Differences Of RFID Vs Barcode

Differences Of RFID Vs Barcode

Published on : November 15, 2021

What are the differences between RFID vs barcode?

  1. Technology used
  2. Line of sight/prone to wear
  3. Reading distance
  4. Reading rate and speed
  5. Specific identification

In retail data collection, both radio frequency identification (RFID) and barcodes are being used to track assets and inventory. Their effectiveness heavily depends on how you plan on using them, so it’s different from time to time. But the debate of RFID vs barcode is still being discussed by retailers and other businesses everywhere. So how would you know which technology to invest in?

To make the best decision for your business, it is important to know the differences between the two data collection methods.

Technology Used

Since they are both used for tracking items, RFID and barcodes need at least two components to work: a reader or scanner and the tracker itself. Barcode technology uses small strips of plastic adhesives to attach to items. These serve as the trackers themselves. Meanwhile, RFID uses smaller tags attached to items as trackers. Even though liquids and some metals can interfere with RFID tracking, the technology is still rapidly evolving.

RFID uses radio waves to read their tags. A scanner can track the items and possibly their location through radio waves transmitted by the tags. Barcodes, on the other hand, need to be physically scanned by a beam of light. This means that RFID is more automated because barcodes need constant human assistance to function.

Line of Sight

Using radio waves means that RFID scanning doesn’t need to have a line of sight with the item itself. Radio waves aren’t easily inhibited by physical obstructions, so even if the tag itself is hidden, the RFID scanner will still scan them.

Of course, since barcodes use light to scan, a clear line of sight is necessary. Anything placed between the tracker and scanner would make it impossible to scan, which means it should always be placed somewhere visible. This also has a disadvantage because keeping the tracker on the exterior of the item would make it more prone to wear and damage.

For example, supermarkets famously use barcodes to scan items at checkouts. If you cover the barcode with your hand, the item won’t be scanned. Also, if the barcode itself is ripped or faded, it can’t be scanned easily. Sometimes even some dirt or other particles getting in the way of the scanner can become a bother, which is not a problem with RFID technology.

Reading Distance

Considering both the technology used and how they need line of sight, you can imagine the difference in reading distance between RFIDs and barcodes. A barcode can only be read from a few inches to a few feet, depending on how powerful the scanner itself is. Basically, as long as the scanner has a clear line of sight, the distance depends on how far its light can reach. Small, handheld scanners would need to be near the barcode itself to successfully scan.

RFID, on the other hand, can do a lot better. Since its radio waves can’t be easily obstructed and don’t need a line of sight, it can scan items from over 100 feet away. A passive ultra-high frequency (UHF) reader can read items to around 20-40 feet. It is the active UHF reader that can scan to over 100 feet.

Reading Rate and Speed

Aside from distance, the reading rate and speed of both RFID and barcodes are also different. Looking back, you would see that barcodes would be slower than RFID at scanning and reading tags. Barcodes need to be scanned one at a time by the scanner, and it needs to have a human to do it too.

At that rate, an RFID scanner could scan hundreds more, because other than it is fully automated, it can scan multiple items at once. If you need a hundred items scanned, a barcode would need each of them to be scanned individually. If you use RFID technology, you can have them all scanned at once as long as everything is within the frequency field of the scanner.

For reading rate and speed, RFID definitely has the advantage.

Specific Identification

RFID tags can store more complex data than barcodes. RFID scanning can give you more specific details about items than barcodes, which can only really identify the type of item. Because it involves more intricate data, RFID can uniquely identify every single item.

Barcodes can only scan as much information as the bars on the physical tag can tell them, and it isn’t much. That’s why RFID is more useful if specific identification is needed, such as for asset tracking and access control.

Key Takeaway

It has become evident that the design of barcodes is not as efficient as that of RFIDs. RFID technology is more advanced and more efficient, but barcodes can also have their strengths. That’s why the rfid vs barcode debate is still ongoing. After all, why would barcode technology still be in use today if it didn’t have its merits?

Most businesses today use outdated technology for their asset tracking, security systems, or access control systems. We at ELID are dedicated to providing cutting-edge electronic identification technology for businesses all over Southeast Asia. Send us a message here so we can talk about upgrading your systems!

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