RFID Versus Barcodes: What is the Difference?

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RFID Versus Barcodes

What is the Difference?

We are often asked what the difference is between RFID and barcode technology? What is the “better” inventory management technique? A good analogy is to consider a cup of water versus a bucket of water. The cup and bucket are the technologies needed to move the water in this case from point A to B. So, in this example, the water is the data. If you have a small amount of data (4 to 20 charterers), a “cup,” or a barcode is the optimal technology to move that amount of data. However, if you have more data (20 charterers and greater), you will need a more robust technology such as a “bucket,” or in our case data, using a QR code, LiveQR code, Data Matrix code or even an RFID code is a better choice. A bucket has more capacity than a cup, so it provides more capacity for a larger volume of data along with features, including security and error correction.

Barcodes

Barcodes are used with an external reference point to retrieve usable data. For example, a UPC code on a can of soda contains eight digits. For this number to make sense, the user who scans the soda can needs to know the code and what it relates to  (i.e. “04913207” = Sprite, 12oz. individual can). When this number is entered into a computer or POS system an internal or an external web search is required to give the code meaning.  The result returned from an internal search may contain a pricing, or other minimal specifications however an external search would offer lots of responses but error correction and security options are not available.

QR, LiveQR, and Data matrix Codes for Traceability

QR codes, or other 2D barcodes, require an external reference point for credential access or geo-location access. They can even store multiple sets of data, which is used to return the approved data based on the aforementioned guidelines. LiveQR codes are able to reference a URL and data that can pinpoint not only a Sprite soda can, but can also retrieve information needed for traceability such as the location where the specific can was produced, when it was filled, who filled it, etc.

What is RFID Technology?

RFID technology is almost identical to QR and 2D codes with regard to the amount of data it can hold. However, one major difference between a barcode and RFID is the “lid” on the cup or bucket that limits access to that water/data.  RFID requires additional specialized hardware to access the data (think of it as the complex lid on the cup or bucket). While both the cup and bucket can have “lids,” the type of lid will depend on the amount of data and the feature requirements for accessibility and security. There are several other differences, including RFID technology is read by radio frequency, not optically with a camera or imager. This becomes an issue depending on what you are tracking and the surrounding environment.  RFID can be great for some products such as clothing at a retail establishment however the ability to know what specific item was scanned requires an optical verification by the user.  In most cases a secondary bar or QR code is still required for real verification. Just like bar and QR codes, security and readability features are required and must be referenced by a third party service or database to return usable data to the person scanning.

Overall, RFID has some amazing features. It is best utilized when a large amount of data storage is required. However, technology that can be printed, including QR or 2d bar codes, have many of the same abilities as RFID, but come at a fraction of the cost and complexity.

Overall, RFID has some amazing features. It is best utilized when a large amount of data storage is required. However, technology that can be printed, including QR codes or 2d barcodes, have many of the same abilities as RFID technology but come at a fraction of the cost and complexity. The optimal technology to use largely depends on the type of inventory, the speed of its movement, and security requirements.

The optimal technology to use largely depends on the type of inventory, the speed of its movement, and security requirements.

For more information on the difference between RFID technology and how it can be used in your organization: please contact the TRXio team at 844-868-7225 or click on the button below to book a free demo.

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