It seems today that nearly every aspect of our personal, public, and professional lives is rapidly becoming digitized. What were once plans, processes, and records have become applications, digital workflows, and expansive databases. However, there will always be a distinct need to manage those items of life and business that must remain analog. Additionally, as our digital means continue to grow, the ability to effectively direct digital actions becomes extremely important.
For these needs, companies utilize solutions that can encode key data into a medium that can exist in a physical, visual world and manage the flow of information from one space to another. Two prime examples of this are barcode scanners and QR code scanners. Both facilitate the translation of physical data into digital. Today, we’ll examine both technologies and see how they differ in their approach, advantages, and applications.
As stated before, a barcode is one way to visually encode information, allowing that information to be carried in a physical form until it needs to be read by a digital management system. The black lines and numbers on a barcode utilize a specific taxonomy that attributes information to the different designs and combinations that are possible. In theory, the barcode can store as much information as necessary so long as the barcode can grow in width.
Barcode scanners are made up of three main components that drive their processes. First is the lighting element. You’ve no doubt been made aware of the red “laser” that you use to scan the barcodes on your groceries. This is a prime example of a lighting element. When the system reads a barcode, it is reading the reflection of the physical barcode. The laser light creates this reflection for the rest of the scanner to read.
The second component is the scanner. While the entire system is referred to as a scanner, this part of the device reads the code provided by the lighting element and transfers that analog data down the system to be translated, displayed, logged, or whatever function the data serves in your system.
The final piece is the decoder. Simply put, the decoder is the part of the barcode system that translates the physically encoded information into digital signals that it sends to the computer system. Decoders can be located in different parts of the system but they always exist between the light element and the connection back to the main computer.
Barcode scanners are a proven and accepted technology. Their use has penetrated multiple areas of commerce, production, and daily life. This widespread presence has led to progressive developments and optimizations that ensure a smooth and efficient process.
These types of scanners also make use of an array of information taxonomies. So one system can be built around a variety of environments and needs. This is why you’ll find major distribution, information, and consumer goods companies taking full advantage of their barcode scanner systems.
The longstanding and prolific use of barcode scanners also means that repair technicians have a large history to pull on in order to service these units. Our teams of repair personnel can effectively identify and address regular maintenance issues, and troubleshoot problems with the technology to allow for a longer device lifespan.
When most people think of a QR code, they immediately imagine the classic square shape filled with various small black and white boxes of different sizes. Much in the same way that a barcode uses a series of lines and numbers to encode information, QR codes use this unique visual representation to achieve a similar task.
Different elements of a QR code seem to be universal from code to code, these elements are in place to give cameras and sensors a frame of reference to read the code. Because the codes include these guideposts, QR codes can take on different colors, shapes, and sizes than other types of encoded information.
QR codes employ much of the same technology and approach that barcodes do. They contain information that has been visually encoded and prepared for a scanner to read. The main difference is in how a QR code organizes this information.
A barcode organizes data horizontally along a line. In theory, the only limit on the amount of data that can be encoded is in how long the code is allowed to be. A QR code circumvents this limitation by encoding data horizontally and vertically.
However, not all QR codes are created with the same capabilities since all QR codes are given a letter code that determines the amount of the physical code that can be obstructed. These amounts are represented as ratios and scale as the code grows in size.
QR codes possess a key function and difference from more traditional encoded mediums. QR codes are able to interact with a smartphone camera. This allows anyone with such a device to carry an entire scanning and decoding system with them at all times.
This main advantage has made QR codes popular with marketers, promoters, and advertisers.
QR codes also have such a high level of versatility that they can actually be customized and designed to take on different shapes and represent data in different ways.
Barcode scanners and QR code scanners can be implemented in a wide range of industries including:
The amount of data a QR code can hold over a barcode is arguably the most significant difference. QR codes are two-dimensional as opposed to their one-dimensional barcode counterparts. This means that QR codes can contain much more data. Barcodes on items we purchase are not unique.
Whereas a barcode only contains information in a horizontal direction, a QR code contains information in both a horizontal and a vertical direction, hence the name “2-dimensional code.” Due to this structural difference, a QR code contains a hundred times more information than a barcode and has greater potential.
There are two classes of barcodes: 1D and 2D. 1D codes, such as the UPC code, are usually variable-width black and white spaces. 2D codes, such as QR codes and Data Matrix, use squares, hexagons, and other shapes to store data. Not all barcode scanners can read all barcodes.
The QR – which stands for “quick response” – code is basically a barcode on steroids. While the barcode holds information horizontally, the QR code does so both horizontally and vertically.
All barcode readers use a light source and sensors to detect and measure the intensity of light reflected back by the white spaces within the unique pattern of parallel bars. The reflected light is detected through a photodiode, producing an electronic signal that corresponds to the barcode pattern.