How Machine Vision and Barcode Scanning are Transforming Inventory Automation

By David Downey

Inventory management automation is here to stay, but we believe machine vision and barcode scanning will play a massive role in its future development.

To be clear, by automation we mean retail shelf robots/ autonomous mobile robots (AMR) and autonomous guided vehicles (AGV). These are already providing automated order picking, putaway, and inventory scanning.

But it also includes drones in the warehouse, automatic sorting and retrieval systems that are also in use today. All these vehicles and systems use cameras to guide and scan barcodes.

Right now, two trends are easy to spot in the warehouse, distribution center, and retail floor:

  • Automation is really taking off.
  • Solutions are converging.

Cameras are providing the opportunity to innovate the whole inventory scanning area and Machine Vision is the driving technology behind this trend.

Object recognition and out of stocks

In addition to scanning barcodes, these automated devices with cameras can combine with other technologies to measure or recognize objects and check for out-of-stocks. The data can be fed to WMS/ERP systems, and management can be alerted to situations requiring intervention.

At Scandit, we see considerable interest in our Barcode Scanning SDK for inventory management automation on both Linux and Windows systems.

The cameras and processors are widely available. One or more 5MP+ cameras and a suitable processing platform (NVIDIA Jetson, ASUS Tinker, or other SBCs) allow barcode scanning and other AI-based machine vision software to run at the edge or stream images to another device or server for distributed or cloud processing.

Speed up system performance

The scanning software locates the barcodes in a video stream or on single images, decodes the barcodes, and provides the decoded data to the software application. Using Scandit MatrixScan, many codes can be located and decoded in the same image to speed up the system’s performance. This is beyond what you can achieve with a technology that scans only single codes at a time.

Additionally, the Scandit SDK will scan 1D and 2D codes in any orientation and scan retail shelf codes, SKUs, pallet labels, and shipping labels.

An automated system with barcode scanning can provide a solution for shelf management / Planogram compliance in hypermarkets and check inventory or pallet locations in the warehouse.

Being automatic, these inventory checks can be made several times a day so that the management system and the shelf inventory are always up to date. So the stock is available when or where it is needed.

Driving convergence with cameras and data sharing

Of course, many types of AMRs and AGVs are roving around retail and logistics center floors. Also, vehicles such as lift trucks and cleaning vehicles that move around with or without human operators.

If these other vehicles also have cameras, then they too can be used to gather data. Sometimes referred to as “Sensor Fusion,” sharing cameras, sensors, and processors are driving convergence in these areas.

This includes fork-lifts doing inventory scans or cleaning robots that search for out-of-stocks. There are also inventory scanning robots providing mobile kiosks for customer information and product location. And drones that offer security, yard management, and inventory location scans.

Further convergence will see these systems being integrated with data from other sources, such as fixed cameras, and AMRs moving from just scanning to also performing automated picking and shelf stocking.

Providing solutions through continuous innovation

Machine vision, in which barcode scanning is an essential component, will continue to drive this automation and convergence of solutions for some time to come. Scandit is a crucial component of these automated systems.

We work on the basis of continuous innovation to provide an expert solution for automated scanning. This includes multiple code labels, reflections, low light levels, and poor quality codes or out of focus (blurry) images. These systems are as efficient as possible and drive user profitability and ROI from the first day of installation.

At Scandit, we have helped many companies and start-ups to get their innovative automation solutions scanning barcodes. We have helped optimize the many settings in our SDK for their particular applications and have given them a competitive edge in this machine vision/ automation revolution.

Contact us for more information on barcode scanning SDKs for automation and fixed scanning applications.