You’ve probably heard of RFID, and you definitely know about Barcodes. RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) is a modern method to track and identify objects, just like Barcodes; it relies on radio frequency transmissions (i.e. it relies on wireless communication) to transfer information to track and identify objects. Of course, RFID is still a novel concept, and there are more people who do not know about than those who would – in comparison, Barcodes are pretty much a globalized concept, and are used almost everywhere in the world. Yet, there is a debate not just on whether RFID will take over Barcodes, but on when it will. It seems as if RFID reigning over Barcodes is almost a decided outcome. But why? What are the advantages RFID holds to Barcodes? Read on below.
• Barcode readers operate on a line of sight, that is, they need to see the barcode of an object to scan and identify it. This is not the case with RFID – be it a Zebra RFID scanner or Impinj RFID reader, all RFID readers do not need to see the RFID tag (the equivalent of a barcode in RFID system; this is a very small computerized chip fitted onto an object which contains the information about it) – they only require the tag to be within the reading range.
(Plus, RFID readers are not limited to a single model – they can be fixed or mobile as in the case of a Zebra RFID scanner or even be the size of small eraser, as in the case of ThingsMagic RFID scanners)
• Barcode readers need to be operated manually, so that either the scanner or the object is positioned correctly in order to be scanned; therefore, they require much human resources. On the other hand RFID readers, after being installed, do not require any manual operation – they work automatically.
• Barcode readers can only scan a single barcode at a time, thus their efficiency is extremely low. RFID readers can scan up to a hundred RFID tags at once, or even more, depending on how advanced the reader is (and depending on the frequency of the RFID system). Therefore, one can’t really argue about efficiency (be it time-wise or human resources-wise, or even operation-wise!)
• Barcodes are rendered useless if they’re scratched or damaged in some other form (or if they fall off completely), because there is no way to identify the item then. Comparatively, a RFID tag is usually sandwiched between two different materials and attached to objects (unlike the barcodes which are simply printed), therefore, the probability of them being damaged is much lower. They can also be implanted (even into animals or humans) so they can also withstand very harsh conditions.
• Barcodes are easy to replicate. There is no security, so counterfeiting is rampant (as in the case of pharmaceuticals). RFID tags are hard to reproduce by comparison – they are computerized chips after all. Plus, their data can also be encrypted, and can also be programmed to delete all the data they have stored.
These are only a few advantages RFIDs have over barcodes (and they seem to be overwhelming barcodes already). However the fact that they are much more expensive to manufacture still stands, and given the universality of barcodes, some business prefer to not make the switch. Nevertheless, it is quite probable that a future where barcodes are replaced by RFIDs is not so far away from today.