Barcoding at the NRF
I’m back from spending an interesting day at the NRF Expo in New York City. The booths were teeming with activity, and an extensive array of products was on display – mobility, of course, continued to be the raging theme dominating the in-store customer engagement technologies market.
The barcode scanners and printers showcased at this show set the tone for what we can expect to see from the supplier community in 2012 – tweaks to existing product lines based on internal assessment and customer feedback, as opposed to radical product innovations.
- Motorola has marked its entry into the general-purpose linear imaging space with the cordless LI4278 (which can be mounted on the cradle used by its popular Laser Scanner LS4278), featuring high angular & motion tolerance, a fairly snappy decode performance and also capable of scanning 1D mobile barcodes. While not a low cost device, the company expects this to potentially upstage laser scanners in the long run. It’ll be interesting to see how Motorola pitches this product against its extensive 2D array imager portfolio, especially given the relatively low price differential between the two. For now, it looks like retailers with an exclusive focus on 1D barcodes (for their loyalty and marketing programs, for instance) might choose this product over 2D imagers.
- HP released its very first presentation scanner, with the ability to read both 1D and 2D barcodes, placing it in direct competition with the likes of Honeywell’s Genesis 7580, Motorola’s DS9208 and Datalogic’s Magellan series. The company’s products are targeted exclusively at the retail environment, and the introduction of this scanner plays well with setting HP up to be a one-stop shop for all of the retailer’s in-store technology needs. Retailers, particularly among the lower revenue tiers, are increasingly looking to source all their in-store technology solution requirements from a single vendor.
- Code Corp has decided to move away from its fairly exclusive focus on the healthcare vertical, with an aim to largely capitalize on the mobile barcode scanning opportunity. Their new low cost, entry-level area imager offering, CR900FD, comes out-of-the-box ready to scan standard 1D barcodes with retailers having the option to upgrade to support 2D barcode scanning functionalities at a later date, when the need arises. This concept was floated around by Honeywell in 2011, allowing end-users to pay for & unlock latent 2D capabilities post-purchase, future-proofing (and securing) their barcode scanning investments. VDC expects features such as these to enable a smooth & rapid transition to 2D imagers without significantly interrupting business processes and also minimizing the need to overhaul existing infrastructure.
- Source Technologies continues to be fairly aggressive with its strategy to expand and extend its product portfolio and stay competitive with barcode printing industry behemoths including Zebra and Datamax O’Neil. At the NRF, the company announced 2 new printer models – STp.1115 and STp.1125 – highlighting features including durability, ease of use/loading and print speeds. The company has a long way to go in establishing a name for itself in the thermal barcode printer market but seems to be headed in the right direction, establishing strategic partnerships with the channel community and actively marketing its new solution offerings.
- Brother Mobile Solutions officially released its 4” Motorola-certified, industrial-grade RuggedJet mobile printer (Bluetooth and Wi-Fi models). VDC’s end-user survey respondents have, over the past 12 months, continually highlighted the importance of multi-application support with their barcode printers and these models certainly address this need with the capability to print both barcode labels & small forms/documents, and featuring an add-on payment capture ‘sled’.
The key takeaway from this show is how suppliers are increasingly enabling retailers to look beyond the traditional track-and-trace & inventory control (back-office) applications, and leverage barcodes to support and strengthen their marketing initiatives, with an emphasis on enhancing overall customer experience.