Symbol TC70

October 24, 2014

tc70-rightThe transition from Motorola back to Symbol is well underway, with the TC70 being one of the first new mobile computers to eschew the batwing in favor of SYMBOL. This device is built for enterprise data management in the four walls and should be a good fit for retail and even light industrial work.

General Features

The TC70, to me, is a burlier upgrade on the MC40 mobile computer. It runs Android KitKat OS (4.4.2) using Google’s Android Open Source Project version of the OS. This means you don’t get access to the Google Play store, which is a bit of a bummer if the software you need to install exists there. Software can get side-loaded onto the device, so I think you can get the Google Play store on there maybe.

To power the Android OS, the TC70 runs on a nimble 1.7 GHz dual core processor with 1 GB of RAM. There’s 8 GB of onboard storage for apps files and whatnot; if you need more storage, there is a microSD slot that supports 32 GB cards. So 40 total GB of data storage, that’s a lot of Starland Vocal Band albums.

Data capture is a snap with the TC70. It has the SE4750 2D imager built-in, which is similar to the scanner found in the DS4308. You get a solid scanning range with the scanner, about 2 feet for retail barcodes, and then some variance for different symbologies & densities & whatnot. There are also two cameras on the TC70. A rear-mounted 8 megapixel camera is fantastic for proof-of-delivery, documenting damage to shipments, or taking pictures of awesome vans. There’s also a front-facing 1.3 megapixel camera for video chat and selfie purposes.

The screen is 4.7″ and runs at a native 1280×720, so you should be able to watch 720p videos with ease. Or see inventory and pick lists easily. Depends on how laid back your business is. It uses Corning Gorilla Glass 2 for the screen, tough enough to handle drops and spills and accidental damage. The touchscreen on the TC70 is “dual mode capacitive touch.” It does work with gloved fingers, which is great if you’re on the shop floor and are worried about losing a finger. There’s also a “wet mode” which provides increased accuracy when moisture is on the screen. Wet capacitive screens tend to act really funky, so this is a great additon.

Battery life shouldn’t be an issue with the TC70. It comes with a 4620 mAh battery, which adds to the heft and also provides a TON of power for watching movies or doing your job.

Durability

Durabilty is a big piece of the TC70’s game plan. The mobile computer is built to IP67 standards, so it’s completely sealed against dust and water dunks. I have not yet tossed mine in a bucket of water, but I do plan to when we’re done covering it and extolling its virtues both in text and video.

The mobile computer is reinforced with burly overmolding, protecting it from six-foot drops to concrete and 2,000 one-meter tumbles. You could say it rolls down stairs, alone and in pairs. Another thing to notice about the TC70 is that every button is recessed below the overmolding. I’ve been told this helps improve the longevity of the buttons, since in a drop the main point of impact would be the rugged parts and not the moving parts. It’s the little things, am I right?

Accessories

There are a few accessories available for the TC70, further improving its functionality. However, because the mobile computer is sealed, the connection points are a little different than you’d find on a standard smartphone.

Trigger Assembly – This converts the TC70 to a more traditional style mobile computer, making it easy to scan barcodes and also manipulate data on the screen.

Snap-On Card Reader – For mobile POS or line busting, this is a great addition. It snaps to the base of the TC70 and provides some added encryption to prevent data from getting into the wrong hands.

Audio Nugget – This is just a great name for a thing. Since the TC70 is sealed, there’s no audio jack on it. The “audio nugget” snaps onto the back of the mobile computer and provides an audio jack, in case you need to do voice picking or VOIP stuff. Audio nugget.

Charging Cables – Sometimes you don’t need a full cradle to charge your mobile device. This cable snaps on using magnets to hold it to your TC70, charging it up over USB or AC cable.

Conclusion

The TC70 is a great, multi-faceted tool for data management within a business. With the right snap-on accessories you can convert it to a powerful line busting tool, a shipping/picking dynamo, and more. It’s built to handle a beating, making it a great choice in hardware stores, lumber yards, or garden centers for retail. I do want to throw it in some water and see how it handles that.

