Move over laser, image capture is coming up on the outside

Bar code technology is a no brainer; you need it for accurate tracking and data capture. The market is well-served by various devices that do the bar code job well. But, things are moving far beyond reading of one-dimensional bar codes. These days we hear a lot more about image capture applications and technologya field of technological development and excellence in which Hand Held Products is firmly rooted. We talk to Phil Jarrett, UK & Ireland Channel Sales Manager, Hand Held Products, to find out just how the company is forging ahead with this interesting technology.

Q:  How long has Hand Held Products been involved in developing image capture?

A:  Hand Held Products has been in this market since 1972this takes into account the acquisition of Welch Allyn and its imaging expertise and technologies. The company has a rich heritage in imaging, with technological developments for solving issues in a wide range of applications throughout the retail, logistics, manufacturing, government, and healthcare markets.

We lead the market with our Adaptus Imaging Technology and we know that hand held devices using this technology are benefiting users with unrivalled versatility and value by delivering performance well beyond basic bar code reading.

Adaptus is an extremely important development that enables the reading of all known bar codesand damaged ones, 2D symbologies, signatures, and captures images for proof of delivery and so on. Its very flexible and this aspect helps end users to futureproof their investments.

Q:  So are you saying that a device fitted with an Adaptus engine can more or less take anything thrown at it in terms of imaging and reading?

A:  Yes. Let me explain a little about the technology. In a nutshell, Adaptus has two parts: a camera and a brain.

The camera element is the IT4000 image engine. This is a revolutionary combination of a digital camera, illumination optics, and aiming optics. Its extremely accurate and although laser-based scanners have maintained a long-range reading edge over and above imaging technology for some time, were now seeing depth of field issues being overcome and we can perform extremely well alongside traditional scanners.

The brain combines leading-edge computing architecture, coupled with fourth-generation decoding and image processing software. This is the part that reads and interprets the image. Not only can it manage all the current symbologies such as 1D, stacked linear, and matrix codes, but has on-board capabilities to handle Data Matrix, PDF417, MicroPDF417, postal codes, TLC39, MaxiCode, EAN.UCC, and other future symbologies, for example 2005 Sunrise. This gives us the ability to continually keep ahead of the game without having to constantly re-engineer our technology; all we need to do are software fixes as new demands emerge.

Q:  At what stage is todays technology with regard to performance, reliability, and cost?

A:  Weve already touched on one aspect of performancedepth of field. Todays imagers now offer both long and short range capabilities, which means we are getting closer to a world where one device can do many types of task. Thats obviously good news for our customers. Read rates are quicker than laser at 270 scans per second due to faster decoding, so great performance is guaranteed.

Reliability of image-based devices is excellent. We have no moving parts in the image engine so that gives a high-level of intrinsic robustness anyway and the payback for this is fewer repair issues. Weve not seen any returns to base and were confident that were supplying extremely robust devices.

We believe that Adaptus-equipped devices are cost-effective investments. If you simply look at the robust nature of the technology and the fact that there are virtually zero after-sales repairs, users are not faced with ongoing maintenance costs. Also, were offering technology that will look after their needs well into the future, which in itself makes for a good return on investment.

Q:  What percentage of your business represents image capture? Is it growing?

A:  Most of our business is image capture. Our total percentage of EMEA sales for image capture has grown by 40 per cent last year. What is more our OEM sales are growing with burgeoning demand from other vendors such as Symbol Technologies and Intermec needing to respond to their customers requests for image-based devices.

Q:  Who is using it and for what?

A:  Were seeing a wide range of uses. Specsavers for example is using the IMAGETEAM 4600 for reading micro PDF symbologiesthis company has 3000 of these devices in circulation so thats a great reference application for image capture. Another example is National Vehicle Distribution. This organisation is using Dolphin 9500s for its mobile computing application. The Dolphins are used to track more than 150,000 vehicle movements. It is also used as a mobile phone within the trucks, and the integral camera is used to capture images that can be attached to damage reports.

Q:  Do you think well ever get to the stage when imagers will completely replace other types of readers?

A:  Were probably closer to this happening than we think. Already were seeing miniature digital cameras in mobile phones and so people are getting comfortable with the technology. And with image capture surpassing traditional laser-scanning apps where 2D symbologies are replacing many linear bar codes, were getting near to the point where image capture will dominate the market.

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