In the era of “Swiss army knife-esque” devices with lots of bells and whistles, smartphones have apps to do virtually any task. It’s easy to lose sight of the value of a piece of assistive technology (AT) that is dedicated to a specific task and does it really well. As consumers, we’ve also gotten lulled into the cheaper prices of some of the apps and find it hard to justify the cost of a device with more of a singular focus. Likewise, if we are counting on funding assistance through a state agency for a more expensive device, they may need specific details on how a more costly, dedicated item is worth the added expense.
Caption: I.d. mate Galaxy
One such dedicated device that quickly comes to mind is En-Vision America’s I.d. mate Galaxy. En-Vision America is a U.S. company that has been around for many years, and their most recent barcode scanner, the Galaxy, is the latest in a line of scanners that goes back 20 years.
The i.d. mate is designed to make reading barcodes, and using barcodes, as labels simple and efficient. When holding the i.d. mate with the buttons facing up, it’s immediately obvious that the buttons for operation are distinct and spaced far enough apart to make them easy to identify. The unit is also light and fits comfortably in either hand. These touches of detail are included everywhere such as the sturdy lanyard that ships with the i.d. mate and the leather pouch the i.d. mate comes with. The pouch includes plenty of room for the USB cable, the i.d. mate, and ample storage for additional items like extra labels. A user guide is accessible from the Help section, and it is easy to follow using the up and down arrows to read a section at a time.
Operating the Device
Operating the device is straightforward and has the same attention to detail in the designs makes the i.d. mate easy to use. To operate, press the power button; the Galaxy beeps as it starts up; then you hear the French horns and the opening, “i.d. mate Galaxy,” spoken. Users are immediately in “i.d. mode,” and can begin searching for the barcode. The laser used to detect barcodes and UPC codes is very sensitive and seems to pick up the codes readily from a couple inches. The barcode apps rely on the smartphone or tablet camera to detect the barcodes and these may not be as refined for detection as the i.d. mate’s laser.
Unlike the smartphone and tablet apps that detect barcodes, the database used to make the identification on the i.d. mate is in the memory on the device, so no internet connection is required for identification. The unit does have WIFI, so when connected, it can update the database, or do an “online price check.” The price check, when initiated, located an item just scanned on Amazon and reported the price.
One of the most useful features, in addition to the scanner, is a voice recorder. While this can be used for recording audio memos, in this case audio memos can be associated with a barcode. So, for example, a recipe or directions might be recorded and associated with the barcode of a specific product. With some creativity, this feature alone might be integrated in a variety of office settings—using a printed barcode on a sticky note to identify paperwork, a deadline, a procedure, etc. Recordings may be added together or erased. So, for example the progress of an item, or paperwork, might be tracked or notes added periodically, simply by recording another memo after the barcode.
The recorder is also an mp3 player. When connected to a computer via the USB cable, files may be transferred to and from the SD card. The SD card can also be removed and placed in a computer for file transfer. In this fashion, recordings to be saved may be transferred and mp3 files also uploaded to the i.d. mate. There is a headphone jack on the device, and the audio playback can be turned up surprisingly loudly for a device only 7 inches long. We often think of mp3 audio files as music and entertainment, but these may also be educational, or training podcasts used in a work environment.
An “Inventory Mode” takes scanning to the next level for anyone managing a shop, or in an environment where products are being moved regularly. Using the inventory mode, a scanned item can have a starting quantity attached to it, so that scans in the future subsequently add or subtract from the overall number available. At any given time, the i.d. mate has an accurate account of what inventory is available.
Overall, the i.d. mate is very intuitive to use. The menu is comprehensive but not so layered and deep that it is easy to get lost. I found it was easier to just jump into the various menu items and resort to the user guide for very specific items. For example, I tried several times to add the WIFI passcode using the up and down arrow keys but finally had to break down and consult the help section to figure out how to create a capital letter. This will certainly expose the Luddite in me! But I also like the fact that the i.d. mate Galaxy, which first came out as a model 2 years ago, is heavily based on the i.d. mate Quest, and, except for several updates, has changed little. Users spend time being productive with it, rather than regularly learning new features or how to deal with the ones that broke during the update.
Ultimately, the i.d. mate Galaxy, at $1295 remains a solid, dedicated piece of assistive technology that gets the job of barcode scanning done well. It is a relatively simple, efficient tool that will easily pay for itself in the workplace and even at home and in the grocery store! It offers a far less complicated tool than a smartphone or tablet whose apps may do the job less effectively. Many users will applaud its easy to use menus and responsiveness.