Symbol CS4070

August 6, 2014

CS4070-SR-remote-frontCompanion scanning is blowing up! There are more than a few scanners out on the market, and now there’s a new one from Motorola. It’s the Symbol CS4070, I guess they’re going back to their roots now that Zebra is buying them. And it kind of makes sense; at this point there are 3 different Motorola companies: one potentially owned by Zebra, one owned by Google/Lenovo, and one out on its own. And the Symbol LS2208 never got Motorolasized, so there’s a precedent.

Anyway, the Symbol CS4070 is their 2D companion scanner, designed for mobile POS, bed-side scanning in health care environments, and more. It’s available in a standard black model, as well as a white model made with health care plastics, so there’s one for before or after Labor Day. These scanners use the same scan engine that is in their DS4800, so you have a pretty tremendous scan range, pretty comparable to a linear imager. They run in Bluetooth mode for pairing to iPhones, Android devices, or other Bluetooth devices, or you can set it up as a batch device to connect to your PC and download spreadsheets of scanned data. It’s very much like the CS3070 but on steroids.

We were able to test out a beta unit for a few weeks, and it’s really a great scanner. I’ve been told that the performance will improve with the production models, which just seems like a bonus.

The unit I received came with its Product Reference Guide, affectionately referred to as the PRG by our Motorolalien friends. PRGs are massive tomes, 330+ pages of everything from how to set up your scanner to the arcane practices required to pair it to a Pontiac Aztec. Maybe not so much on the latter, but it’s a very in depth book.

The CS4070, like the CS3000 line, comes with a config.ini file on its built-in memory. This allows you to make changes to the configuration if you don’t have access to the PRG or 123scan. I like having this secondary method for programming the scanner, as it allows you to do bulk configurations simply by uploading a file to each device.

Batch Mode
For registry applications, inventory checkout, or other bulk scanning tasks, the CS4070 is a dynamo. The scanner has 512 MB of memory built-in, meaning you can store… millions and millions of 13-digit UPC barcodes before it fills up. When you plug it into a computer via USB, it mounts as a flash drive, so you could theoretically upload an autorun procedure and a standalone application, ideally to export the saved data to whatever platform you happen to use. You could probably put Snood on there too if you were so inclined.

BlueTooth Mode
This is the main course for the scanner, there’s a BlueTooth button on it even. Bluetooth mode allows you to pair the CS4070 to any Bluetooth-equipped device, or the optional Bluetooth dongle that Motorola sells. Setup takes a couple steps, either scanning the “Bluetooth HID mode” barcode in the PRG, or holding the Bluetooth button on the scanner until it beeps. Then all you have to do is scan for Bluetooth devices on your smartphone or laptop, and click pair. You might have to scan a PIN, those codes are in the PRG as well. If you have an iPhone, it just works. I think it’s because of the MFi chip that’s built-in.

Once you’re paired to a mobile device, if you hit the minus key on the CS4070, it’ll toggle potential on screen keyboards, such as those on iOS and Android devices. This is great if you’re using the scanner for mobile inventory management and need to enter in descriptive or quantity data.

Performance
Motorola makes some incredibly powerful scanners, and the CS4070 is no exception. I was able to scan regular UPC barcodes from about two feet away, which is a pretty fantastic depth of field. The depth of field change depending on the symbologies you’re scanning, such as a 5 mil Data Matrix or 15 mil PDF417, but the range is still ideal for minimizing training to find the “sweet spot.”

The CS4070 can charge either using a microUSB cable or one of the various charging cradles Motorola’s made. It only takes a few hours, and there’s a nice battery gauge on the front of the unit to let you know just how charged it is. The battery is removable, as well, so you can pocket a spare for longer scanning sessions.

Accessories
There are a few charging accessories available for the CS4070, in case you want something a bit more formal than a microUSB cable. A single slot cradle is available, which also includes a smaller secondary battery charging bay. For larger deployments, there are some larger options: an 8-bay scanner charger as well as an 8-bay battery charger. These also have all mount options, so you can have it in an employee area where it’s easy for employees to grab one and head off to do their duties. A Lanyard should be out soon as well, making it easy to clip the CS4070 to yourself in case you need to move or pick something up with both hands.

