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RedLaser scans PDF417: Drivers licenses, IDs, and more!

Published on | By Miles Skorpen



The RedLaser iOS SDK version 3.4 has an exciting new feature: PDF417 scanning.

PDF417 is a stacked linear 2D barcode, which means it is a cross between a standard 1D barcode (like the well-known UPC) and the most famous 2D barcode type, the QR code. They’re popular for use in areas which sit at the line between industry and consumer usage: unlike QR codes, PDF417 codes are typically read with industrial linear barcode scanners, and they’re used for US postage, airplane tickets, and FedEx tracking labels.

Most importantly, at least for our US users, the PDF417 is the only barcode type approved by the Department of Homeland Security for  RealID-compliant drivers licenses. This is, in part, because a PDF417 barcode can store a lot of information: almost everything on the front of a driver’s license is stored in the barcode.

This means that you can integrate barcode scanning into user registration or shipping flows to increase conversion and avoid user mistakes! Imagine: One scan, and the user’s address is filled in. Or scan, and their birthday, name, and contact information is added to your registration form.

The barcode format is pretty easy. In South Carolina, for example, the data contained in the code looks like this:



From this data, you can gather a name (Driver Credential Sample), address (1500 Park St, Columbia, SC 29201), height (6′ 00″), weight (200lb), and birthday (09/28/1978). Dedicated scanners to get this data can cost over $1,000 per device, so using the RedLaser SDK makes a scanning drivers licenses cheap, in addition to easy.

Get RedLaser now, to start scanning drivers licenses!


The amazing Android SDK v3

Published on | By Miles Skorpen

After months of development, we’re proud to launch version 3 of our Android Scanning SDK! This update is available now in our developer portal.

Version 3 is the biggest SDK update we’ve ever released, and it includes massive improvements to every facet of the engine. With this release, our Android SDK is on par with our iOS SDK, and blows away our competition.

Most importantly, despite adding tons of new features, scanning on V3 is 20% faster than our previous version on all API level 9+ devices.

The biggest changes are in required device functionality. We now support fixed focus cameras, front-facing cameras, and all device form factors. In practice, these changes mean we suport nearly every Android device—and that the RedLaser scanning SDK can excel on tablets like Google’s new Nexus tablet.

We’ve also significantly expanded the software customization options in our Android SDK:

  • Add graphics to the custom overlay
  • Add custom buttons and text anywhere
  • Landscape mode
  • Alter the size / position of the scan window

Taken together, Android apps can now be as heavily customized as our iOS applications. We’re excited to see what will come out of these changes!

And that’s not all. The update also enables a host of other special features.


Multiscan comes to Android!

Multi-scan: Older versions simulated multiscan by stringing together camera sessions. With Version 3, we bring true multiscan. This means fewer duplicate results, a lighter demand on the device’s processor, a smoother experience, and a big speed boost!


Associated codes: Version 3 will intelligently detect associated codes—like MSRP or issue numbers alongside ISBN numbers. This helps handle a number of product categories more smoothly, and enables some advanced app functionality.

Coupon checking: If you support scanning coupons in app, it can sometimes be important to check if the scanned coupons are coming from real publications, or are photo copies or print-outs. With the coupon checking functionality, you can take a screenshot of whatever is scanned, for further analysis.

Stitching: This feature allows users to stitch together big barcodes one bit at a time. This is highly demanded by our automotive users, since it can be great for VIN / Code 39 scanning on older devices with lower resolution cameras.

To round things off, we’ve added Codabar support, updated our sample application, and created a thorough Android docs section. You can see some more screen shots below. Enjoy!



RedLaser in action: Goodreads

Published on | By Miles Skorpen

We picked Redlaser because it provides fast and accurate scanning.
-otis y. chandler, ceo and founder of goodreads

Goodreads is the largest site for readers and book recommendations in the world. With 8.5 million members, 300+ million books, it has a long history of helping devoted readers across the world to find new books, and share the books they love.

