Update September 2014: Tokenworks recently released a POS ID Scanner solution called AgeVisor™. The AgeVisor™ product addresses many of the challenges discussed in this article.

Integrating an ID Scanner into a Point of Sale system is desirable, but may not be the best solution for many merchants.

From a conceptual standpoint, it seems like the best solution.  Just scan an age restricted item and then the software should request the clerk to scan an ID.  While this all seems so easy to understand, like many things with computers, the implementation is not as easy.

Merchants often think simply plugging in a USB scanner will allow them to automate the process, but they don’t understand their POS software must also be updated.  Its the update of this POS software which is where the issues arise.  The POS vendor may have their own solution (which if available, is often the best approach) and the local system integrator may need to be involved in the upgrade and installation of this new software.   Ideally, a new POS system can then detect when an age sensitive product has been scanned and prompt the clerk to scan an ID.  It can then do the age verification process, record the appropriate data for due diligence and then authorize the sale.

If a merchant buys a USB port ID Scanner that does not integrate with their POS software, they may discover that they have a non-integrated system.  So when they are selling alcohol, the system does not prompt the clerk to scan an ID.  Worse, they may discover the POS software is running is some sort of ‘Kiosk’ mode which prevents the clerk from leaving the POS application to scan an ID and prevents the ID scanner application from popping up a message box with age status information.  So after installing this USB port ID scanner software, they discover they solution doesn’t work.

A merchant really should consider either contacting the original POS software company and requesting an age verification option or purchasing a stand alone ID scanner.  The first option typically is the best but its also going to be the most expensive.  A stand alone ID scanner is less expensive and takes less than 3 minutes to set up.   Many larger grocery stores will purchase a stand alone solution knowing it will be 2 – 4 years until they upgrade their POS system and the stand alone systems are an interim solution.

So if considering integrating an ID Scanner with a POS solution, think about the integration issues first and it may be easier to purchase a stand alone ID Scanner until ready to upgrade the POS system to the next generation.

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