RFID & Barcodes
Conceptually, bar coding and RFID are quite similar; both are intended to provide rapid and reliable item identification-and-tracking capabilities. The primary difference between the two technologies is that bar coding scans a printed label with optical laser or imaging technology, while RFID scans, or interrogates, a tag using radio frequency signals. Because of the low cost of barcode labels, established standards, and global deployment, bar coding is a widely accepted, mature technology, while, in the past, RFID had been limited to niche applications. Furthermore, just as there are different barcode symbologies in use today, there are different RFID standards for RF communications protocols.
Barcodes and RFID technologies are NOT mutually exclusive, nor will one replace the other. They are both enabling technologies with different physical attributes. barcodes utilize one-way, serialized, and periodic data. RFID utilizes two-way, parallel, and real-time data.
Leading-thinking companies are using their current barcode systems to benchmark RFID technology in order to gauge impact on performance. This baseline is a crucial measure in determining the effectiveness of a new RFID system. Separating the data aspect of RFID systems from the physical architecture is a very good way to start to learn the physical properties of RFID. The determination of when to use RFID technologies instead of barcodes should be driven by whether RFID can improve an existing business process. Basically, RFID should be deployed just like any other technology—when the benefits justify the cost and effort involved in implementing it.