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This post was last updated on December 20th, 2020 at 09:39 pm

BARCODING vs RFID

Barcode vs RFID: What’s the difference and which is best for your business?

Both RFID tags and barcodes can store information about an individual item which can be read by a scanner and uploaded to a database. However RFID tags – while they tend to be more expensive – do offer a number of benefits over barcodes which can often more than justify the additional cost.

Here we look at the differences and what factors you might consider if you are deciding between the two.

5 advantages of RFID compared to barcodes

1. RFID tags can be read from further away

Whereas barcode readers need the barcode to be fairly close (max 30cm) and in direct view in order to ‘read’ it, RFID readers can scan a tag at longer distances of up to 10m, depending on the type of tag, and in many cases when it is hidden from view. This saves time for the person doing the checks, as they do not have to get right up to the item and place the reader directly over it.

2. They can also be read faster

Whereas barcode readers take a second or more to complete a read, an RFID reader can scan many tags simultaneously. In fact it can read all the tags in an area within a few seconds while a barcode system would require the user to locate each item individually. This makes the scanning process even faster and means that items in concealed locations are less likely to be overlooked.

3. RFID tags are more durable

RFID tags are less likely to be obscured by grease or dirt which means items are not ‘lost’ due to missing or unreadable labels.

4. They can be updated and reused

Information on a barcode cannot be amended. By contrast RFID tags can be updated with the tag in place, which makes for a much more flexible system design. So for example, the tag on an item of equipment can carry the date of the last time it was inspected or a code can be added, indicating that it should not be taken off site.

5. . . . and be built into doorways and portals

RFID readers can be built into portals to detect assets passing by, for example to track goods along a production line or placed on exits to detect items being taken out of the building. Bar codes need to be stationary during the scanning process and are not suitable for items on the move.

Choosing between barcodes and RFID

Bearing in mind the differences outlined above, here are some of the factors to consider when making a decision:

What is the application? If multiple assets need to be scanned quickly, for example items on pallets coming in and out of a warehouse, files in a library or tools in a store, RFID is much quicker and easier. Another benefit is that items are not counted twice.

How accessible are the items? If they are hard to reach or not within clear view, again RFID is quicker and can help find ‘hidden’ assets.

What are the environmental conditions? RFID tags are available to suit all types of weather conditions and unlike barcodes, are not easily obscured by dirt or grease.

Do you want to automate the system? RFID readers can be placed in fixed locations to scan items automatically whereas barcodes will always require a human – whether a staff member or customer – to physically place the label in front of the reader.

Do you need to add info during the process? RFID tags offer ‘read and write’ capabilities so can be updated on site.

What is the value of the item? While barcodes may be a more realistic option for very low-value items, RFID tags offer more versatility and functionality for others.

CoreRFID solutions can incorporate both RFID tags and barcodes and be tailored to your business. Contact one of our experts to discuss your needs.