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Product Code Scanners for Retail

Apr 17, 2019
Product Code Scanners for Retail

Barcode technology has been around for decades and shows no signs of slowing as retailers continue to find new retail solutions to use barcodes.

While reliable and robust, there are still many challenges to overcome, especially in retail environments. Unsuccessful barcode scans from damaged codes, or simply missing a barcode scan, can result in lost revenue and productivity.

In this article, we discuss some of the key considerations when implementing barcode reader technology into a retail environment.

Product Code Scanner on Different Devices

Traditionally, hand-held product code scanners, the ones commonly found in retail and grocery stores, have been used for their low cost, reliability, and simplicity. The powerful lasers are capable of reading barcodes at distances of two feet, making them ideal for those scenarios.

Smartphones: Browser-based Application and Native App

As technology advances, and business needs change, customers and retailers alike can use smartphones to assist with transactions. The advantage is that smartphones are ubiquitous and therefore do not require purchasing a separate hand-held device. They typically have high-resolution cameras and are connected to the internet.

While shopping in an aisle, customers can simply scan barcodes for product information such as a description, unit price, place of origin, and more. By allowing customers to self-add products to a virtual shopping cart or this German gift site which you can buy online, retailers can eliminate making customers stand in line with their products at a physical checkout. For retailers, this can also enable rich data capture for more targeted marketing. This can include product-based experiences, such as offering discounts for future purchases on previously purchased products. It can also include time-based marketing, such as targeting email newsletters or offers during a time a customer is more likely to visit a store.


A desktop environment is also commonly used to manage barcode lookup and product code scanner setups. Using a webcam or saved image on a computer, this method is suited for back-end warehouse management.

Embedded Devices

There are other types of product code scanners that can capture images or read barcodes from a live video stream. According to Reuters, some Wal-Mart stores use automated robots to go around the store aisles to check inventory levels, misplaced items, incorrect pricing, and mislabeling. Automated robots, as well as drones, are becoming more common in large retail spaces.

Challenges when Implementing Barcode Technology

In an ideal scenario, a barcode would be perfectly flat with no wrinkles, rips, or water damage. It would be free of dirt, grime, or marks. It would also be of adequate size and angle and have high resolution and contrast. It would also have no skewing, smudging, or glare of any kind. However, ideal scenarios rarely play out as we would like, and as a result, damaged barcodes are unavoidable. When a barcode becomes difficult to read, it slows down workflow efficiency and can become costly, especially at a large scale.

To overcome difficult-to-read barcodes, you’ll need industrial-grade software capable of advanced processing, such as binarizing, despeckling, smooth-zooming, and so on.

1. Wrinkled Barcode on Packages

Various retailers face unique challenges since many goods, such as clothing, produce, snacks, and other goods are packaged in soft plastic bags which are prone to wrinkling.

Deskewing a wrinkled barcode can sometimes diminish the quality of the image, which in turn reduces the barcode recognition accuracy. However, Dynamsoft Barcode Reader utilizes pre-processing features to auto-deskew barcodes while maximizing their recognition accuracy.

a. Wrinkled Linear Barcode
The first step in decoding this barcode is to binarize the image, which essentially converts the image to black and white.


After analyzing the scanning lines, the result is a combination of red and yellow segment lines. Red lines have a higher degree of confidence that the yellow lines.

Red and Yellow Line Segments on Barcode

Each short line attempts to identify the format of the barcode, which is connected by green dots.


The green dots represent a candidate for one character. The reader then scans across the bars to decode the barcode.

b. Wrinkled QR Code
Upon initiating a scan, the barcode reader scans the entire height and width of an image trying to identify whether a barcode is present. Once a barcode is identified, red and yellow line segments create a grid, which maps the barcode.

combined unnamed

The barcode reader extracts and exploits various features from the image, to help partition the code area into modules with a grid. It then creates a restored version of the distorted barcode and begins the decoding process.

Here’s a video on how the wrinkles are corrected.

2. Glare on Packages

Grocery stores have a wide variety of products and often face issues like light glare from reflective surfaces such as from soda pop cans, condensation build up from frozen foods, and curved barcodes on canned goods.

To learn more about how to improve barcode reader recognition rates, please read our free ebook – Best Practices for Maximizing Barcode Reader Technology.

3. UPC Barcode Lookup

During inventory tracking with UPC lookups or product information lookups, encountering damaged barcodes can seriously hinder workflow. It’s equally important to have industrial grade software during inventory and point-of-sale transactions to overcome these obstacles.

4. Inventory Tracking

Tracking inventory is an essential part of inventory management, especially in automated storage and retrieval systems with thousands or millions of SKUs. You need a barcode reader with precision. Any missed, overlooked, or misplaced items result in inaccurate inventory count, which affects the entire chain all the way down to the customer. Identifying the root cause of these inventory problems is paramount.

Dynamsoft Panorama Barcode Reader

Dynamsoft Panorama™ Barcode Reader is a ground-breaking inventory management solution for warehouse managers that improves barcode reader recognition speed and accuracy, delivering results in real-time. Until now, no product on the market helps to ensure that 100 percent of barcodes are scanned successfully during a reading process. Developers can download the Dynamsoft Barcode Reader app for Android or iOS to try the new Panorama feature.

Dynamsoft Barcode Reader

Dynamsoft Barcode Reader (DBR) is an industrial-grade SDK that enables software developers to embed barcode-reading functionality into their applications. With just a few lines of code, you can easily integrate barcode reader functionality into a web, desktop, or mobile application. This SDK saves months of additional work by removing the need to code from scratch.

With the DBR SDK, end users can scan barcodes from a static image as well as directly from a live video stream. It also supports reading multiple barcodes at once from various image file formats (BMP, JPG, PNG, PDF, and TIFF). This includes device-independent bitmap (DIB) formats, which can be obtained from cameras or scanners.

Dynamsoft Barcode Reader provides flexible APIs to customize scanning settings for different usage scenarios. For the best performance for your specific use case, developers can create barcode reading templates with settings such as:

  • Barcode region
  • Barcode count
  • Barcode format
  • Deblur level
  • Anti-image level

The SDK supports a myriad of 1D and 2D barcode types. Developers can learn more and start a free 30-day trial.

For questions about Dynamsoft’s solutions or to discuss your next application update, please contact our support team.

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