As anyone who has visited a supermarket knows, bar-coding is ubiquitous. It seems the tiny black-and-white lines are imprinted on every product, signifying identification numbers that can help manufacturers, distributors, and retailers better manage factory production, sales, and inventories. Now, a company in Webster, N.Y., has come up with a particularly small bar-code scanner that gives workers more freedom of movement than ever.

Most scanners are shaped like a pistol, requiring the dedicated use of one hand. But PSC Inc.'s new product, weighing just three ounces and mounted on a glovelike piece of fabric, fits on the back of the hand. To scan a bar code, the worker makes a fist to keep his fingers out of the unit's laser beam and points his knuckles at the intended target. When not scanning, his fingers are free to pick items off a shelf or do other work. A wire from the back of the scanner connects to a portable terminal or computer.

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