RFID and Barcode Labeling: Is There a Difference Between the Two?

As technologies advance and merge, it can be harder to distinguish between seemingly similar types of product identification functions. Take for example RFID and barcode labels, which appear to be interchangeable terms in many ways. Not necessarily.  Below is a list of differences between RFID and barcode labeling to provide a clearer picture about each process and how they are different even though they both help to track products and shipments.

Barcode Labeling 

  • Barcode is an older type of technology and is commonly used on items purchased in a retail store. A retailer scans the barcode affixed to an item, which is then recorded as sold and removed from inventory.
  • The information is stored on a piece of paper affixed to the article being scanned.
  • The actual barcode is made from the creation of vertical printed material in a pattern that lets it be read by an optical device.
  • The barcodes can be challenging to read so it sometimes takes longer to complete the scanning and tracking process at point of purchase.

RFID Labeling

  • Short for Radio Frequency Identification, RFID is a newer type of product identification and is a bit more advanced in terms of what it can do because it does not rely on manual processes for tracking items.
  • Rather than paper, it uses metallic tags or electronic chips that are read with an RFID reader that uses signals and, therefore, is quicker and more accurate. In fact, it is so quick that it could read a whole group of items in a few seconds that would take significantly longer if the same items utilized barcodes instead.
  • Beyond just being able to read items, RFID labeling can be modified and rewritten so it is more flexible than barcodes.
  • RFID tags are much more expensive to implement than barcodes so there has been a slower adoption rate in the global marketplace in comparison to barcodes.

Compare and Contrast: RFID and Barcode Technology

  • No human capital is required with a RFID system and it is completely automated. On the other hand a dedicated employee is required to scan barcodes of items
  • Barcodes can only be read while RFID can not only be read but also rewritten and modified depending upon requirements
  • While barcodes can be easily damaged and are difficult to read when greasy or dirty, RFID is rugged and extremely durable
  • Barcodes can be counterfeited or reproduced whereas this is not possible in the case of RFID tags
  • While only one item can be read at a time with a barcode scanner, RFID reader can read up to 40 items per second
  • The range of RFID reader is 300 feet. On the other hand barcode scanner can barely read past 15 feet.

When comparing RFID and barcode methods, RFID is a more advanced and adaptable process that will surely be utilized more as cost to implement decreases.

Posted in Barcode Printing, Label Coders, Labels & Labeling, Laser Printing and tagged .