How an ID scanner works

An ID card scanner is an electronic device that reads the data stored in a driver’s license data strip and displays it on a screen. Many can also scan state IDs and military IDs. An ID scanner clearly shows the customer’s age and makes it easy for a porter, waiter or clerk to verify that the customer is old enough to purchase age-regulated products such as tobacco or alcohol. ID card scanners are commonly used in bars, nightclubs, liquor stores, casinos, police, and convenience stores.

There are many makes and models of ID scanners. Identification scanners are generally portable or countertop devices. They are typically around 10 “x 5” x 3 “in size. An ID card scanner will have a barcode reader, a magnetic stripe reader, or both. Machines that have both types of scanners will have two separate devices for read each type of An ID scanner will have some kind of visual display such as a small screen Some scanners have small keyboards or touch screens for entering data and controlling the device.

Barcode Readers Bar codes are machine-readable codes in a pattern of parallel lines of different widths. They can also appear as a rectangle of randomly placed black shapes. This is called a 2D barcode and is used in approximately 40 states in North America. A barcode reader in an ID card scanner will be a slot where the ID is inserted and removed (dipped), or an infrared “point and shoot” scanner (like a UPC reader at the grocery store) that emits a red light on the barcode. The best ID card scanners, in terms of speed and readability, have a barcode slot reader. They are more expensive to produce, but allow a perfect reading of the barcode in each use. Point-and-shoot barcode readers often have a difficult time focusing on the barcode long enough to get a reading before the card is moved. They also have to deal with license orientation, surface reflectivity, and ambient light conditions. Most manufacturers address these issues by using a countertop mounted scanner and a target area to place the 2D barcode before scanning. This works in a fixed location environment, but is not practical in mobile / portable applications. Many discounted manufacturers of inferior ID scanning products contain this type of inexpensive barcode reader. In short, point-and-shoot ID scanners are impractical because it is difficult to hold an ID card and scanner long enough to get a reading.

Magnetic Stripe Readers Magnetic stripes are a black stripe about 1/2 “wide that runs the entire length of an ID card. A magnetic stripe reader on an ID card scanner looks like one 1/8 “wide slot. To read a magnetic stripe ID, the magnetic stripe is slid through the slot. It is the same way credit cards are read.

Operation An ID scanner should be very easy to operate. For quick and easy operation, there should be no buttons to press to switch between the barcode scanner and the magnetic stripe scanner. There should also be no push buttons to reset the device between scans. It should not be more than 0.5 to 2 seconds after the card is dipped or swiped before the data is displayed on the screen.

The typical ID scan procedure is as follows:

(1) turn on the ID card scanner;

(2) dip or swipe the identification through the barcode or magnetic stripe reader, or carefully align the barcode underneath a point-and-shoot scanner;

(3) the card information is displayed on the screen;

(4) a visual or auditory alarm is displayed if the identification is underage or expired;

(5) the operator compares the data displayed on the card reader with the data printed on the card to make sure everything matches;

(6) the operator returns the identification to the customer; and

(7) The machine is reset to a ready state, automatically on well-designed machines and manually on poorly-designed machines.

Some machines require a telephone or Internet connection to work.

Advanced Features High-tech ID card readers keep a record of all IDs that are scanned. This can be useful for providing evidence that a particular ID was verified, for analyzing customer demographics, or for building a customer mailing list. The scan history can be viewed directly on the machine or downloaded to a computer spreadsheet. Some manufacturers charge a fee to download scan history to a computer. Check with a manufacturer before purchasing an ID scanner to make sure the scan history is easily accessible.

An ID scanner should be easy to operate. Look for positive user reviews on an ID scanning product before purchasing.

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