Barcodes are omnipresent. Hence, there may arise a need when you have to scan one. While earlier, dedicated devices such as handheld barcode scanners were required to perform barcode scanning, today, even a smartphone can act as a barcode reader. All you need is barcode scanning software or app on your smartphone or mobile device, and you can perform barcode reading on the go. But, before understanding how barcode scanning software works, you first need to get acquainted with the functioning of a barcode. What is a barcode? What information does it encode? Let’s find out.
What is a Barcode?
A barcode is a machine-readable code that consists of spaces and bars of various widths and alphanumeric information that a barcode scanner can read. Barcodes contain information such as product details, date of manufacturing, expiry date, country of origin, pricing, etc.
Usually, there are four different types of character sets that every barcode contains:
- Numeric — numbers from 0 to 9
- Alpha-numeric — alphabetic characters from A to Z and numbers from 0 to 9
- GS1 AI encodable character set 82 — alphabetic characters from A to Z, numbers from 0 to 9, and special characters
- Full ASCII — ASCII character from value 0 to 127
How does a Barcode Reader App Work?
Unlike handheld barcode scanners that use laser light to detect and encode a barcode, the barcode scanning apps use the mobile device’s camera to capture images and apply image processing techniques to detect the barcode symbology and decode the information encoded.
The below steps explain how a barcode reader app works.
- Once you click on the app icon, it will generate the home screen with multiple options.
- Top-performing barcode reader apps will allow you to perform barcode scanning via live streams, i.e., using your mobile phone’s camera as well as images.
- When you use the live stream option, the app will try to reduce the amount of data and locate the barcode for effective scanning. It tries to transform the image to grayscale and threshold at a specific level to build a 1-bit-per-pixel, black and white image.
- When the resolution of the video is low, the software does not perform downsampling. Thresholding can be enhanced by oversampling.
- In this step, the barcode scanning software will look for the barcode’s outer edges. If a barcode is detected, the barcode reader app will align and frame it by deskewing it.
- Now, the barcode scanner will quantify down the pixels to logical barcode modules. This way, the barcode recognition algorithm gets a leveled field of pixels to further work on.
- The barcode scanning software will try to detect the barcode symbology as each has its own recognition pattern. With the barcode reading API, the app will run several symbologies unless the correct one is found.
- Once the symbology is detected, the app will decrypt the data encoded in the barcode and display information in human-readable formats. However, it may also show output in the form of binary digits. Sometimes, the barcode reader may not be able to read the barcodes. It may be because of the poor condition of the barcode, such as torn, incomplete, wrinkled, etc., or because of the invalid checksum of the barcode or poor environmental conditions such as poor lighting, glare, shadow, etc.
How to Build a Barcode Reader App?
Want to build a barcode reader app on your own but don’t have the time to code? Instead, you can choose a barcode scanning SDK. It allows you to add barcode reading functionality to a web, mobile, or desktop app with minimal programming. Below are some factors that will help you choose an ideal barcode scanner SDK for your business requirements.
- Easy Integration: Whether you are building an Android app or a web app, the barcode scanner SDK should be easy to integrate. It shouldn’t take more than a few lines of code to get you started with barcode scanning.
- Fast Speed: One of the critical benefits of barcode technology is that it offers quick data retrieval. Hence, you wouldn’t want to struggle with a slow barcode reading SDK. Leading ones could read more than 500 barcodes in 60 seconds only! So, make sure you invest in such options.
- Support for Multiple Barcode Symbologies: Different industries use different barcode symbologies. Hence, you may not know which one you come across next. It is essential to choose a barcode scanner SDK that supports standard one-dimensional as well as 2-dimensional barcode types.
- Ability to Read Tough Barcodes: As mentioned above, tough barcodes, such as incomplete, wrinkled, damaged, torn, etc., are challenging to read. An ordinary barcode scanner SDK may not be able to read such barcodes. Choosing a robust barcode reading SDK that reads all such barcodes.
- Performs Well in Challenging Environment: Low light, shadow, and glare may pose a challenge for most barcode scanners. Hence, it is critical to invest in barcode scanner SDKs that can work effectively in challenging conditions.
- Good Technical Support: Even though barcode scanner SDKs are easy to use, it’s hard to evade technical issues and queries. Choosing a vendor known for providing good customer support will help keep technical problems at bay.
Once you have gone through all the features, try the online demo and free trials to make an informed decision. Comparing different options will help you find the best solution for your specific needs.