Smartphones as data capture devices transform the future of mobile data collection

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Data capture devices are playing an increasingly important role in optimizing proven workflows. Employees can use them to accurately and quickly capture information, enabling real-time processing and analysis. However, dedicated hardware is often costly – yet inflexible. 

Therefore, the future of mobile data collection belongs to smartphones. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at the advantages they offer in comparison with conventional devices.

Which use cases are covered by mobile data capture devices?

Mobile data capture devices collect, process, and transmit data in real time. The actual data types they handle can vary widely, but commonly include inventory, prices, stock movements, product information, or customer data. These devices are used in multiple industries and operational areas, including retail, logistics, field service, and production.

The classic data capture devices are traditional hardware scanners. They are tailored to specific tasks and applications. Due to their robustness, they can be used under challenging conditions, such as in factories. Typical functions include barcode scanning, signature capture, GPS tracking, wireless data transmission, and routing information to enterprise systems/databases. This eliminates time-consuming and error-prone manual data entry.

Smartphones as data capture tools: benefits at a glance 

Combined with the constantly improving performance, modern software solutions steadily open up new possibilities for using smartphones as data capture devices. Today, common cell phones and tablets perform as well as or better than dedicated hardware in a direct comparison, as long as they are equipped with suitable software. 

At the same time, they offer flexibility: Not only do they function as accurate barcode scanners, for instance, but they can also capture single-line data, such as serial numbers.

Compared to classic hardware scanners, smartphones offer some significant advantages:

a) Cost efficiency:

Smartphones are significantly less expensive to acquire than specialized devices, some high-end models excepted. In addition, the maintenance costs for complex, dedicated scanning devices are also eliminated here.

The basic functionality of the operating systems (primarily iOS or Android) is familiar to just about everyone, as well. Employees can quickly familiarize themselves with the operating system and new apps without time-consuming and expensive training.

The modern BYOD concept goes one step further: Here, employees use their own cell phones for mobile data capture. BYOD strategies often offer them benefits for doing so.

b) Flexibility:

With their enormous variety of functions, smartphones offer a huge potential for applications. They can be adapted to a host of very different tasks. 

Even very particular data capture requirements can be met with custom-tailored solutions. For instance, they might limit reading to a single barcode type, and thus prevent erroneous captures.

This flexibility enables companies to constantly adapt processes and make data collection more efficient.

c) Performance:

Even under difficult scanning conditions, such as low light or damaged barcodes, smartphones deliver accurate results within milliseconds. Solutions like the Scanbot Barcode Scanner SDK read barcodes in 0.2 seconds – with 98.7% accuracy.

d) Integration & connectivity:

Smartphones and tablets are the perfect platform for seamless integration with other systems and services. Data can be easily synchronized and shared via cloud services, APIs, and wireless connections. Integrating mobile devices into an existing ERP system is often easier and requires less effort than doing so with dedicated mobile data capture devices.

e) Updates & support

Smartphones are constantly evolving, and their manufacturers provide updates and security patches regularly. By equipping employees with smartphones, companies can quickly benefit from the latest features, improvements, and security updates.

Challenges & solutions

However, when using smartphones as mobile data capture devices, there are some technical factors that also need to be considered:

a) Ruggedness:

Unlike dedicated hardware, smartphones are not necessarily designed for use in the harsh warehouse or industrial environment. In these scenarios, rugged smartphone cases and screen protectors help protect the device from shocks, dirt, and moisture. Alternatively, companies can invest in rugged, shock-resistant smartphone models.

b) Limited battery life:

Using a smartphone as a data capture device requires good battery life, especially during long work hours or at locations without charging facilities. Companies can solve this problem by providing power banks and charging stations to keep devices always ready for use.

c) Security:

When using smartphones for business-critical tasks, security is a major concern. Organizations should implement appropriate security measures, such as encrypted data transmission, access controls, and regular software updates, to ensure the safety of sensitive company data.


Smartphones offer businesses a cost-effective and versatile alternative to specialized hardware scanners. By leveraging mobile devices, companies can increase efficiency, improve data collection and make business decisions informed by real-time information. With the right security measures and high-quality scanning software, smartphones are the reliable data collection device of the future.

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