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ID Expo 1997

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Top Ten New Barcode Products - ID Expo 1997

Success has ruined many a man...according to Ben Franklin. It's also ruined many a company. However, it sure hasn't ruined one of the most successful auto ID company. They just keep pour out new products that keep making my top ten. This time they captured number one.

May 12, 1997 was the beginning of the first ID Expo to be held in Philadelphia and I was prepared to start my search for those 10 new products that were above the rest. My selection is subjective and entirely my own opinion. I give the highest point to products that have breakthrough technology or are trend setting. Next, I look for products that have outstanding performance for the price. Finally, I do consider new ways of marking products. I don't stop at distributor booths or software companies offering only custom software or integration services. I do consider prototypes and products that are only being privately shown.

With that explanation, here are my top ten picks for ID Expo 97.

Number One - NetVision

NetVision Mobile NC Thin Client Software from Symbol TechnologyI always thought the people at Symbol Technologies were bright and innovative and the introduction of their NetVision Mobile NC Thin Client Software proves it! This product is a DOS-based graphical web browser for the Internet or intranets that handles HTML 3.0. It's designed to run on Symbol's Spectrum24 wireless handheld computers.

Let's back up a bit. The abbreviation "NC" stands for Network Computer. In the old days of computing, people in an organization used a "dumb terminal" to access the central mainframe computer. The dumb terminal was nothing more that a monitor, a keyboard, and an interface to connect the device to the mainframe. Today's network computer works in a similar way. The network computer has minimal computing power and all the complicated computer operation occurs at the server. The advantage of the NC approach is a lower price for a desktop NC and easier software upgrading (the software only needs to be upgraded on the server rather than all of the desktop computers). The term "thin client" means the program is small in size so it requires less memory and computing power to run effectively. In fact, NetVision only requires 200K of memory to run.

NetVision permits programming of an application using any standard HTML development tool. You could, for example, develop a web page form for order entry and put the page on a server. Any Spectrum24 wireless terminal running NetVision then can display the web order entry form.

Don't think that NetVision is a stripped down browser. It has user-definable popup keyboards and toolbars. It also displays GIF graphics and animated images. It even handles Java and JavaScript.

Now the reason why this product earns the first place position and why Symbol is so smart. The biggest competition to 2-dimensional symbologies is the Internet. 2-D's raison-d'etre is to provide a portable database that moves with a product, and makes the data readily accessible. However, if the Internet becomes ubiquitous, the same data could be stored anywhere in the world and be readily accessible using a 1-D bar code. The 1-D bar code would be a license plate to access the data about the product through the Internet. In fact, 2-D is a transitional technology that will go away when data can be universally accessed and this product makes Symbol prepared to follow that transition.

Number Two - FindIt

FindIt from InstantelNumber two goes to FindIt from Instantel. This product is an RFID tag with a twist. The precise location and identification of an asset with the FindIt tag is reported every time the asset is moved. The way FindIt works is really neat. Each room has a FindIt beacon attached to the ceiling that transmits an infrared signal the designates the room. Because IR can't go though walls, the beacon signal stays within the room. The FindIt tag has an IR receiver and an RF transmitter along with a motion sensor. When the tag moves, it starts looking for the Ir beacon signal, and when it finds on, it transmits the room code and its own ID code back to the central receiver.

What sets this product apart is the unique way of using IR and RF to track assets.

Number Three - 3D CCD

3D bar code scanner The number three product is ScanCode 3D's new CCD scanner family for reading 3D bar codes. One version of the new CCD scanner can also read regular 1D barcode. The use of what is basically a CCD scanner should mean a lower scanner price compared to other raised bar code technologies. The company also showed a prototype of a system that can scan Code 16K and Code 49 2-dimensional 3D codes. Hmmm...does that make those codes 5D or 6D?

I picked Scan because of the innovated use of a CCD scanner to read 3D code.

Number Four - CLV 295

CLV 295 from SICK Optic-Electronic, Inc. Number four goes to the SMART CLV 295 high performance bar code scanner from SICK Optic-Electronic, Inc. Traditional robust high performance scanners, the kind that can read damaged bar codes, read small portions of the symbol and cross-correlates the portions to reconstruct the symbol prior to decoding. The CLV 295, on the other hand, actually captures a video-like image of the symbol using it's laser scanner, applies a special recognition technology to the image and then decodes the symbol. This makes the CLV 295 able to read bar codes at high tilt angles, torn or smeared labels, and symbols that are partly hidden from the scanner.

This scanner's ability to read very difficult to decode symbols quickly over a wide depth of field earned it the number four slot.

Number Five - Mystery Product

Psion's new Workabout Scanner Number five goes to Psion's new Workabout Scanner with a scanning head that pivots over 90 degrees. The pivoting scanning head is a first for the industry and enables the user to fit the scan angle to their own preference rather than depend on the design of an ergonomic engineer. That’s why I chose it as number five.
Number Six - $695 Thermal Transfer Printer

ATC Model 4002 thermal transfer printer Number six goes to the ATC Model 4002 thermal transfer printer from Analog Technologies. Print speed is 2 ips and the printer comes with 512K of memory. The printer also comes with 16 bar code symbologies built in.

What makes this product outstanding and earns it 6th place is its price...just $695.

Number Seven - RangeLAN2 6330

RangeLAN2 6330 Micro Design-in Module from Proxim Number seven goes to the RangeLAN2 6330 Micro Design-in Module from Proxim. This OEM board is only 1.65" by 2.65", about half the size of a PCMCIA card. That makes it the smallest wireless LAN adapter on the market.

The reason I pick this product is its size. It will allow many existing non-RF scanners to incorporate RF without changing the product's form factor.

Number Eight - Data Matrix Verifier

V9000 Data Matrix Code Verifier from Auto Image ID Number eight goes to the V9000 Data Matrix Code Verifier from Auto Image ID (acquired by RVSI). The product is the first verifier for a 2-D code. The verification is based on the AIM Uniform Symbology Specification for Data Matrix code and provides overall symbol grade, reference decode, symbol contrast, print growth, axial non-uniformity, and unused error correction .

I picked this product because it is the first 2D verifier on the market.

Number Nine - Portable Voice Terminal

Portable Voice Terminal (PVT) from CompuSPEAK Number nine goes to the Portable Voice Terminal (PVT) from CompuSPEAK. The system uses a real time RF link using a 2.4 Ghz spread-spectrum system from Nomadic. The Nomadic radio is based on PROXIM RangeLAN2 technology. This product is a one piece unit and is extremely light. The company demonstrated a ring bar code scanner that plugs directly into the PVT and used the built-in bar code decoder. The network protocol is TCP/IP which should make the integration of the system into existing networks a breeze.

The PVT made number nine because of its one piece, light design, integrated bar code capability and its TCP/IP protocol.

Number Ten - Smart Flash

Smart Flash from Valgay Number ten goes to the Smart Flash from Valgay. Smart Flash is a remote reading tag that uses infrared rather than RF to read as well as write to the tag. The tag is powered by focusing a high-intensity halogen beam of white light on the tag. Reading and writing is possible up to 1.5 meters away at 1Kbits per second.

This gets the number ten spot because of its innovated use of light to power a passive wireless tag.

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