When it comes to tracking and identifying assets, two popular technologies are RFID and barcodes. Both have unique advantages and use cases, but which should you choose?
Whether you’re a business owner, healthcare professional, or just curious about the technology, this blog will help you understand the differences and similarities between RFID and barcodes.
RFID: An Overview
Radio Frequency Identification, commonly referred to as RFID, is a technology that enables the reading and writing of data by transmitting radio waves to an RFID tag. The tag is a small chip with an antenna that responds to the radio signal by transmitting its stored data.
RFID tags can store up to 2,000 bytes of data and serve various purposes such as inventory tracking, personnel/employee tracking, asset tracking, equipment maintenance, materials management, access control, interactive marketing, and RTLS (Real Time Location System).
The technology is widely used in retail, logistics, healthcare, and manufacturing to improve operational efficiency, reduce costs, and enhance security.
How Does RFID Work?
RFID technology uses radio waves to transmit data between an RFID tag and an RFID reader. RFID tags contain small chips that store data, which transfers to the reader upon scanning the tag. The radio waves that power the chip in the RFID tag also transmit the data stored on the chip back to the reader.
There are two types of RFID tags: passive and active. Passive tags do not require a direct power source and only draw power from the radio waves used to read or write to the data chip. The radio waves sent from the reader antenna to the tag antenna provide the energy needed for the tag to respond.
On the other hand, active tags require a direct power source, such as a battery, to continuously read the data. These tags can transmit data over longer distances and are ideal for applications that require constant tracking.
When an RFID reader scans the tag, the reader emits a radio signal that the tag’s antenna picks up. Next, the tag sends a response containing its unique identification number and other information. The reader interprets this information and applies it to various purposes, such as tracking inventory.
RFID vs. Barcoding: A Comparison
RFID and barcoding are two methods of identifying and tracking items, but they differ in several ways. While both technologies are effective solutions for inventory management, asset tracking, and supply chain management, RFID is more versatile and offers greater flexibility over barcoding. Learn more below.
How Barcodes and RFID are Similar
Barcodes and RFID scanners are both forms of automatic identification and data capture (AIDC) applications. RFID and barcodes use unique identifiers to track and manage items or assets. Both technologies offer enhanced efficiency and accuracy in various industries, including healthcare, retail, and logistics.
Barcodes and RFID tags can be printed or encoded onto various materials, such as labels, tags, or even directly onto objects. To achieve this, they both require compatible hardware and software to read and process the data.
As a result, both can track and monitor inventory levels to improve supply chain management across an organization. Both barcodes and RFID can also help companies comply with industry regulations and customer requirements for tracking and identification.
Additionally, organizations can integrate them into automated systems to improve efficiency and reduce computational errors.
Differences Between Barcodes and RFID
While barcodes rely on optical scanning technology to read and transmit information, RFID uses radio waves to transmit data. In other words, barcode scanners require a direct line of sight between the scanning device and the barcode itself, while RFID tags can be read remotely and through physical barriers.
RFID tags can also store and transmit more information than barcodes, making them a better choice for applications that require storing more data, such as tracking medical devices and equipment. RFID tags are easy to read and modify, offering users the flexibility to switch them over to new items after retiring an old piece of equipment.
Using RFID technology is typically more expensive than barcodes due to the need for specialized software and hardware. Barcodes are also more prevalent and widely used than RFID, as they are currently more established and accessible.
Although barcodes are popular and easy to use, their functions are also limited. Barcodes are typically single-use, meaning users can only assign them to one item or product for their lifespan.
When to Choose RFID Tags over Barcodes
RFID technology offers several advantages over barcoding in many applications, making it a better choice in some scenarios. For example, high-volume inventory tracking is more efficient and accurate with RFID technology, particularly in large-scale operations.
Asset monitoring is another application where RFID tags can efficiently track and monitor objects in real time, making it easier to locate and manage valuable equipment. Complex supply chain management is also better managed using RFID technology, allowing for better tracking of goods from manufacture to delivery.
Additionally, RFID technology can be integrated with automated systems, reducing the need for manual labor and increasing efficiency. Compliance with regulations or customer requirements may also require using RFID tags over barcodes.
Advantages of RFID in Healthcare
RFID technology offers several benefits in the healthcare industry. One advantage is enhanced patient safety and accuracy, as RFID technology can accurately identify patients and match them with the correct medications, reducing the risk of errors and improving patient safety.
Efficient inventory management is another benefit. RFID technology can track inventory levels and reduce waste while ensuring the availability of necessary supplies. Better asset tracking and management are also possible with RFID tags, reducing loss and improving the maintenance of medical equipment and devices.
Additionally, RFID technology can help automate processes and reduce the risk of human error, leading to a more streamlined workflow and better outcomes. Finally, hospitals can leverage RFID technology to collect data on patient outcomes and other metrics, allowing for better analysis and insights into healthcare practices.
Implement RFID Solutions With Pycube
RFID technology has simplified asset tracking and management across different industries. Thanks to RFID technology, organizations can easily keep track of their expensive assets, products, and other costly pieces in the supply chain.
RFID asset tracking technology can help reduce labor costs and streamline operations, providing companies with a noticeable upgrade from barcode scanners and other traditional asset management methods.
With SyncSens™, Pycube’s RFID asset tracking solutions, you can track the movement of physical assets throughout your facilities and use this data to improve efficiency across inventory management systems and your entire business. Pycube’s scanning solution also works with both RFID and barcodes, allowing your organization further flexibility in managing assets. Contact us for more information to get started.