Many businesses are actively looking for inventory and asset tracking systems that satisfy their needs. When it comes to choosing a tracking solution, RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) and barcode technologies are regularly compared to each other. RFID and barcodes are pretty similar, but they have numerous key differences that many individuals or organisations may not be aware of.
RFID utilises radio waves to convey information from RFID tags to a reader. Each RFID tag has a sensor attached to an antenna that allows data transfer to the reader. Every sensor usually contains specific identifiers, and a reader can scan over 100 tags simultaneously and require no line of sight visibility.
On the other hand, a barcode system scans using a beam of light to “read” the barcode’s black and white lines. The scanner contains a sensor that generates a signal from the reflected light, and the signal is then translated by a decoder into text and sent to a database or computer. Unlike RFID, barcode scanners need a line of sight and must “view” every barcode one at a time to capture information.
Read on to learn more about how RFID systems differ from barcode systems and what factors you should consider in choosing between the two tracking solutions.
The differences between RFID and barcodes
1. RFID tags can be read faster and from further away
Barcode readers often take a second or more to finish a read. On the other hand, an RFID reader can scan multiple tags simultaneously. As a matter of fact, it has the power to read all tags in one area within a couple of seconds, while a barcode system would need the user to locate every item individually. This makes the scanning process with RFID a lot quicker and reduces the possibility of concealed items being overlooked.
Aside from faster reading, RFID readers can also read tags from further away. While a barcode reader requires the barcode to be close (a maximum of 30 centimetres) and in direct view, an RFID reader can read a tag at a farther distance of up to 10 meters and even when it is concealed from view. This saves significant time and makes item scanning and checks easier and more convenient.
2. RFID tags are sturdier and can be update
Compared to barcodes, RFID tags are less likely to be blurred by dirt or grease, which minimises the possibility of items being “lost” because of unreadable labels. Moreover, unlike barcodes, which cannot be amended, RFID tags are usually designed to be updated. For instance, the RFID tag on an item can contain the date of the last time it was checked, or a code can be incorporated, indicating that it must not be taken off-site.
3. RFID tags can be built into portals and doorways
RFID readers can be built into portals to allow the detection of assets passing by. For instance, an RFID reader can be placed on an exit point to detect items being taken out of the facility or track products along a production line. Meanwhile, barcodes must be stationary during scanning and are not ideal for moving items.
Factors to consider when choosing between RFID and barcodes
RFID is a much faster and easier solution if numerous assets must be scanned rapidly, such as files in a library, tools in a store, and goods coming in and out of a warehouse. Another benefit of using RFID for scanning is that it has no way of counting items twice, thereby increasing the accuracy of the scan.
If the items to be scanned are difficult to reach or not within clear view, RFID should be used over a barcode, as the former can find assets even in concealed locations.
Barcodes always need humans to place labels physically in front of the readers. On the contrary, RFID readers can be placed in fixed locations to scan items automatically without requiring physical assistance from humans. Hence, RFID enables full automation of processes.
Although barcodes may be a more realistic choice for low-value products, RFID tags provide more functionality and versatility for others. In other words, RFID is the better option for various items, whether low-value or high-value. Additionally, RFID tags have “read and write” capabilities so that they can be updated on-site.
5. Environmental conditions
Unlike barcodes, RFID tags are not easily blurred by dirt or grease and are suitable for all weather conditions. This is one of the main reasons behind the prominence of RFID in retail and other industries where environmental conditions vary.
Overall, while many companies consider RFID and barcodes as excellent tracking solutions, there is no doubt that the former has more capabilities and better features. Compared to barcode systems, RFID systems have wider application, more accessibility and automation features, and better functionality and suitability. The current trends of RFID in 2023 also prove that it is a suitable tracking solution for this day and age. Therefore, it is no surprise that RFID companies are increasing demand across different industries nowadays.