A warehouse worker walks over to a picking location and instead of reaching for an industrial scanner, whips 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 reports of at least one company that's using a low-cost iPhone app to scan bar codes in its warehouse. Writing in a recent newsletter, Banker said the company in question was experimenting with an app designed for the consumer market that it had reconfigured to enter the bar-code number into the company's WMS.
Is it really feasible? The ARC analyst said he did a little nosing around and found that user reviews of the iPhone scanners were largely unfavorable, in part because of poor camera focus on the first phone models. The new, improved camera in the iPhone 3GS model has made a difference, but reliability still fell short of the mark, especially in low light conditions. "Simply put, an industrial-strength bar-code scanner has to be nearly flawless," Banker wrote.
Along with the reliability issue, Banker listed several other reasons why iPhones were ill-suited to bar-code 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?"