RFID vs Barcode: Benefits, Limitations and Differences

RFID vs Barcode Benefits Limitations Differences

With the global RFID market expected to hit $17.4 billion by 2026, an estimated growth of 10.2%, more and more companies are pondering this technology and whether it is the right solution for their operations. Chances are you’ve already implemented barcoding, or are on the fence between the two.

You might be wondering the difference between barcoding and RFID in terms of operations and which one is better suited for managing inventory in your business. If so, this post examines the differences between the two, their benefits, limitations and situations where each may be the best option. That being said, here is what you need to know:

What is RFID?

Radio Frequency Identification, often referred to as RFID, is a wireless system consisting of two components – tags and readers. The latter is a gadget with at least one antenna that emits radio waves and receives signals from the RFID tag. Tags utilise radio waves to reveal their identity and other types of information to the readers.

What is a Barcode?

A barcode is a visual representation of data (usually lines and other shapes) that are scanned and then interpreted for information. Every barcode is unique and contains a code that is used to track products. Since its inception, barcoding was symbolised by the spaces and width of parallel lines. However, this evolved into other shapes like hexagons that are two dimensional, allowing barcodes to be scanned by newer technology on gadgets like desktop printers and smartphones.

What are the Differences Between RFID and Barcode?

Given these two forms of identification rise from varying technologies, they are bound to have noteworthy differences:

  • Barcodes utilise light and sensors to read the data encoded on the tag while RFID utilises radio waves. This means RFID does not need a line of sight to get the necessary data.
  • Barcode readers only process one tag at a time while RFID readers can process dozens at a time.
  • Barcodes are extremely simple, making them easy to counterfeit or replicate. However, RFID is more complex, and thus more secure.
  • Barcodes need to be exposed for scanning, while RFID tags can be hidden. This protects RFID tags against the environment.

RFID vs Barcode Benefits Limitations Differences

The Benefits and Limitations of Barcodes

The Pros

  • Barcodes are a globally accepted technology, used in almost all retail situations. As such, these products can be read anywhere in the world as long as you have a barcode scanner.
  • They are smaller and lighter and thus easier to use.
  • Compared to RFID tags, they are way less expensive. Barcodes are directly printed onto paper or plastic materials, so, the only cost involved is the ink.
  • Nowadays, barcodes can be found in almost every product and there are no privacy issues involved with its implementation.
  • More often than not, barcode precision has been shown to be the same or even better than RFID tags

The Cons

  • Barcode readers require a direct line of sight to the barcode in order to read. In addition, they have to be particularly close to the tag.

The Benefits and Limitations of RFID

The Pros

  • RFID tags are rugged and strong. This allows them to work in harsh environments and at extreme temperatures. Even in adverse conditions, RFID systems are incredibly fast.
  • RFID features a high level of security. Information can be encrypted, protected with a password and even programmed to a kill switch to delete the data permanently.
  • RFID tags are able to carry more information including expiry dates, shipping histories, manufacturing dates, product maintenance, etc.
  • RFID scanners can read tags from a larger distance compared to barcodes and they do not have to be in a direct line of sight.
    Also, RFID tags can be scanned at an incredible speed. Usually, an RFID reader can scan up to 40 tags per second.

The Cons

  • The primary downside of RFID technology is the cost involved. This system is more expensive compared to other identification systems and the cost can go higher if the system is designed for a custom or specific application.

Conclusion – RFID or Barcode?

Simply put, both barcodes and RFID tags have their place in the industry. While RFID tags have the ability to store many types of data, barcodes are more cost-efficient. If you are unable to pick the right one for your operations, consider consulting an expert!

For more information about RFID tags and barcodes,  please visit the ASP website. Our team would be happy to discuss your needs and to help you build new, more efficient workflows that will support the best operation of your warehouse or store.

We have the right tools for companies of all sizes and will work to accommodate your business, supplying you with technologies that are tailored to suit your business to help improve your efficiency and accountability. We are the market leader when it comes to the development of customised and packaged solutions.

This includes Inventory Management, Portable Barcode Readers, Supply Chain Management, Time and Attendance and Asset Tracking to name but a few.

Please call us today on 03 9578 7600 or 1800 061 642 or contact us through our website.