Mobile is part of the company’s DNA. Goodreads hit the iPhone in 2010, recognizing that mobile would be an area of growing importance — their members wanted to bring their book ratings into stores, libraries, and friend’s homes to help guide buying, sharing, and reading decisions. You can get the Goodreads mobile app here.

The Goodreads app didn’t start with a barcode scanner. At first, it was focused on bringing reviews and recommendation into their member’s pockets. But Goodreads had ambitions beyond a read-only experience.

Why have a scanner?

“We wanted to give Goodreads members a way to look up more information about books while on the go, especially when at bookstores and libraries,” explains Chandler.

Scanning media, like books, is one of the oldest, and easiest, users for barcodes scanners. This is because most books have unique barcodes (ISBNs), and because there are a number of providers of media data, notably Google and Amazon. Goodreads, however, was more ambitious. They didn’t just want to identify books, they wanted to link their entire reviews and cataloging system into the operation too.

Why RedLaser?

Since any scanner can read ISBN numbers, Goodreads had a number of options to choose from. They wanted a simple, fast, and accurate scanner. RedLaser was the best scanning SDK they found.

“Scanning was one of our most requested features,” says Chandler. “We knew we needed to get it right. So we picked RedLaser, because it is consistently fast and accurate.”

Goodreads makes use of RedLaser’s flexible scan screen layout options to improve the multi-scan experience by displaying book title, author, and rating information in the scan screen.

What is the impact of RedLaser on the Goodreads mobile experience?

RedLaser has become a central part of the Goodreads mobile experience. The app is seeing over 200,000 scans every month, with about 2/3 from people cataloging their own book collection, and 1/3 from book look-ups. And scanning is accelerating — scans are up nearly 50% from last year!

Cataloging is where RedLaser has been particularly transformative. Before adding a scanner, Goodread users would have to manually type in the title of each book and decide the specific edition they had in their collection. This could be a serious challenge, since many Goodreads users have hundreds or thousands of books! With RedLaser, adding large batches of books is a much simpler and easier experience.

“For our members, it’s a fun and popular feature,” says Chandler. “It’s making it even easier to find your next favorite book.”

Get RedLaser!

You can join GoodReads, and hundreds of other companies, in integrating RedLaser into your application. Our developer portal has a simple form which can get you developing today. Alternatively, get in touch with our team to learn more.


RedLaser in action: Pushpins

Published on | By Miles Skorpen

Our demographic isn’t tech-savvy. We needed a scanner that just worked, all the time. So we picked RedLaser.
-peter michailidis, cmo of pushpins

Pushpins is an innovative application, which offers coupon discovery, delivery, and redemption of coupons in grocery stores across America. When linked to a loyalty card, Pushpins can even apply coupons automatically to customer bills, creating a seamless shopping experience, and providing retailers a easy way to monitor coupon redemption.

“We can know what store the shopper is in and what product they’re standing in front of, and then deliver targeted coupons straight to the shopper. It is a powerful combination,” said Peter Michailidis, the CMO and co-founder of Pushpins.

Pushpins has keyword search for identifying high-level product categories, like “tomatoes” or “corn flakes.” But for optimum coupon-delivery, Pushpins needed to know exactly which products were looking at — even down to package size or flavor. To get this level of precision and to streamline the coupon-discovery process, Pushpins turned to RedLaser.

Why RedLaser? Reliability and speed

Pushpins founders Michailidis and Jason Gurwin knew their basic requirements for a barcode scanning SDK:

  • Scan the barcodes found in grocery stores – particularly UPC-A and UPC-E codes
  • Work on as many iOS devices as possible, including older iPhones and iPod Touches
  • High accuracy, with a low false-positive rate
  • Fastest scanning possible

The team tested a wide range of scanners, and picked RedLaser. “It was the best we tested,” said Michailidis, and they’re still happy with their choice, two years later.

RedLaser’s impact

Today, Pushpins users fall into two camps:

  • Planners: Planners use Pushpins to build shopping lists and manage their groceries.
  • Coupon-ers: Coupon-ers are typically young, single, males on technology’s cutting edge, and looking for serious deals.

