How Barcode Scanner Works? Functions and Types

How Barcode Scanner Works? Functions and Types-feature image
May 26, 2023 6 Min read

Summary: Barcode scanners are used in several industries to capture and interpret the data present inside a barcode. How does this barcode scanner work? Get more information from the article below!

With the introduction of barcode scanners, it has become much easier for businesses to manage data entry and POS processing. These scanners are used in a myriad of industries including healthcare, retail, manufacturing, education, and so on. From tracking inventory, identifying books edition to making payments or checking flight tickets, barcode scanner is a great tool for accessing data related to a specific product.

Generally, these scanners use light beams for decoding the barcode’s pattern. Once encoded, the information is sent to the computer for further processing. Although they use different types of lasers, cameras, and sensors, but perform the same function of scanning and encoding barcodes.

Keep on reading to learn more about barcode scanners in the article below!

What is a Barcode Scanner?

A barcode scanner helps in capturing and reading the information present inside a barcode. It consists of an illumination system, decoder, and a sensor.

The scanner scans black and white lines present in a barcode by highlighting the code via the red light. After that, it is converted into the data which is forwarded to the computer for information.

What are the Types of Barcode Scanner?

There are different types of barcode scanners that are used for scanning and encoding information available in the barcodes. Here are the types of scanners you can consider:

  • Pen Type Scanner: It has a LED light and a photodiode set on the tip which is used for scanning barcodes on different items.
  • Laser Barcode Scanner: This type of scanner uses a flashing laser light beam to read the barcodes and capture information.
  • CCD (Charge-Coupled Device) Scanner: This type of scanner comes with a row of mini sensors in the front. It generates waveforms which correspond to specific bars and spaces. After that, the data is decoded and sent to the computer.
  • Camera-Based Scanner: The camera-based barcode scanner comes with a small camera that captures the barcode image. This image is then scanned in the scanner and the decoded barcode is transferred to the computer system.
  • Fixed Barcode Scanners: The fixed scanners are mounted or fixed at the counter and the barcode is passed from it for decoding information.
  • 2D Barcode Scanners: These scanners are wireless scanners that work on Bluetooth. It lets you scan barcodes from anywhere without relying on cable connection.

What are the Barcode Scanner Components?

What are the Barcode Scanner Components?

The barcode scanner comprises of three components such as Illumination System, sensors, and the decoder that facilitate the encoding and decoding of information present inside a barcode. Here are details on how these components work-

  • Illumination System: This system puts on the light on the required barcodes for reading the codes and preparing the image for relay that will be processed. Other scanners also use cameras or sensors to read barcodes.
  • Sensor: The sensor takes the processed image and converts the code present into electrical signals or analog signals.
  • The Decoder: The decoder reads the analog signals presented by the sensor and converts into useful information after validating the barcode through the check digit.

How Does Barcode Scanner Work?

Barcode scanner works in the following steps for decoding the barcode data:

Step 1: The scanner sheds the beam lights onto the barcode. However, other scanners also use cameras, sensors, or LED light for scanning.

Step 2: The light will reflect the barcode into the light-detection electronic component, the photoelectric cell.

Step 3: The scanner will move past the barcode and the photoelectric cell creates an on-off pulses pattern related to the barcode black and white stripes.

Step 4: The electronic circuit attached to the scanner then converts the pulses into digits.

Step 5: The digital data generated via scanner is sent to the configured computer system that finally figures out the barcode data.

Barcode Scanner vs Barcode Reader

Both barcode scanner and reader are used to capture and encode different types of barcodes. However, both are different from each other in several aspects as enumerated below:

MetricsBarcode ScannersBarcode Readers
PurposeUsed for basic barcode scanning in supermarkets, retail stores, etc.Used for more advanced scanning such as in logistics, warehouses, etc.
Device TypeThey are generally handheld devicesThey are both hand-held and fixed position devices
AccuracyLess accurate as they are scanned from a single angle.More accurate as code is scanned from several angles
SpeedThey are generally slow as they rely on optical recognitionThey are faster as they do not rely on optical recognition
AngleScans the barcode from the front angleScans the barcode from multiple angle

What are Barcodes Used For?

