Charge it! The Ins and Out of Inductive Charging, Infection Control and Barcode Readers
Charge it! The Ins and Out of Inductive Charging, Infection Control and Barcode Readers img


Read time: 2 min., 52 sec.

Bleach, hydrogen peroxide, glutaraldehyde, ethanolamine. 

Routine disinfection with caustic chemicals can degrade metal pins used for charging. 

While these powerful chemicals seem heaven-sent for infection control, they’re actually hell on devices, like wireless barcode readers. The majority of commercial wireless devices, like those found in hospitals, logistics and manufacturing firms, and retail self-checkout stands, rely on exposed metal “pogo” pins for charging. These spring-loaded pins form the electrical connection between a device and its charger, allowing electrical currents to travel. But, in environments where continual cleaning occurs, pogo pins become hot spots for failure. 

This inherently clear problem has spurred device manufacturers to borrow tricks from consumer devices, bringing inductive charging (also called wireless charging or wireless power charging) to patient-care devices like barcode readers. 

Why? 

Every spray of commercially available cleaners and every pass with a hospital-grade wipe chemically corrodes the metal pins used by economy devices. What’s more, the near-constant rubbing and pressure exerted on pins by cloths or wipes during sanitation can eventually degrade pin integrity, making them more susceptible to bends and breaks. Either way, these pins will gradually become unable to properly “mate” and form direct contact with a charging base, preventing mission-critical devices from powering up completely—if at all. What’s more, the pins can harbor grime, viruses, and bacteria as devices are transferred between hospital rooms, checkout stands, or tool rooms. 

The 2020–21 COVID-19 pandemic further magnified the shortcomings of pin-equipped bedside and in-store devices. As more and more commodity barcode scanners were sanitized between every use, nurses, material handlers, and retail management alike became increasingly left in lurches due to dead batteries. 

Broken pins and weak batteries aren’t good news for essential devices like barcode scanners. These medical devices are used to verify patients, track medication dosages, and funnel patient care data into a hospital’s EHR system. In retail, customers will experience missed scans, prompting clerk intervention that further holds up the line—precisely what self-checkout is supposed to prevent in the first place. 

Inductively charged devices avoid the pitfalls common to older designs.

The Solution to Solvent-caused Problems: Inductive charging
Given the sanitation and reliability challenges posed by pins, purpose-built devices such as Code Corporation’s CR2700 barcode reader have quickly evolved into designs without exposed pins. 

As with high-end smartphone chargers, dedicated patient-care equipment now buries the charging mechanisms deep inside device housings, eliminating external pogo pins. Wireless power transfer occurs via electromagnetic induction. Bypassing pogo pins also frees device designers and hardware engineers to minimize parts and seams on device housings, providing fewer places for grime (and viruses) to accumulate. 

Better Battery Behavior 
Because of its inherent advantages, inductive charging has quickly proliferated through the data capture and barcode reading sector, with many device manufacturers offering barcode readers that wirelessly charge. 

And because there are now more choices than ever, what should anyone shopping for a barcode reader or scanner look for? 

  • Flexibility—Observe your department’s workflow and evaluate how each device’s wireless charging options might fit. Advanced data capture devices offer hot-swappable batteries for (nearly) uninterrupted workflows and inductive base stations that charge batteries while still attached to the barcode scanner.
  • Durability—The entire handheld device should withstand multiple cleanings throughout a shift, day-in and day-out, without cracking or yellowing. The right barcode reader should be housed in purpose-specific, disinfectant-ready plastic to protect your ROI. Plastic that is antibacterial or antimicrobial typically doesn’t withstand routine disinfection with medical or commercial cleaning supplies.
  • Adaptability—Look for inductive charging technology that’s compatible with multiple configurations, including a desktop base and wall-mount bracket options.
  • Usability—How is battery power status displayed? Ask for images or video (if you don’t have access to a demo model) to see if its on-unit LEDs are not only bright and conveniently located but are inherently clear to prevent hurried users from grabbing the wrong device.

In a time of heightened public health awareness, device disinfection has become a keystone for transmission-based precautions. And, of course, frontline workers and customers alike will likely sanitize before and after use because if some sanitation is good, more must be better. As such, healthcare workers and retail management will need to replace equipment that failed due to corroded charging pins or cracked housings that exposed sensitive electronics—if their device isn’t made of disinfectant-ready plastic.   

Still bouncing back-and-forth between barcode readers equipped with pogo pins or devices that offer wireless charging? Contact Code to find out how to wipe out hot spots for germs and failure with a purpose-built, inductively charged device. 

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