The behavior of users in both groups has been significantly changed by inclusion of a scanner.

Planners — 70% of Pushpins’ user base — use the scanner in their home, scanning to access food and nutritional information, or to add items onto their shopping list.  The addition of a scanner reduces friction for these tasks, and simplifies identifying products in bulk. These users are also more likely to have older devices, like the iPod Touch or iPhone 3G, which don’t have auto-focus cameras. RedLaser has been a leading scanner on these devices since its inception.

For coupon-ers, the scanner is taken into store aisles. Buying decisions are informed by Pushpin’s deals, and the scanner accelerates the discovery proces — even in stores with bad lighting or disfigured barcodes.

The Pushpins team has been particularly surprised by one finding — kids love using the scanner. “Many of our older users just hand the phone off to their kids,” explained Michailidis, “and they just go wild, scanning everything! We never expected that kids would be some of our biggest scanners.”

Get RedLaser!

You can join Pushpins, and hundreds of other companies, in integrating RedLaser into your application. Our developer portal has a simple form which can get you developing today. Alternatively, get in touch with our team to learn more.


iOS SDK 3.3.0 release: Codabar support, new scanning engine, improved sample application

Published on | By Miles Skorpen

The RedLaser team is proud to announce the release of our iOS SDK version 3.3.0. This release is now available to all production accounts, and for evaluation.

This new update contains a number of new features and bug fixes. Of particular note for our users: this update removes the unique device identifier [UDID] call from the SDK.

Use of these identifiers was deprecated in iOS 5.0, and recently, accessing UDIDs in an application may result in rejection in app review.  Due to this change, developers should use RedLaser iOS SDK version 3.3.0 or later in all future applications. This change will not impact existing applications. Historically, we’ve used UDIDs in our licensing system, particularly for developer accounts–they are never used outside of RedLaser. We’re changing our licensing system to use an alternative device identification system.

Two other changes are highlighted in our updated sample application.

First, the RedLaser iOS SDK now supports scanning Codabar barcodes. The most prominent user of Codabar is FedEx, which uses the symbology for its airbills. It is also commonly used by libraries, photo labs, and American blood banks. Codabar can be enabled in a similar fashion as other code symbologies in the SDK. You can also see the other code types RedLaser can scan in our documentation.

Second, we have added a debugging line to our sample application which provides information about the installed license file. You can read more about the testing process here.

Generally, the sample application has also been further updated to highlight some of the more advanced functionality available with the RedLaser SDK. This includes:

  • Built-in multi-scan mode
  • Multiple scan screen overlay options
  • Screen overlay rotation (particularly useful for large code types, like Code 39, which are used for VINs)
  • Utilizes both the front and rear facing cameras

Please utilize code from our sample application as a starting point for integrating the RedLaser SDK into your application, and push our software to its limits!

There have also been a number of behind-the-scenes changes. In particular, we have developed a new scanning algorithm which significantly improves performance on older devices.

Older devices have lower resolution cameras (frequently without auto-focus), and this translates into blurry barcodes. The RedLaser SDK now intelligently adjusts its gamma expectations based on ambient light, which lets it quickly pick out the details of blurry codes even in dark conditions.
Finally, we have introduced support for a capture-preview call. Under any circumstances you specify, the scanning SDK will capture a screen-shot of the preview screen right as it successfully completes a scan. You can send these previews back to your servers — functionality which may help coupon applications make sure real coupons (not just print-outs or photocopies) are being scanned.


In summary, our new iOS SDK introduces:

  • Changes to our licensing system to remove the need for UDID calls
  • Improved scanning in low-light conditions
  • Improved EAN scanning on iPad 2 and iPod Touch devices
  • BarcodeResult now conforms to NSCoding.
  • A new sample application, which includes license testing
  • Support for Codabar
  • Capture of barcode-scanning preview images

If you have a production account, you may download our new SDK immediately from our developer portal.