Barcodes Vs.  RFID: What Are The Differences & Advantages?
RFID and Barcode are two different technologies and have different applications, which sometimes overlap. In many circumstances, RFID offers advantages over traditional barcodes. The big difference between the two is that barcodes are line-of-sight technology. That is, a scanner has to “see” the barcode to read it, which means people usually have to orient the barcode toward a scanner for it to be read.

Barcodes

A barcode is a visual representation of data that is scanned and interpreted for information. Each barcode contains a certain code which works as a tracking technology for products; and is represented in a sequence of lines or other shapes. A barcode is read by an optical device such as a scanner. Initially this technology was symbolized by the width and spaces between parallel lines that were one dimensional. This then evolved into other geometrical shapes such as rectangles and hexagons that were two dimensional. Today, many smart phones are able to scan different types of barcodes.

Radio-Frequency Identification

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is the wireless use of electromagnetic fields to transfer data, for the purposes of automatically identifying and tracking tags attached to objects. The tags contain electronically stored information. An RFID system has readers and tags that communicate with each other by radio waves.

Advantages of RFID

RFID has many advantages over barcodes, but barcodes have become a standard in many industries for many worthwhile reasons. In years past, implementing a full-scale RFID system was too expensive for small to mid-size companies, but today, the difference in the cost of a new barcode system versus an RFID system may be minimal in certain applications. Also, investing in an RFID system may pay for itself over time due to potential increases in efficiency and decreases in errors.

With an RFID system, you could see improvements in your business due to these advantages:

RFID doesn’t need line of sight.

For a barcode to be read, the scanner must be placed directly in front of each label, and both need to be oriented in a very specific position in order to work properly. RFID tags on the other hand, don’t need to be directly in sight of an RFID reader. Because RFID uses radio waves to communicate, RFID tags only need to be within the read range of the reader, which will vary depending on the equipment.

An RFID tag is read/write.

A barcode can only be read, and the data can never be changed once it has been printed onto a label. RFID tags can be read, and the data on the tag can be rewritten or modified as needed.

RFID tags are durable and reusable.

Because barcodes are typically printed on paper labels or other unprotected surfaces, they are easily damaged and rendered unreadable. Depending on your application, you can find RFID tags specifically designed to work in harsh conditions. A durable hard case protects these RFID tags from impacts, heat, moisture, and changing weather conditions.

Data is encrypted.

Barcodes are easily counterfeited, and the data itself is always readable. With RFID tags, your data is much more secure as the information has the ability to be encrypted. Also, it’s much more difficult to copy RFID tags recognized in your system.

RFID tags are capable of storing more data.

Standard barcodes are limited in the amount of information they are capable of representing. RFID tags carry large data capabilities such as product maintenance, shipping histories and expiry dates; which can all be programmed to the tag.

Read rate is greatly increased.

Each barcode must be individually scanned in order to be entered into the system. RFID systems can read multiple tags at the same time, and do not need line of sight. Since RFID readers are capable of reading hundreds of tags at once, the increase in read rate saves you time that can be spent elsewhere.

Overall, RFID systems have many more features than simple barcoding systems, but both RFID and barcodes are good fits for certain applications.