What are the differences between barcodes and RFID tags?

Differences between barcodes and RFID tags


One of the essential functions of security seals is to guarantee the correct identification and traceability of the products and goods they are associated with. The security seal then functions as an information receptacle, thanks to the codes integrated into it. The question which then arises is: What are the main differences between barcodes and RFID tags?

The main differences between identification systems

It is interesting to compare more traditional systems such as barcodes with the alternative presented by RFID tags. Let’s review the behaviour of each one by focusing on four main features:

  • Information storage capacity.
  • Versatility and speed of scanning.
  • Cost of the system.
  • Outstanding advantage.

1. Barcodes

Barcode reader in operationThe outstanding advantage of the barcode is its standardization in many different sectors. The simplicity of its use and its acceptable level of precision make it the most widespread system in the retail or sales sector and in the management of inventories and logistics.

However, its storage capacity is more limited: it records up to only 20 characters. On the other hand, scanning barcodes requires human intervention and direct contact of the reader with the printed information, which reduces the speed of the process.

In terms of cost, barcodes can be printed with simple systems and are therefore inexpensive, but it is true they are more prone to deterioration in aggressive environments and cannot be modified once they have been printed.

2. RFID tags

In recent years, RFID technology has become popular because of the greater versatility of this type of label compared with barcodes. This is its great advantage over the barcode.

The data storage capacity of an RFID tag is such that it can contain up to four million characters. It is a passive system that does not need energy for its operation. Scanning it is much faster, since readers can identify several products at once and do not need direct visual contact (they can extract information through opaque materials).

In addition, as it is a technological design, it cannot easily be copied or duplicated, so security is greater than that of a barcode. The information on the RFID tags is not engraved: it can be rewritten whenever it is necessary to modify some data.

Finally, it is a less cost-effective system since it involves greater technological development.

Can barcodes coexist with RFID tags?

The Precintia Model Ten Lok with RFIDBeing aware of the differences between barcodes and RFID tags does not mean that we need to choose one system to the detriment of the other. It is common to find both systems coexisting in the same application.

In the case of security seals, they can be combined in order to ensure the information they contain can be read in all circumstances. For example, the Ten Lok RFID seal can carry the product information both in its RFID device and in the barcode printed on the flag. In the event of failure of the RFID reader, you can always resort to a traditional reading of the barcode, thus avoiding problems in the transit of goods.

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