Can Laser Scanning Technology Stay Strong at the Retail POS?

by Richa Gupta | 03/04/2013

There is an interesting bit of news for the barcode technology industry that came in from the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last week. Mobeam, a technology company focused on enabling laser scanners to capture data from mobile devices at the point-of-sale checkout, announced a partnership with ams, one of the leading providers of proximity sensors to smartphone manufacturers, with an aim to revolutionize the mobile coupon redemption landscape. This strategic alliance combines ams’ light sensors with Mobeam’s patented light-based communications technology. It is designed to enable smartphones to relay barcodes – on gift cards, loyalty cards, tickets, coupons – that can be read by all laser scanners currently installed at the retail POS. The first Mobeam-enabled phones will be available for consumers in 2013.

Mobeam’s technology is incorporated into ams’ digital light sensor optical module to transmit any barcode content without failure. This module is expected to be integrated into smartphones with no additional space requirements. Mobeam, with its OS platform-agnostic solution, is positioning this as an opportunity for handset makers to capitalize on the explosive growth of the mobile coupons and mobile commerce market segment – enabling consumers worldwide to lower paper consumption as they opt for digitized coupon replacements. Our research shows that the stationary, fixed position scanner landscape within the retail environment is currently dominated by laser scanning solutions. For retailers, this partnership potentially means that they do not have to refresh their existing POS scanners or complement it with handheld imaging solutions to read barcodes from customers’ mobile phones.

The past 18-24 months has seen a significant uptick in 2D imager (camera-based solutions) adoption at the Retail POS, particularly on the handheld side, with VDC’s estimates indicating a double-digit growth rate. What does this announcement mean for the adoption of these solutions? What will be the impact on next-generation camera-based bioptic scanners launched by Motorola and Datalogic? Will retailers consider holding off on technology upgrade investments to see how their existing laser scanning infrastructure handles data capture from mobile devices? The most critical resources- and time-consuming task at hand, for Mobeam in particular, will be to educate the global retailer community about the benefits of their solution over paper coupons while also extending the life of their POS laser scanners. In VDC’s opinion, retailers will still need to invest in 2D imagers to support “legacy” smartphones since this will only work with new models starting in 2013. We will definitely have an ear out for how this solution catches on and also evaluate its impact on the global barcode scanning market.

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