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AIDC: improving communication.

Technology selection challenges the AIDC system designer to examine various criteria as they apply to a specific end use and communication need.

We keep hearing about AIDC, short for automatic identification and data capture. Personally, however, I encourage substituting the word "communication" for "capture." Communication better describes what the various AIDC technologies can provide to their users.

I see a problem because some individuals are developing a tug of war between the different AIDC technologies. If people look at technology selection as "right" vs. "wrong," or "black" vs. "white"--rather than shades of gray--then they may well force fit a specific technology into a particular application. This can result in a poor design or a less than efficient system.

I also make the distinction between data communication and data capture because it will help users of AIDC better understand and then explain to others that there need not be this technology tug of war. For example, RF tags are not inherently better than 2-D bar codes. Each fulfills a different communication need. Voice data entry may be a perfect solution in one application and terrible in another. But what is important is the ability to communicate.

The idea that AIDC is really part of the communication cycle is not new. One way to define "communication" is "the ability to send and receive messages." One aspect of AIDC that is so unique is that the information (to be communicated) can be put in a portable data file and then move from place to place all during the life of the thing carrying it. Or simple identification (i.e., a U.P.C. bar code) can be used to link the item being moved to information in a computer.

For example, think about the information in an Advanced Shipping Notice (ASN). If that ASN is communicated via a network. a bar code is used to match the right shipping carton (by number) to the right file. Here identification links the information necessary to complete the communication of the ASN.

But the ASN information can be communicated in other ways. Let's say the U.S. Army is in a war zone and is moving containers around. In this case one might not want to rely on a network for communication. Instead, the Army would rather have the ASN information contained in a 2-D bar code symbol, or read into a smart card, RF tag, or mag stripe. In this example, AIDC actually carries the message rather than just linking information in databases.

For a given AIDC application, the system designer must select the technology that best serves communication needs. The challenge is to do so based on weighing a number of criteria (see graphic).

RELATED ARTICLE: AIDC selection criteria-a short list

[check] Item size?

[check] Volume of data?

[check] Reading technique?

[check] Cost?

[check] Environment?

[check] Product life?

[check] Distribution channel?

Rick Bushnell Welcomes comments and questions via e-mail For more information about AIDC integration, visit the integrators web site at

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Title Annotation:automatic identification and data capture
Author:Bushnell, Rick
Publication:Modern Materials Handling
Date:May 1, 1997
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