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RFID vs barcodes

Barcodes and radio frequency identification (RFID) are two common methods for inventory control and materials tracking throughout logistics, retail and transportation. Each day, organizations undertake a decision-making process that involves discerning the costs and benefits of both technologies, in an effort to choose the most cost-effective and productive system available. Knowing the differences between RFID and barcodes is absolutely critical for arriving at a viable solution that represents a positive ROI for the organization in question.
Why is the distinction between RFID vs Barcodes Difference Important?
RFID vs barcodes convey information differently, making them suitable for a variety of different environments. This doesn’t mean that one technology is better than the other. On the contrary, both have unique characteristics that make them valuable under varying conditions. These differences are important when it comes to cost effectiveness and productivity, as each technology offers advantages that maximize overall efficiency in relation to materials tracking.
What are the Differences?
Barcodes serve as a two-dimensional visual representation of data that is scanned and interpreted for information. Each barcode is represented by a sequence of lines or other shapes – infrared barcode scanners read and translate these shapes into data that is used for identification, inventorying and tracking purposes. Barcodes offer a more cost-effective process for materials tracking. The cost of printing a barcode is, in most cases, much lower than creating an RFID tag. Barcodes also offer the same or even greater accuracy than RFID tags. Since barcodes are universally employed throughout retail and logistics, barcodes can be processed from anywhere in the world.

RFID tags utilize radio waves for tracking and identification. These tags utilize a scanning antenna, transceiver and decoder to send and receive information. Not only can RFID tags be read at longer distances than barcodes, it is also possible to read multiple tags at one time. Unlike barcodes, RFID tags offer read/write capability along with high-level data encryption and enhanced durability. A system reliant on RFID tags can be set up to operate with minimal interaction. However, RFID tags have higher manufacturing costs and perform poorly when signals pass through liquids or metal.
How Organizations Choose
The decision to go with barcodes or RFID should depend on the needs of the organization and its operating environment. Any organization looking to adopt either technology should look at the above-mentioned differences between the two and ask themselves the following questions:

· What is the operating environment like? Does it involve extreme temperature changes?

· Will this technology increase overall productivity?

· Is the solution in question cost-effective?

· Will the organization see a positive ROI in a short period of time after adopting this solution?
What if the Wrong Choice is Made?
The differences between barcodes and RFID can be significant enough to make either technology unviable in certain situations. For instance, it may be difficult for organizations to justify the costs of tracking and inventorying low-cost items with a relatively expensive RFID solution. Likewise, it would be unwise to rely on barcodes in instances where maintaining line-of-sight is not possible or if large volumes of material require tracking in a short amount of time. Organizations that are unsure of their choice in selecting either technology for data collection have several remedial avenues to pursue. One involves re-evaluating the need for RFID or barcodes by reassessing both cost and function.