Ever since the revolution of RFID began, we have been debating on why is RFID better than barcodes or why are barcodes still a better option. Given a lot of focus on the differences, it is high time to think all the way around. What if RFID and barcode can coexist?
If you wonder whether it would ever make sense, then the answer is “yes, of course!”. RFID and barcode can work together, and that makes complete sense.
Hold your curiosity! Before diving into the main topic, let us start with the basics.
Barcode and RFID: A brief sketch of the technology
Barcodes and RFIDs are tracking and identification systems that help companies track their assets and store item information. This information is usually printed on tags and retrieved using an external device called a reader or scanner. Additionally, item information can also be stored, accessed, and easily shared via online platforms.
A barcode is a rectangular shaped code with black and white lines of varied thicknesses running parallel. The readers decode them with the help of lasers by measuring reflected light that distinguishes between the lines.
On the other hand, RFID stands for Radio-Frequency Identification, which uses radio waves to transmit digital data encoded in RFID tags to an RFID reader. The tag contains a sensor attached to an antenna, and each sensor normally contains unique identifiers. This enables the reader to scan more than 100 tags simultaneously, constituting the major advantage of RFID.
Complementary differences of RFID and barcode
There are a lot of differences between these two technologies. However, some features of RFID complement that of barcodes and vice versa, even though they are still known as ‘differences’. These complementary differences are the basis of the fact that Barcode and RFID can work together.
Barcodes are lighter, easier to use, and less expensive than RFID. They also possess higher accuracy irrespective of the product surface when compared to RFID. Meanwhile, RFID is more secure, efficient and can scan more than 100 tags simultaneously since it doesn’t require a direct line of sight. Furthermore, unlike barcodes that do not support the data-write option, RFID has read/write capability that enables data updations. Moreover, RFID makes it convenient to automate the identification process.
Coexistence of both the technologies
Factually, the strongest use case of Auto-ID involves employing both the barcode and RFID technology. By working together, these two technologies can support existing needs by providing the user with additional benefits.
Advantages of coexistence of barcodes and RFID:
- Enhances and adds functionality
- Provides a migration path to more advanced technology with control over conversion pace and investment
- Provides best of both worlds
- Beneficial to supply chain
- More memory
- Greater security
- Provides both non-line of sight tracking and visual data tracking
Thus, businesses can use barcodes and RFID together when one or more advantages are duly required.
Examples of RFID and barcode working together harmoniously
Looking for some examples of where to use the RFID-barcode technology in a real-world commercial scenario? Here are some:
For the frontend and backend functions of the company:
The frontend and the backend functions of a company vary considerably, with the frontend dealing with customers and products and the backend dealing with inventory processes. Take the example of the pharmaceutical industry, where the front end is a retail store or pharmacy that deals with customers picking up individual items. Since customers pick each item at a different pace and time, barcodes are the best option. Meanwhile, at the backend, RFID allows the quick scan and identification of items regardless of whether stored in a pallet or a medical cabinet.
1. When it is difficult to switch the current processes:
It is quite a tiresome procedure for any company that is a part of complex logistics to execute large process changes. Therefore, a joint RFID-barcode system is highly preferred when a company intends to automate its manual processes like item identification, shipment verification, and tracking. Here, when delivering the product to a company that uses only barcode tags, barcodes can be placed in addition to RFID. Otherwise, duplicate barcodes printed on RFID tags can be used instead of a traditional one. This enables the companies automating their products with RFID to have a seamless procedure without disturbing the entire supply chain.
2. When you have two or more processes to automate which require different solutions:
As the company grows, automation replaces most of the manual processes. However, the method that suits one process may not give appropriate results for another process. For instance, a company that automates shipments may find it difficult to use RFID if the shipment area is full of metal structures and machines. This is because, unlike barcodes, RFID doesn’t work properly with metals. Then, barcodes are the best choice to receive all inventory items and upload their information into a system. When WMS receives the incoming barcode scans, the software creates a list of new barcodes for exporting to the RFID label printer.
3. For foolproof measures:
Some companies use barcodes in addition to RFID as a precautionary measure. In case RFID fails to perform, barcodes will identify the items till the replacement of RFID. For example, a company that sells leather bags uses a hanging RFID label and a printed barcode placed outside each bag. Due to frequent handling, one of the tags got damaged and turned unreadable. Since it contains both RFID and barcode, the employee can still identify the exact bag using the printed barcode. Soon after identifying the bag, a duplicate barcode can be printed on a new RFID label and reattached to the bag.
4. The company needs a slow transition from barcode to RFID:
Many companies lack the capital and time for a sudden change to RFID. Instead, they prefer keeping the previous technology. In such cases, slowly replacing barcodes with RFID part by part is better than a sudden advancement. This will allow the company to adopt the new technology at its own pace.
The examples mentioned above are just a few applications of RFID-barcode collaboration. However, it certainly has a wider role to play in the inventory and supply chain industry.
Barcode and RFID technologies have become a necessity for every retailer and every shipment and supply chain business. Technowave provides a plethora of products and solutions that incorporate barcodes and RFID along with cutting-edge auto-id techniques. Our products ensure durability and ease of use, which gives you the perfect experience in identifying and tracking items. Moreover, our partnership with global brands like Datalogic, Zebra, and OmniID has ensured world-class products at reasonable costs.
Visit our page for further information.