All in all, the Symbol CS4070 is a great companion scanning option for both batch or mobile scanning. The memory on the scanner is great in case you want to store files or apps, and the Bluetooth mode is relatively straightforward to set up. It feels pretty comfortable in hand, there’s a nice groove under the bottom for better ergonomics.

Did you know that you don’t need a Square Stand to connect a USB barcode scanner to your iPad? We put together a walk through on Instructables with steps on how to use a cabled barcode scanner with an iPad or iPhone or iPod Touch or other iOS product. There are some hubs available that’ll let you connect keyboard and other HID peripherals to your iOS device, we got ours at Amazon. Anyway, head on over to that article and learn more!

Opticon OPN3002i

August 28, 2013

Opticon OPN3002iThere’s a growing class of barcode scanners hitting the market, companion scanners. These are cordless scanners that are small, don’t necessarily come with a charging/communications cradle, and are designed to communicate with mobile computers, tablets, and smartphones. The Opticon OPN3002i is a recently released companion scanner and should offer some fantastic 2D scanning at an affordable price.

The OPN3002i is designed primarily for use with iPhones, iPads, Android devices, and any other Bluetooth-equipped consumer smartphone. It’s even white with chrome accents, like some familiar iOS devices. Configuration is really easy, you just have to scan a barcode to set it up in Serial Port Profile (SPP), HID, or MFi serial modes, then hold the scan button for a few seconds until it chirps. Then it can pair to whichever Bluetooth device you’re using.

We prefer using HID mode over MFi or SPP, as it allows the OPN3002i to act like a keyboard and scan into any active text box. MFi and SPP act as virtual serial ports, so your software will need to be configured to take advantage of that type of connection to get a read.

When a HID device connects to iPhones, the on-screen keyboard will hide until the connection is broken. This is difficult if you’re doing inventory management and want to add notes such as quantity or condition. Thankfully, hitting the secondary function button on the OPN3002i will bring the keyboard back up, a great addition to the scanner.

In terms of performance, the OPN3002i is a pretty solid 2D imager. Regular retail barcodes can be read from about 8 inches away, so for registries or light inventory scanning, you should have an easy enough time getting a good read. The scanner can also read 2D barcodes, such as QR, PDF417, or Data Matrix. A popular option for cordless 2D scanners is for loyalty program sign-up. Since most driver’s licenses have PDF417 barcodes on them, you can scan the barcode and parse out the data you need, making it incredibly fast to sign customers up for loyalty programs, credit card applications, or admit them in healthcare environments.

On the demo model we had, we did notice a lag when sending barcode data to the device, something very noticeable on larger 2D barcodes. data was entered at about the same speed as a competent typist, which is a bit slower than the fast blast of data we’re accustomed to with cabled scanners.For standard 1D barcode scanning, it’s really not noticeable, you may just see it if you decide to scan a driver’s license or shipping label.

Opticon let us know that this is a bandwidth issue on HID mode and isn’t a problem when running in SPP or MFi modes. So if speed is key for your data entry, you may want to look into developing your software to communicate directly with the OPN3002i.

All in all, the OPN3002i is a great 2D scanning option for small business or personal inventory management. Since it’s an area imager, you don’t have to properly orient the barcode for a good read, which can speed up the data capture process. Configuring and pairing the scanner is incredibly easy, and being able to enable the on screen keyboard is a prime feature.

We even have a video of the OPN3002i in action, in case you want to get a feel for the size and capabilities of this great companion scanner.

Motorola ET1 RedBeam Asset Tracking BundleRedBeam has released an Android version of their Asset Tracking software, giving us a more complete data management solution for Android devices. And so we’ve put together a Motorola ET1 kit including the software and peripherals you need to track assets at your business.

Asset tracking is pretty important at larger offices and multi-location businesses. Even at our office, we have lost a lot of time wondering where demo products have wandered off to or whether we even had the product in the first place. With RedBeam Asset Tracking, we can not only keep track of where products are, we can store additional data, including warranty and specifications.

