you'll need to make is between laser and CCD (charge coupled device) scanners. All linear imagers (as scanners are also known) rely on a sensor that measures light density. CCD scanners measure ambient light from the bar code: by using tiny LED lights to capture an image of the code to be read, they operate in a very similar way to digital cameras. The more familiar laser scanners, on the other hand, emit light and then measure the amount reflected back to them.

Laser scanners offer advantages in low-light environments, and typically have a longer range. They are reliable and cost-effective. CCD scanners offer quality of imaging advantages, but are essentially limited to reading linear bar codes.

Specialist features for demanding scenarios

Handheld scanners designed for specific scenarios are also available. Specially sealed units are ideal for hospital and other healthcare environments, as they can withstand being repeatedly sterilised. The higher the IP rating, the better sealed the unit. Additionally, the use of sanitised plastics contributes to reducing the risk of infections.

If you'll be using handheld scanners outside, look for models that are able to function both in low-level light and bright sunlight. Ruggedised scanners offer enhanced resistance to being dropped, or exposed to water or dust.

Handheld scanners offer distinct advantages to all kinds of businesses, but given the variety of factors to be considered in choosing the ideal linear imaging system for your clinic, warehouse or supermarket, it's definitely worth contacting Kemtek's Auto ID team for advice. If you need us to, we can even hold your hand as you select the handheld scanners you need.

Editorial contacts
Kemtek Imaging Systems Karen Stretch karens@kemtek.co.za
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