Optical Character Recognition (OCR) Scanners Information

Optical character recognition (OCR) scanners read handwritten, typed, or printed text from paper and translate the data into a format that can be manipulated by computers. Optical character recognition (OCR) software is a related, but separate product. Although complete OCR systems may include document management software, OCR scanners remain the central hardware component. In warehouses and retail environments, optical character recognition (OCR) scanners are used to read the barcodes that are printed on consumer and commercial products. OCR scanners are also used in mail-sorting centers and by banks, businesses, educational testing services, and law firms.


Optical character recognition (OCR) is sometimes confused with digital character recognition (DCR), but the two are different technologies. OCR scanners reproduce characters via optical compositing with lenses and mirrors. OCR technology also uses matrix matching and feature extraction. Matrix matching or pattern matching is used to associate handwritten, typed, or printed text with a library of known characters. Feature extraction or intelligent character recognition (ICR) does not match text to templates. Instead, elements such as lines, open spaces, closed forms, and intersecting diagonals are used. Often, OCR scanners are designed for use with specific types of OCR software.


Specifications for optical character recognition (OCR) scanners include height and weight, power consumption and power supply, and product temperature and operating temperature. Depending on the application, barcode support is also important to consider. Bar code symbologies are essentially alphabets in which different widths of bars and spaces are combined to form characters and, ultimately, a message. OCR scanners may be configured to support barcode symbologies such as Codablock, Codabar, Code 1, Code 11, Code 128, Code 16K, Code 39, Code 49, Code 93, Data Matrix or Data Code, EAN, Interleaved 2 of 5, Matrix 2 of 5, Maxicode, MSI/Plessey, NW-7 Code, PLANET, POSTNET, Telepen, UPC, and Vericode.

Interface Differences

Optical character recognition (OCR) scanners differ in terms of interface. Choices may include integrated graphic display, serial or universal serial bus (USB), parallel, modem, Ethernet, wireless, and PCMCIA card. OCR scanners with an integrated graphical display are often equipped with a backlit liquid crystal display (LDC). RS232, RS422, and RS455 are standard serial outputs. OCR scanners with USB ports are also available. The general purpose interface bus (GPIB) is a common parallel interface. Wireless OCR scanners are often used in warehouse applications.