Project: Replacing Yesterday's Technology - Building a Better Barcode Scanner
Here at ameriDroid, our back office administration and shipping infrastructure all runs on single board computers (SBCs). We interface our SBCs with other equipment such as receipt printers for generating packing lists, and barcode readers for scanning order receipts. We use browsers for accessing our infrastructure's software, so we can interact with our software on any device that has a web browser. This makes for an effective and robust system.
Recently, we've started having problems with a couple of our Voyager 1202g 1D laser barcode scanners (~$200 each now, but originally much more expensive). These are very difficult to troubleshoot because there is no easy way to determine where the problem lies. Some of the problematic possibilities are:
- The scanner itself
- The Bluetooth connection between the scanner and the base
- The USB connection from the base to the SBC
- The SBC itself
- The SBC's OS
As usual, we are always looking for ways to simplify and improve our processes. Finicky and expensive barcode scanners do NOT aid us in our mission.
While mulling over the best way forward with these obstacles in mind, one method that came to us is that we could simply use an SBC with a screen and a camera to create a robust barcode scanning system that is reliable and easy to troubleshoot.
Consider these items:
- ODROID-C0 ($28.95)
- C0 Connector Pack ($1.95)
- 3000mAh 3.7V LiPo Battery Pack ($12.95)
- ODROID-VU5A ($56.95)
- 8GB eMMC with Android ($12.95)
- 720p Webcam ($19.95)
- WiFi Module 0 ($5.95)
Total cost: $139.65
With these items, plus a free app such as Barcode & QR Code Keyboard for Android, we can build a better barcode scanner!
We chose the C0 because it has an integrated battery circuit, it's pretty inexpensive, and it can easily run Android.
The above app (and other apps like it) will replace the stock Android keyboard with one that has a barcode scanning key on it. When that key is pressed, the camera turns on and the system will start looking for barcodes. Once a barcode is found, it will convert it to text and enter it in whatever field was active when the barcode key was pressed. Additional actions like automatically submitting an ENTER keypress can be configured.
(Prototype without case shown here)
This setup can still run into problems, but they are much easier to troubleshoot. The most likely problem is either the OS isn't working, the WiFi connection isn't working, or the camera isn't working. Any of these problems can be determined simply by looking at the device, and a suitable fix can be implemented easily and quickly. However, many additional benefits can be realized:
- Scans 1D and 2D barcodes
- Scans from light-emitting devices, like screens (not only reflective surfaces like most laser scanners)
- Can scan multiple barcodes at once
- Can scan multiple types of barcodes without reprogramming
- Can easily be customized for future needs and additional automation
We're happy to say that we are now utilizing our better barcode scanner in our daily operations here!
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