Barcode vs RFID Is Barcode better than RFIDs?

Barcode and Radio Frequency Identification tags are used in inventory control throughout logistics, retail and transportation. Nowadays both technologies are the choices of businesses to track and manage their products. You can simply consider what technology will work efficiently and effectively in your organization on the basis of business requirements.

Barcode vs RFID



RFID is also known as “Radio Frequency Identification” tags. RFID tags read and write information in a small chip and transmit data using radio waves to an RFID reader. There is an antenna embedded in the tag that helps to send information to the reader. The reader can scan more than a hundred RFID tags at once with no requirement of sight visibility and manpower. Ability to scan products in inventory with a high rate makes RFID a fast technology.

What is Barcode?

A barcode is a kind of collected data that is recognizable by machines and scanners. A barcode scanner is utilized to track inventories or assets. A laser beam is used in barcode scanning to "read" the barcode's black and white lines. The scanner has a sensor that uses the reflected light to generate a signal, which is then converted into text by a decoder and sent to a computer or database. In order to read each barcode individually and collect the data, barcode scanners need a line of sight.

Difference between Barcode and RFID

Barcode RFID
Technology Optical Laser Radio Frequency
Object Readability Must be in line of sight, one item at a time Read through objects, multiple items at a time
Identification Most barcode only identify Item types and group Uniquely identify each item/tags
Obstacles Dirty, torn or Damaged Metal and liquid items
Range Up to several inches or several feet

Passive RFID:

- Up to 20 feet (Handheld Scanner)

- Up to 40 feet (Fixed Scanner)

Active RFID:

- Up to 100 feet or more

Read/Write ability Only Read Read/Write Both
Human Resource Typically require human Automated System: Little or zero human interference

Advantages of Barcode and RFID tags:

  • Barcode
  • Barcode is an easy to implement and usable technology; as a result, you can see barcodes anywhere in day-to-day life.
  • Barcodes are less costly than RFID tags since they can be printed on plastic, metal, and liquid materials; as a result, the only expense is ink, which represents a very little total cost.
  • It has been claimed that barcode accuracy is frequently comparable to or superior to that of RFID tags.
  • Barcodes are used on practically every item nowadays, and there are no privacy concerns with their use.
  • RFID
  • Fast and Reliable: RFID systems offer a fast and reliable way to track inventory without having to count each individual item.
  • Security: RFID eliminates transcription errors, duplication of data, and “missed items” when used to collect data on large numbers of items simultaneously.
  • Durability: Rain and Sunlight don’t affect the tags and handle minimal damage and dirtiness.
  • Efficiency: RFID tags can scan multiple items at once without any sight visibility.

Disadvantages of Barcode and RFID tags:

  • Barcode
  • Barcode tags are made of paper and are more vulnerable to damage. Tags that are dirty or broken cannot be read.
  • The reading range is limited since you must keep the scanner in a direct line of sight with the tag.
  • Barcode reading is time-consuming since each tag must be scanned separately.
  • Barcodes do not have read/write capabilities and do not have any additional data encoding feature.
  • RFID
  • When RFID tags are used on metal and liquid products it affects the signal transmission.
  • Sometimes these tags are not accurate and reliable as barcode scanners.
  • Cost is a big downfall when thinking to implement RFID tags because these tags are 10 times costlier than Barcode tags.
  • Implementation of RFID inventory management systems is difficult and time-consuming.

Why barcode still win over RFID Tags?

1. RFID need more Infrastructure than Barcode

RFID would require a large investment in terms of tags, tag readers, and software resources to completely replace barcodes. Barcodes on other hand require a minimal investment. This may be a factor to slowing down the adoption of RFID at large scale. Companies need to purchase high-tech RFID hardware and software to efficiently manage inventory. Whereas inventory management tool and barcode generator software is required to successfully create and print barcode labels.

2. Barcodes don’t have material limitations unlike RFID

When a tag is placed on the metal and liquid products the signal transmitted by RFID antenna become weaker that cause inaccurate scanning of product tag while a barcode scanner can scan a barcode label placed on any type of item. The RFID tags radio waves might not be as precise as accurately reading each barcode. Speed is great, but accuracy shouldn't be sacrificed for speed.

3. RFID require more money for implementation

When it comes to investment costs, RFIDs are expensive. The level of technical sophistication may cost firms a lot of money. To print and encode RFID tags, businesses also require expensive printers and other equipment, which not all companies, may be able to afford. Employees may need to be trained on how to use and operate RFID technology, which will cost money and effort. Barcodes are easy to use and less expensive than RFID tags.

4. Barcode provide more accuracy and efficiency while scanning multiple items

Barcodes are scanned individually, making it simple to distinguish between various goods based on brand and price. Although scanning each item separately can seem like a hard effort but RFIDs are not always the most convenient solution. The accuracy falls when you try to scan multiple tags at a time with an RFID scanner. RFIDs provide you the ability to "read" various items, but it might be difficult to tell what has been scanned from what needs to be recorded. While using barcode scanners, you do not need to worry about accidental scanning.

5. Barcodes are more widely used in tracking method

Many businesses use barcodes as their preferred tracking method since they may not have the necessary infrastructure to support an RFID system. Organizations that apply RFIDs, they have small number of suppliers and vendors rather than those who use barcodes technology. This situation may be one of the drawback for RFID systems.

6. Lack of privacy

Someone may possibly take important information without being noticed if they could hack into an RFID network or even just had a reader. Due to the potential for sophisticated hackers with hostile intentions to cause trouble for businesses utilizing RFIDs, it is crucial to closely monitor the area for unusual activities. Barcodes does not have any network or frequency systems which make them more secure than RFID tags.