Best ID Scanner Technology

ID scanning products can be divided into two basic groups: machine readable scanners and optical scanners. Machine-readable scanners decode information stored electronically in a barcode or magnetic stripe and display the information in an easy to read format. Optical scanners, commonly referred to as optical character recognition (OCR) scanners, take an image of the card and use software to translate the picture into computer text. Essentially, OCR scanners read the card as if they were a human. Machine-readable barcode and magnetic stripe scanners are significantly more accurate, faster and better at helping to detect fake IDs than OCR ID scanners.

Accuracy

Since machine-readable ID Readers read the information encoded on the barcode and magnetic stripe of an identification card, they are 100% accurate. They display the exact information programmed on the card, including birthday, card expiration, address, license number, etc. They use the birth date to calculate and display the cardholder’s age, and the card expiration date to determine the card’s status. Importantly, they record the scan information, providing a reliable electronic record of age verification. Business owners can rest assured that their data is 100% accurate in case of a liquor authority raid or agency investigation.

On the contrary, OCR scanners are only 98% accurate. Because they rely upon software to translate an image of the card rather than reading the encoded data, characters are often misread and stored incorrectly. Although 98% seems like a high percentage, 1 in 50 scans has a mistake somewhere in the data. It could be a wrong street number, a bad license number, or an incorrect birth date. Imprecise data can generate an incorrect age calculation (if it reads 1969 instead of 1989), or render address data useless for mailing lists. This range of imprecision can make the scan completely useless in an affirmative defense against age verification violations.

For a product whose purpose is protecting business owners from age verification violations, the inaccuracy of OCR ID scanners is intolerable.

Speed

In addition to higher accuracy, machine-readable scanners are also faster than OCR readers. The decoding of information from a barcode or magnetic stripe is nearly instantaneous. Typical scans take approximately 1 second to compute and record. OCR scans take upwards of 5 seconds to complete because of the increased computer processing required to interpret the optical scan.

This small difference in scan throughput time can have a big impact on ID scanning applications. Imagine a line of 100 customers waiting to get into a concert that requires them to be 18 years of age. Let’s assume it takes a bouncer 20 seconds to get an ID card from each patron regardless of the type of ID scanner he is using. If the bouncer were using an OCR scanner, it would take approximately 42 minutes to check the IDs of everyone in the line. It would take the same bouncer only 35 minutes to verify the same line of customers with a barcode or magnetic stripe ID scanner (a savings of 7 minutes). If the line were 1,000 people, the barcode/magnetic stripe reader would save approximately one hour and ten minutes. This would increase the satisfaction of the customer and lower the payroll costs of the business.

Detection of Fake IDs

The most important factor in detecting fake IDs is an alert operator, and no machine is 100% effective in detecting fraudulent IDs. That being said, machine-readable ID scanners provide a huge advantage over OCR scanners in the fight against fake IDs.

The production of fake IDs is as dependent upon economics as any legitimate business. ID card printers cost about $750 while magnetic stripe and barcode encoding technology adds even more significant cost. Many individuals that produce fake IDs simply cannot afford the more expensive technology required to encode magnetic stripes or barcodes. As a result, fake IDs are often printed on stock ID cards with generic or blank data encoding.

Machine-readable ID checkers allow the operator to compare the data stored electronically on the ID with the information printed on the card. Fake IDs will frequently have a mismatch in two sets of data. For example, the name printed on the front of the card may read Charlotte Blake, while the encoded data stored in the magnetic stripe may read John Smith. This is a clear indication that the ID is a fake. While the machine itself cannot compare the printed information to the encoded information, it provides a critical tool for anyone attempting to verify the authenticity of an ID.

Standard OCR scanners do not access the data stored electronically on ID cards. This eliminates all possibility of comparing the printed information to the encoded information, and basically renders an OCR ID scanner the equivalent of a glorified copying machine. At best, OCR scanners provide a low-quality data entry system. There are some more expensive systems which can scan both sides of the drivers license, read the 2D barcode (but typically not the magnetic stripe) and then compare the data fields, but these systems are typically twice as expensive, twice as slow and not suited for retail applications.

Business Card Scanners have the advantage of storing an image of the ID card, which means they can save the cardholder picture. This is helps establish which ID was presented when serving age sensitive products. However, if there is a video surveillance system camera in use when reading the machine-readable barcode, then most systems date/time stamp the reads so a retailer can time stamp match the video to the machine-readable reads.

Conclusion

The major drawbacks of OCR ID scanning technology are low accuracy, slow speed and inability to read encoded data to detect fake IDs. Luckily for consumers, a more robust age verification tool exists. Machine-readable barcode and magnetic stripe ID scanners are 100% accurate, check IDs nearly instantaneously, and help to detect fake IDs.

If you are a business owner looking for a way to verify customer age, which solution would you choose? The barcode/magnetic stripe reader that speeds through long lines, helps pick out fake IDs, and provides 100% accuracy? Or the OCR ID scanner that misreads 1 in 50 cards? Make the smart decision when choosing an ID scanner to protect your business, and select a machine-readable ID scanner, its the Best ID Scanner Technology

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