Can Enterprises use Smartphones for Auto-ID and Data Collection?

codereadrRight now, hundreds of millions of smartphones are being sold to people all over the world and over 2 billion smartphones and tablets are already in use. Smartphones have cameras. Those cameras can take a picture of a bar code, decode it and transmit it to a server for updating a database or verification (as in a mobile ticketing application).    Do these smartphones have a place in warehouses? Field work (delivery/service/logistics)?  Inventory management?  Technology like this can obviously save companies thousands of dollars in equipment purchases and eliminate the time and energy of tracking and maintaining those bar code reading assets.   We asked Richard Eicher Jr., the CEO of codeREADr - a smartphone app that is designed to be in the field and has been downloaded tens of thousands of times, for a few hundred words on the topic. Here are his thoughts: 

"Traditional mobile computers are rugged, purpose-built devices, often with advanced scanning  capabilities. They are indispensible for many enterprise applications. However, they can cost $1,500 or more, without even considering the associated software & service costs, and they can sometimes be inconvenient to deploy.

On the other hand, smartphones and tablets, with or without rugged cases, offer a lower cost, easily replaceable and customizable alternative. In many cases, these ‘consumer’ devices are more convenient to deploy (e.g. smaller, lighter and already owned) and, importantly, can offer more features, applications and utilities.

Growth Trend

The adoption of mobile POS systems by retailers that use iOS and Android devices has grown steadily for several years. The use of these devices for ticket validation and lead retrieval has also been growing. However, that’s not been the case for the majority of enterprise auto-ID and data collection (AIDC) applications for field service, healthcare, manufacturing, utilities, transportation and logistics.codereadr 2

What is Holding Up Enterprise Adoption?

The camera on smartphones and tablets is excellent for scanning QR and UPC barcodes. However, it was far less efficient at reading the barcode symbologies used for the majority of commercial applications.  While some of those barcodes are being replaced by QR codes, most businesses will continue to use
commercial symbologies for a long time to come.  Enterprises have successfully used bluetooth scanning accessories or attached scanning hardware to smartphones, thus enabling enterprise-grade scanning. However, there is a significant cost consideration for these devices and, again, there’s the issue of convenience when deploying these devices in the field.

What has Changed?

In our recently launched new scan engine, dubbed SD PRO, (the codeREADr enterprise app)  enterprises can scan all the popular commercial symbologies using only the camera on iOS and Android devices.  SD PRO is special for the following reasons.

a.) Speed – decoding measured in tens of milliseconds with many devices.

b.) Decoding accuracy – essential for mission-critical data collection applications.

c.) Exception handling – scanning barcodes that are damaged, partially obscured, dense, small or poorly printed, even in poorly lit environments and at extreme angles.

What about Integration?

The codeREADr app is fully integrated with Skycore’s cloud-based codeREADr Platform. Clients can create their own workflows and permissions for data collection, authentication and validation. They can deploy both real-time services (online) and on-device services (i.e. without an internet connection).

The Future

We launched codeREADr in May, 2009. The architecture of the platform was carefully designed so that our clients have the flexibility to deploy codeREADr for both traditional AIDC applications and those that they haven’t even thought of yet. We see that a lot – where clients find they can now collect data in so many more ways than ever before.  As iOS and Android devices continue to permeate the enterprise space, forward looking developers and IT managers are creating new, revenue-generating and cost-saving services to track, validate, authenticate and collect data with these amazing devices. 

Undoubtedly apps like codeREADr will be a part of the future.  Billions of smartphone devices already in the field, ready for deployment are too great to ignore and businesses everywhere are looking for savings.  
    We think this is a sleeper niche that bears close watching.  While the bar code industry has been largely dismissive of smartphones and tablets for commercial use, businesses like Apple have been utilizing the technology in the field for years.  Furthermore, the iPad is the fastest growing device being adopted in retail.   Sometimes, the future isn't quite as you expected it to be. 

More about SkyCore and codeREADr can be found on their website. Click on the video below for a 1 minute demonstration of the app being used on smartphones and tablets.  

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