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What does an ID scanner read and how?

by janeausten
id scanning


The world has moved onto ID scanners. Every day, more businesses choose to invest in them around the globe. It makes one’s job more convenient and cost-efficient as they reduce manual labor significantly. But what do they exactly read? How do they tend to work?

While some people may believe that ID scanners only check and ensure that their ID is valid or cross-check a person’s age, in reality, IDs contain so much more than that. It is astonishing the amount of data that the ID cards have and how scanners and their software work to extract this data.

What is an ID Scanner?

An ID scanner is an electronic identification scanner capable of reading barcodes, QR codes, and machine-readable zones (MRZ) and gathering information stored within them. It can be defined as any gadget that can scan various ID cards, including Driver’s license, passport, Aadhaar or PAN Cards etc.

They can be camera-enabled mobile phones, desktops, smartphones, or even hand-held physical scanners. ID scanning is a convenient and secure way to collect personal data from users, clients, and customers.

They come in handy in various industries where security is paramount. Police officers, airport executives, financial institutions, or any company can utilize scanning devices to verify the ID owner’s age and identity swiftly. Be it their employees or customers.

What Does an ID Scanner Read?

The information we see on the front side of an identity card is contained in a barcode, or a machine-readable zone, at the back. It might also have additional blood group data for some documents.

The ID scanning software extracts all the information and displays it on a screen. For instance, when it scans the barcode of a driving license, it extracts personal information such as name, date of birth, gender, and more. A device or app with advanced and customized scanning features would compare various fields on the screen to all the state’s databases.

The technology working behind this function is Optical Character Recognition (OCR). Optical Character Recognition is the process of converting an image of text into a machine-readable text format. It extracts data from scanned documents and camera images, which are then displayed on the screen.

Let’s explore some uses of ID scanners.

The scanning devices and apps are designed to read barcodes and machine-readable zones (MRZ). An efficient app would read barcodes and machine-readable zones quite accurately, even if they are distorted, blurred, or moving.

  • Identity cards, like driver’s licenses and AADHAR cards (in India), have barcodes imprinted on them. As a driver’s license and AADHAR card are the chief methods of identification, it is crucial that the device reads the barcode data and extract them accurately.
  • Another primary mode of identification is a passport. It is imperative to ensure no failure, as negligence in passport scanning might result in a national security threat. Also, it helps streamline airport entry processes for airline employees. A competent scanner would read the machine-readable zones easily, quickly, and reliably.

How Does an ID Scanner Work?

The process starts automatically as soon as the ID is swiped, inserted, or placed through the scanning device. Most scanners either have an ID slot that can be “dipped” or inserted and removed or an infrared “point-and-shoot” scanner. The ID is swiped through a slot to read a magnetic strip.

After that, the screening process starts without any user intervention, as follows:

  • Image scanning

The scanner first gathers optical data by taking pictures in various lighting conditions. Then, it applies image processing, like reflection removal.

  • Printed data and chip reading

In the next step, the optical character recognition (OCR) software decodes data from 1D/2D barcodes, contact or contactless chips, and all text-based information.

  • Authentication

To validate high-level documents, the scanner runs several security checks on the images it has taken and the data that has been extracted. This is the last step of the screening process. Generally, after this step, the extracted information is displayed on the screen where the scanning device is connected.


ID scanning has become an integral part of this era’s security system. It continues to develop with each passing day. IDs store vital information, but it has become increasingly easy to forge. This is where advanced ID scanning software comes in. It would detect fraud, identity theft, and other illegal activities within seconds. This, if done manually, would take several minutes. It improves the speed and effectiveness of customer identification tremendously.

Additionally, it also offers traceable access control solutions. The convenience and effectiveness are why businesses choose to invest in it so heavily.

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