Smartphones As "Smart", Multifunctional Barcode Scanners

Kill not two, but three birds with one stone: track assets and inventory using barcode scanning, automatically map assets locations, attach photos to inventory transactions. Do all of it using just one device -- smartphone running iOS or Android.


In the previous articles we described benefits of using QR Codes and UPC barcodes for efficient inventory and asset management, and how to track inventory using smartphone as a scanner. But scanning barcodes is not the only smartphone's capability that can be used for inventory management and asset tracking. There are at least two more useful things that you can do using smartphone, that are not possible with a traditional barcode scanner. First, you can automatically record GPS locations of the transactions and display them on the map. Second, you can take photos of assets / inventory and attach them to the transactions for visual documentation. As a result, using smartphone as a scanner let's you kill three birds with one stone.

Smartphones vs Traditional Barcode Scanners for Tracking Assets and Inventory

Development of the mobile technology gives us a choice for inventory and asset tracking that was non-existentent just a short time ago. Previously, if you wanted to track assets and inventory using barcodes, your only choice was to purchase barcode scanners or mobile computers, and hire an integrator / consultant to connect them to your desktop computers and inventory management software. Now you have a better choice: use smartphone as a barcode scanner for processing inventory transactions. Using smartphones is much more affordable (no need to purchase expensive hardware and pay consulting fees), so small businesses can finally afford inventory management based on barcode scanning.

With smartphones your employees can process inventory transactions in the field as they happen. There is no need to be in the vicinity of the office computers any more

There are more advantages than the price alone. With smartphones your employees can process inventory transactions in the field as they happen. There is no need to be in the vicinity of the office computers any more. You do not need to designate some of the employees to do scanning -- all employees now have scanners in their pockets. Any employee who deals with inventory can process a transaction as it happens by scanning qr code or barcode on the item with a smartphone. Result: accurate real time inventory picture, which is an ultimate purpose of any inventory management software.

Tracking Inventory / Assets GPS Location

If you are having assets / inventory at multiple remote job sites, one of the main purposes of an asset tracking software for you is to monitor where each asset is located, be able to list assets at each location and track assets movement. Traditional barcode scanner will do little to help you with that. Another possible solution -- installing GPS devices on an assets and tracking them processing GPS data -- is prohibitively expensive for a small businesses.
On the other hand, smartphone with its built-in GPS location capabilities is just the right tool for the job. Assets mapping fits right into the tracking process: when an employee scans QR code or UPC barcode on an asset with a smartphone, the geolocation of an asset can be automatically determined and saved. You can then view assets locations and track asset movements on a map in real time -- without spending a fortune on extra hardware and software.

Taking Photos For Visual Documentation

There are quite a few situations when having a visual documentation during an asset transaction is really helpful. For example, you may want to document the item condition at check out and check in, and be able to compare them. You may need images to illustrate what was broken and had been repaired. Or you may need to document damages to an item to justify taking it out of inventory.
Obviosly, you cannot take photos with a barcode scanner, but you can with a smartphone. As with geolocation, taking photos can be an itegral part of an asset transaction. Your employees can scan QR code or UPC barcode on an asset, record necessary information about transaction, then take one or multiple photos - and save transaction to the server. You can then view saved images via reports, and could easily access and provide supporting documentation for asset status changes.

How Does It All Work Together

If you want to track assets and inventory using smartphone as a smart scanner, you need to have a mobile application that can do two things:

  1. Provide an option to scan barcodes, take images and record geo-location of a transaction

  2. Communicate these data to inventory / asset tracking system

QR Inventory is a web-based inventory / asset tracking software that comes with a mobile application with all the described capabilities. Unlike barcode scanners, that can only transmit information on what item is scanned, QR Inventory mobile application allows you to:

  1. Specify any custom information you need to know about an asset / inventory transaction

  2. Take and attach multiple photos

  3. Add multiple items to transaction before submitting it to the server

  4. Automatically determine and save geolocation where transaction took place

As a result, you have a smart barcode scanner capable of accomplishing much more than traditional one, and for which you do not have to spend a penny - your employees can use their own devices to perform inventory transactions. Check it out!

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