Optical scanner could speed up sales by skipping barcodes

An optical scanner developed by Toshiba uses patterns and colors to recognize products. It may usurp the barcode in the check-out lane.

Retail futurists have long said that RFID tags may one day replace barcodes on individual products, opening up faster check-out times and providing retailers with more accurate inventory records. But could cameras integrated into point-of-sale systems make barcodes obsolete sooner?

Toshiba Tec, a Toshiba business arm that sells point-of-sale systems and printers, is developing an optical recognition scanner that would recognize each product based on what it looks like rather than by scanning a barcode. A major selling point is that it would recognize fruits and vegetables. Since they are not generally barcoded,  employees usually need to key in a code each time they ring up produce items. This would eliminate that step and could even differentiate one type of apple from another, according to a news report on Diginfo.

The scanner uses color and pattern to recognize each item, building up a database to pull from. Toshiba demonstrated the technology early this month at the Retailtech Japan trade show.

The system needs to be fine-tuned and at present might not win any speed contests against a seasoned, fast-fingered sales clerk. Plus, a hybrid approach, where sales clerks could switch between barcode scanning and using the optical recognition software, would likely be the best approach. Scanning a box of cereal is pretty easy and fast. But optical recognition could beat out barcode scanners for products with flexible packaging, such as a plastic bag, since the barcode is easily obscured or bent, rendering it unreadable.

Via: Forbes and Diginfo

Image: Flickr/yamrock83

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com