Understanding Data Capture

What do barcode scanners, mobile computers and EPOS systems have in common? You guessed it – all of these technologies fall under the umbrella term ‘data capture solutions’.

Owing to industry specialists such as Symec Technologies, affordable data capture products are now easily accessible to businesses and other organisations. But what exactly is data capture and how are these solutions improving business operations today?

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The move to electronic recordkeeping

Collecting, maintaining and tracking accurate information is essential to the smooth running of businesses across many industries. There was a time when all details had to be recorded by hand and stored in physical formats but advances in technology has enabled more and more businesses to save space, time and money through electronic recordkeeping.

Electronic record maintenance increases efficiency by making it easier for businesses to:

– capture data;

– share information;

– generate reports;

– meet legal reporting requirements.

Data capture

Data capture is a broad term used to describe the process of collecting information, usually from automatic devices or control systems. This action is designed to help users to make sense of unstructured documents, such as forms, emails, letters and faxes. To understand exactly how data capture works, it is helpful to look at some real-life examples of data capture technology.

1. Barcode scanners

Barcode scanners capture data stored inside barcodes and convert it to readable, useful information. These easy-to-use electronic devices are available in a range of different formats, including pen scanners, laser scanners, LED scanners and 2D camera scanners.

In a retail environment, scanners are commonly used to keep count of stock levels, read product information and scan coupons and loyalty cards. Before products hit the shop floor, manufacturers use barcode scanners to track goods on production lines. Industrial and rugged versions are available to enable users to scan many barcodes quickly in harsh conditions. After this stage, distributors use barcode readers to monitor the location of goods in transit.

These devices have a wide range of uses beyond the manufacturing, retail and distribution industries. In the healthcare industry, for example, these tools can be used to read specimen samples, keep track of equipment inventory and identify and track patients during hospital visits.

2. Mobile computers

Thanks to developments in technology, working on the move has never been so easy. With mobile computers, workers no longer have to wait until they’re at a full size computer screen to input and share information with other workers, departments and organisations.

As most consumers will know, the mobile technology market has expanded exponentially in recent years. There are now a wide variety of portable computing solutions available designed to improve business operations. From handheld mobile computers, to tablets, to vehicle-mounted devices, there are transportable products to suit a wide range of functions and industries.

Far proceeding the hype over smartwatches and other wearable consumer gadgets, businesses and other organisations have been benefiting from wearable computers for a number of years now. Workers who need to keep their hands free while performing data capture duties can avail of high-tech wrist strap devices, ring technology and voice-activated, medallion style scanners.

Furthermore, difficult environments and conditions need no longer prevent workers from carrying out the full range of their tasks. A variety of rugged PDAs, able to withstand powerful vibrations, inclement weather, extreme temperatures, dust and water, are now available.

3. EPOS systems

Electronic point-of-sale (EPOS) technology is one of the most important components of the retail environment. Made up of a variety of data capture equipment, such as touchscreen computers, barcode scanners and credit and debit card readers, EPOS systems play a crucial role in the transaction process.

With the flick of a wrist, detailed product information can be shared with the shop assistant via a POS terminal and the customer through a customer display unit. Inventory levels can also be managed through this action, with each product sold being deducted from the overall stock count.

In these technological times, more often than not customers expect to be able to use their credit or debit cards to purchase goods and services. Due to this demand, the number of sales outlets that do not facilitate for card payments is reducing all the time. And it’s not just retailers that are getting in on the action – card readers are being used in the leisure, hospitality, travel, food and trade service industries. These days, these solutions are even available in mobile form. Thanks to mobile card readers, you can pay for a meal without leaving your table at a restaurant, settle up with a taxi driver without cash and even make a payment to a service provider, such as a plumber or electrician, without a trip to the cash point.

By Gail Newland

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