The Technology of Scanners and ID Cards

Many inventions and innovations in the past 100 years were designed to make work easier and more convenient, even for something as mundane as making a purchase in a store. Today’s credit and debit cards, state-issued ID cards, work ID cards, driver’s licenses, gift cards, and much more allow Americans to easily make purchases and prove who they are. These plastic cards can make all kinds of work much easier, especially for store employees or law enforcement officials who interact with those people. Police officers may have handheld ID card scanners, or ID readers at the police station. They may use driver license readers on anyone they pull over or detain, too. Meanwhile, many work places issue photo IDs to employees, and this makes it easier to track authorized personnel. And don’t forget the vast arena of credit and debit card purchases, or the use of ballot scanners during elections.

IDs and Color Card Printers

Most Americans have at least one or more types of ID on them, printed on plastic cards. Many DMVs have color card printers on site, and workplaces may have them, too. At the DMV, a person may present papers proving that they have passed driver tests and may now receive a proper driver’s license. A color card printer will be on hand, and these machines are often small enough to sit on a counter. Those color card printers may create a driver’s license of the person once their photo is taken, and the person may take that card with them when they leave.

Something similar may be done at a work site, which may have color card printers on hand. Some sites such as warehouses or post offices may require employees to carry photo IDs to prove that they are authorized personnel, and these IDs may be presented to security guards on arrival. These cards may also include bar codes that the employees swipe in readers to pass through locked doors, to prevent outsiders from intruding in the work space.

Cards and Money

Ever since the mid 20th century, many Americans have started using credit and debit cards to make payments in place of cash. While cash is still often used, these cards allow for more flexible payment options at stores and other retailers. A credit card allows a person to buy goods and services through their credit card company, and once this card is swiped, the funds are automatically transferred. Debit cards, meanwhile, are linked to the user’s own bank account and use their money, acting as a sort of cash proxy rather than representing borrowed money. Either way, retailers will nearly always have scanners that may accept these cards and transfer funds easily to pay debt. Strictly speaking, any purchase in a store is a form of debt payment, and cards may those transfers fast, secure, and convenient for all parties involved. A person may even purchase hundreds or thousands of dollars’ worth of goods or services this way, where cash would be inconvenient to use.

Gift cards also use bar codes or magnetic stripes to transfer funds, and some debit or credit cards also feature an electronic chip. These chips help prevent card theft and add another layer of security, and many retailers offer chip readers that customers may use. These generate a unique code every time they are used.

Other Scanners

How else is scanner technology used? Driver’s licenses, workplace IDs, and credit cards are common examples, but scanners may also be used for voting. Today’s voting sites feature paper ballots that a person may mark with pencils, and these papers may be inserted into a scanner machine. These machines may quickly and accurately scan any ballot’s contents and log them, and such a scanner can log thousands of ballots in one day. This, combined with the work of on-site staff, helps prevent voter fraud (voter fraud is in fact quite rare in the U.S. today). Stores may even feature lottery ticket scanners that scan any lottery papers a customer brings, and airports may feature passport scanners. Finally, an office may hire scanner crews who can rapidly make digital scans of many paper documents, and upload them into the data server. The paper documents may then be destroyed to protect their sensitive contents.