A warehouse worker walks over to a picking location and instead of reaching for an industrial scanner, takes out an iPhone to photograph the package's bar code. As improbable as that might sound, Steve Banker of ARC Advisory Group says he's heard of at least one company that's using a low-cost iPhone application to scan bar codes in its warehouse. In a recent newsletter, Banker said the company was experimenting with an app designed for the consumer market that it had reconfigured to enter the barcode number into its warehouse management system (WMS).
Is it really feasible? Banker found that user reviews of the iPhone scanners were largely unfavorable, due in part to poor camera focus on early models. The improved camera in the iPhone 3GS model has made a difference, but reliability still fell short of the mark, especially in low light conditions. "An industrialstrength bar-code scanner has to be nearly flawless," he wrote.
Banker listed several other reasons why iPhones were ill-suited to barcode scanning applications: Reads take too long, the camera has to be lined up carefully with the bar code, an expensive iPhone probably wouldn't survive a 4-foot drop onto a concrete floor, and finally: "Do you really want your workers off in the stacks surfing the Web or calling their friends?"
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