RFID Vs. Barcode

The introduction of RFID and barcode has revolutionized many aspects of our life. Join us as we try to find out whether these technologies will be at loggerheads, or they can co-exist peacefully.
Radio frequency identification (RFID) and barcode are the two automatic identification systems that are extensively in use today. Both have their own pros and cons, though the former seems to have a slight edge in terms of speed, range, etc.

RFID

Radio frequency identification (RFID) uses a tag applied to a product to identify and track it using radio waves. A RFID tag has two parts: an integrated circuit, which is used to process and store information as well as to modulate and demodulate radio frequency signals, and an antenna, which transmits these radio frequency signals. RFID reader, also known as the interrogator, is a device used to interpret the data on RFID tags.

Barcode

A barcode is an optical representation of data, which can be scanned and interpreted by a scanning machine. In this technology, the data is represented by the width and spacing of parallel lines. Lately, barcodes have become the criterion to identify and track objects in supply chains, where the objects range from food items to books and novels. A barcode scanner is used to interpret the data from barcode tags.

RFID Vs. Barcode

If compared, RFID technology is found to be more comprehensive than barcode technology. It is possible to read RFID tags from a greater distance. An RFID reader can access the information of the tag from a distance of around 300 feet, whereas barcode technology can't be read from a distance of more than 15 feet. RFID technology also scores in terms of speed and RFID tags can be interpreted much faster than barcode tags. Barcode reading is comparatively slower, because it requires a direct line of sight. On an average, a barcode reader takes around one second to successfully interpret two tags. In that time, the RFID reader can interpret about 40 tags.

RFID tags are well-protected or either implanted inside the product and hence, are not subjected to much wear and tear. Interpreting a barcode requires a direct line of sight to the printed barcode, so it is printed on the outer side of the product and is thus, subjected to greater wear and tear. It also limits the re-utilization of barcodes. As barcode lacks the read and write facility, it is not possible to add to the information already existing on it. While it appears to be a comprehensive data collection technology owing to the lack in end-to-end supply chain deployments, firms have to think twice before opting for it.

Barcode technology is relatively cheaper. The cost incurred for RFID technology increases further more if it is customized for a particular product. When RFID technology is deployed, the company has to make arrangements to collect and filter the data that comes from various sources, and then evaluate it and send information to the management system, all of which can turn out to be very costly. Barcode tags are much lighter and smaller than RFID tags, and therefore, it is easier to use them. Although RFID tags have a very good range, they often get affected when they come in proximity to metals, thus making it difficult to interpret the data. If damaged, RFID tags cannot be replaced. In barcode systems, however, the damaged tags can easily be replaced.

Owing to its speed, range, and durability, RFID has made a place for itself in high-end technology and businesses, while the relatively cheaper and easy-to-use barcode is widely used in day-to-day applications. So even though RFID has taken over barcode in some fields, both do co-exist in the world as of today.
Manicured nails on woman's hand peeling barcode sticker
RFID Tag