Barcodes encode information into black and white bars and alphanumeric characters. The barcodes can be used to encode different types of information such as-

  • Inventory Tracking: The barcodes are placed on inventory products along with their details to track, manage, and optimize the stock levels.
  • Identity Card: Barcoded identity cards are issued to employees and students to provide access to facilities or store their information.
  • Books: The barcodes are encoded at the end of different books like novels, children’s books, etc., with an International Standard Serial Number to identify its edition and author.
  • Equipment Tracking: Many facilities put a barcode on their equipment to keep track of its details like purchase history, maintenance period, location, expiry date, etc.
  • Flight Tickets: Flight tickets come with a barcode that provides the ticket checker with the relevant information related to the tickets and lets passengers enter the airport.
  • Digital Payment: Most UPI apps generate a separate UPI ID and a QR code which is a 2D barcode to make and accept payments.

How to Get a Barcode Scanner?

To buy the right barcode scanner, you need to consider a few factors like the type of barcodes you will scan, your budget, product warranty, hardware requirement, and so on.

There are multiple retail outlets where you can buy a barcode scanner. However, you can also explore these scanners available on at the lowest prices.

What are the Hardwares Required with Barcode Scanner?

You need a POS machine, computer system, USB cable, and a mounting device. The mounting device will help you to fix your hand-held barcode scanner. The USB cable will be used to connect your scanner to the POS machine and computer system for transferring data.

Similarly, the POS machine connected with the barcode scanner will automatically record all the information captured through it related to the barcode.


Most products, be it a book or a biscuit packet, have a barcode that successfully stores all the relevant data related to that product. By scanning these codes via a barcode scanner, you can easily decode the data and use it for product tracking and inventory management.


  1. How are barcode scanners so accurate?

    The barcode reader and scanner utilize a photo sensor for converting the barcode into an electrical signal through measuring its bars and spaces. After that, it translates patterns into various characters which can be read by the computer.

  2. How does a barcode scanner work step by step?

    The barcode scanner first puts the light on the barcode to scan it. Once scanned, the barcode is binarized and encoded by the encoder. Lastly, the encoded data in the form of readable information is transmitted to the computer for further procedure.

  3. How do barcode reader store data?

    The barcode reader directs a light beam over the barcode and measures the light’s amount and pattern which is reflected. The scanner then converts this light energy into electrical energy. This energy is then converted into useful data via a decoder and forwarded to the required computer.

  4. How are barcodes generated?

    Barcodes and QR codes are generated via software. The user needs to decide the data type you need to add in the barcode and select the appropriate barcode format. Once done, the required software will generate a unique machine-readable barcode automatically.

  5. Is barcode reader and barcode scanner the same?

    Both barcode reader and barcode scanner perform similar scanning functions. However, they both are different in some ways, like scanners are generally handheld devices whereas readers are generally fixed located devices. Similarly, barcode scanner scans the barcode from a single angle whereas barcode reader scans it from multiple angles, and so on.

  6. Are there two types of barcode readers?

    You can use 5 types of barcode readers to read and decode the barcodes including (charge-coupled device) scanners, laser scanners, slot scanners, image scanner, and pen wands. However, you can choose any of them based on the size and need of your company.

  7. What is the difference between scanner and card reader?

    A card reader is used to read information present in debit or credit card via chips. Whereas, a scanner can read the data present on any product, paper, etc., in the form of barcodes.

  8. What is the difference between barcode reader and optical character reader?

    The optical character reader helps in converting the typed or handwritten documents into machine readable format. Whereas barcode reader scans the barcode to provide the encoded data present in it.

  9. What method is used to read a barcode?

    There are three types of barcode scanning methods available to read a barcode including CCD method, laser method, and pen method.

  10. How do mobile barcode scanners work?

    You need to download a barcode scanner application for your device from the play store and app store. Once downloaded, you need to point out the device camera on the barcode, and then the app will automatically provide information present in the barcode.

  11. Can barcode scanners read QR codes?

    QR codes comprise of various squares, dots, hexagons, etc, for encoding data. They are best decoded via 2D barcode scanners. However, they cannot be encoded with general 1D barcode scanners.

Written by Varsha

Varsha is an experienced content writer at Techjockey. She has been writing since 2021 and has covered several industries in her writing like fashion, technology, automobile, interior design, etc. Over the span of 1 year, she has written 100+ blogs focusing on security, finance, accounts, inventory, human resources,... Read more

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