How does barcode scanning work?

The first barcode was scanned on June 26, 1974, at a grocery store in Troy, Ohio, USA. The item in question was a set of ten packets of Wrigley brand chewing gum. Today, barcode scanners are used in almost all stores and other services. But then, how do they work? Explanations.

A barcode is read using a scanner. The scanner illuminates the code using a red light to analyze the black and white lines. Then, the black bars absorb the light beam emitted by the scanner and the white lines reflect it. Then, a photosensitive cell located inside the scanner receives the light reflected by the white bars to convert it into an electrical signal.

The mission of the decoder is to analyze the electrical signal, therefore the image data, and to send the information to the output port. The converted text and product details then save to a database. But then, why black and white bars?

What are the bars for?

“Codes” contain information about a particular product, which translates into letters and numbers. These are coded by bars of different lengths and widths, black and white. Concretely, the black and white lines of the printed label each represent a character. In other words, the bars represent a binary code, therefore composed of 0 and 1. A white line is equivalent to 0 and a black line to 1.

The traceability of the products is carried out thanks to the EANs on the labels. Thus, each barcode is generally accompanied by the twelve digits that correspond to this standard, also called “International Article Number” or “IAN”. The first six digits are the manufacturer’s identification numbers and the next five digits the product article number. The last is a check digit that allows the barcode reader to ensure that the code was scanned correctly.

Make life easier for the trader

In addition to identifying goods, barcode scanners can also transmit them into databases, such as Excel. This automation of data counting is a way for the user to avoid having to collect and transcribe them manually. And therefore, to avoid errors, to ensure a more reliable follow-up of their sales and at the same time, to reduce the waiting time at the checkout.

In addition to scanners, it is now possible to scan barcodes with your mobile phone. And this, thanks to free applications available on the Play Store and the App Store. For example, “QR & Barcode Scanner”.

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