Let me give you an example of where RedBeam Asset Tracking would’ve saved me a ton of time. When I was at WWU, I managed 5 residence hall computer labs, plus a smattering of single station PCs in common areas. All told, it was about 65 computers and 8 printers. It wasn’t a ton of hardware, but still more than I could track by memory, so I had three or four spreadsheets of specs, serial numbers, and maintenance history.

RedBeam Asset Tracker could’ve stored all that info AND been at my fingertips in a mobile computer or tablet. This would have been especially useful for the single stations, since they were often forgotten.

Any time I had to send a PC in for repair, RedBeam Asset Tracking could timestamp when equipment moved locations, so other employees could determine if the PC was stolen without a lot of work. We even had a few PCs get stolen, and it was a bit of a search to get the serial numbers to campus police, whereas with Asset Track it could’ve been brought up quickly and easily.

The bundle we offer includes the Motorola ET1 as well. I’ve talked about the ET1 a couple times already. Motorola’s enterprise tablet offers the functionality and familiarity of Android OS but with the durability and warranty coverage needed for business success. With the new addition of their Blockbuster 2D Imager as an add-on scanning module, the ET1 becomes a fantastic data collection and management tool.

I really think this is a great combination, it’ll fit in really well at schools or offices, places where automated asset management will save you time and money, but you don’t necessarily need a huge industrial mobile computer to get the job done.

Image credit: Whitehotpix/ZUMAPRESS.com

I had to go with that pun. I mean seriously, that is one gigantic maize maze, and to turn it into a QR code is terrific. A family in Lacombe, Alberta, Canada owns a farm they turn into a corn maze every year, and this year they decided to turn it into the world’s largest QR Code. I’m not sure how many people will be able to scan it, but they say the code takes people to their website, giving potential visitors a rundown on all the fun activities there.

This is a pretty unique way to get your name out, one because it’ll be in the Guinness book of records, and also because you can now use the picture of the maze, QR code and all, in promotional material and save a tremendous amount of space in your marketing collateral.

Imagine a sidebar ad in an travel mag, 80% of the ad can be the QR code and the link takes you to more information, including schedules and booking. Potential visitors don’t have to enter in your website info nor call for more information, just scan the link and they get straight to your site.

It’s great to see businesses using QR codes for more unique purposes but still getting the point across. I know more than a few people who have pushed back against QR codes, bringing up wtfqrcodes as examples why it’s not the best technology, so useful counterexamples are fantastic.

The International Business Times has an interesting article about an SAP Executive who was arrested for replacing the barcodes on Lego kits with barcodes for cheaper products. What I find interesting about it is that it’s one of the few times I remember where POS hardware is used for fraud that isn’t fake IDs or stolen credit cards.

Thomas Langenbach, the perpetrator of the crime, went through some pretty clever steps to get steep discounts on his Legos. Yes. I call it Legos. Anyway, he would scan the barcode off a cheaper product, create a new barcode label with that content, and would slap it onto more expensive stuff. So in one example, he bought the $270 Millennium Falcon Lego set for like $49. Personally, I would love to get the Millennium Falcon Lego set for $49. However, he’d then flip the products on Ebay, and ended up netting about $30,000 before finally getting caught.

Granted, he put extra steps into his crime, since UPC data for products is usually available online. But it does point out some of the weak points that can cause product loss at your business. For a larger retailer, such as Target, surveillance systems are a de facto standard and was the main way they were able to catch him in the act. However, this could have been caught even sooner by an attentive checker realizing that very obviously expensive product was just rung up at 50 dollars. I don’t know how much every product on our site is (I think I’m at 90%), but I’d still know something was amiss if one of ourPOS systems was sold for 150 bucks.

It is good to know the guy was caught, though it’s a little unsettling that an executive at SAP- a position I’d assume pays well- would feel the need to commit thievery for an extra 30 grand. The big lesson though is to just keep an eye on your products, or stay vigilant when you’re ringing customers up.

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