Bluetooth barcode scanner compatible with iPhone, iPad, iPod?

Bluetooth barcode scanners were mentioned in my discussion on iPhone, iPod and iPad inventory management in the warehouse.

I concluded that a Bluetooth barcode scanner would be the minimum requirement to make an iPhone or similar device a suitable replacement for a mobile computer in the warehouse. The reason for this is the barcode scan engine used by the iPhone, iPod and iPad is too slow and too light sensitive.

Reading the Retail Technology Review this week I came across an older press release from a Bluetooth barcode scanner manufacturer, Socket Mobile.

The best way to get to grips with their Bluetooth barcode scanner is to watch it in action. This video shows it being used to scan using an iPhone iOS4 (there are further videos available demonstrating its compatibility with the iPad and BlackBerry devices):

Socket Mobile has cited the Healthcare industry for the Bluetooth barcode scanner; it is lightweight and suited to assisting with documenting patient data and medication distribution.

Bluetooth barcode scanner disables iPad,iPhone and iPod keyboard
The eagle-eyed of you will have noticed the Apple iOS4 demo shows the user scanning barcodes with the Bluetooth barcode scanner into Notepad. At present the Apple version of Socket Mobile’s Bluetooth barcode scanner does not use any loaded software, instead it used a Human Interface Device (HID) interface.

What does this mean? It means the Bluetooth barcode scanner disables the keyboard when connected to an Apple iOS4 device.

For consumers, the keyboard being disabled limits the functionality with applications on the iPad, iPhone and iPod. From our research, this appears to be the same as all Bluetooth barcode scanners that use the Human Interface Device interface to barcode scan.

How can you enable the keyboard whilst using the Bluetooth barcode scanner?
Socket Mobile has advised that if a developer codes their own application to control the pop-up keyboard, the ‘one Human Interface Device’ issue can be circumvented. This is because the pop-up keyboard will be under the control of the software application on the device.

Socket Mobile iPad, iPhone and iPod keyboard enabling solution due early 2011
Socket Mobile has stated, “We are working hard on SocketScan 10 software for the iOS devices so that a user can control this functionality using the SPP (Serial Port Protocol) interface. This should be completed in the first half of 2011.”

It should be noted that the Serial Port Protocol (SPP) interface for the Bluetooth barcode scanner is already available on a whole host of competitive devices, most notably those running the Google Android platform. It has got me once again wondering about whether this is a sign of things to come. Will we continue to see Apple leading in the consumer world but falling by the wayside when things really get down to the enterprise?

Author: Oliver Rhodes