Scanning VIN Codes with a Barcode Reader

Last Updated on 2021-09-29

Anyone tasked with regularly and manually capturing vehicle identification numbers (VIN) knows how troublesome they can be when doing so from a vehicle. You usually have to hover over and look through the windshield at the engraved numbers etched in low contrast. Or, you can kneel to look at the usually sideways sticker placed on the door or door opening to get to the long 17-digit code. There is an easier way and it’s by scanning it.

Dynamsoft’s barcode SDK is optimized for scanning VIN codes:

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Scanning VIN Barcodes

A VIN is a unique code that is used in the automotive industry to identify individual motor vehicles. It is standardized by ISO 3779 and ISO 4030. VINs have been in use in the US since 1954. But they weren’t standardized until the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) standardized them in 1981.

Most vehicles sold today come with VINs that have a barcode next to them. There are various applications for wanting to expedite the capture of VIN-related data. Government facilities tasked with processing vehicle registrations is one. It might be car auto insurance agencies processing new clients. Or, it could be car dealerships taking in new vehicle inventories or working with customers for service of vehicles.

VIN Characteristics and Symbology

These VIN codes on cars are a subset of Code 39 barcodes. However, it’s not automatic that any barcode scanner capable of decoding Code 39 codes will decode VIN barcodes. VIN codes have a strict standard to be considered for successful scanning.

A VIN Consists of Several Sections to Make Up its 17 Digits and it Varies By Country of Use

The Uniform Symbology Specification Code 39 (USS Code 39) is nearly identical to Code 39. USS Code 39 is used for vehicle identification, and while based on Code 39, it does not contain start and stop characters. The name of code 39 comes from the fact that it could only encode 39 characters in total. However, in its most recent version, the character set has been increased to 43. You can read more about the specifics of Code 39 here.

It’s important to note the VIN that is made from 17 alpha-numeric digits isn’t necessarily encoded as Code 39 itself. The 17 digits can be encoded as other symbologies such as Data Matrix and QR codes, depending on the usage scenario.

The 17 Digits Are Prefixed With an “I”

Sometimes we may find a leading “I” at the beginning which makes the barcode reading result total up to 18 digits. But according to the regulation, the letters O (o), I (i), and Q (q) (to avoid confusion with numerals 0, 1, and 9) are illegal characters in a VIN. So why a leading “I”?

The “I” actually stands for “import” so as to sometimes identify imported vehicles. Thus we can simply strip it off and parse the following 17 characters. 

Using Dynamsoft Barcode Reader

Rapidly processing VIN information is possible with Dynamsoft Barcode Reader SDK. Developers can easily implement 1D and 2D barcode scanning in their applications. The barcode SDK gives developers the flexible APIs needed to customize scan settings for different usage scenarios, such as VINs. You can create barcode reading templates with settings such as barcode region, barcode count, barcode format, deblur level.

Scan VIN Codes from Mobile Browsers and More

The SDK is available for Android, iOS, JavaScript, Linux and Windows platforms. So, it’s possible to use iOS or Android smartphones, tablets, and even wearable devices to deploy enterprise-grade barcode scanning and data capture.

You can try a demo online or even better, get a 30-day free trial. Both opportunities are below.

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