Matching The RFID Technology To The Application

There are a lot of people interested in RFID labels for various reasons and many early industry articles over-hyped RFID with the supposed nickel RFID tag. In addition, opinions are often slanted towards companies’ primary operations. For example, bar code companies will justify bar code as the best option while RFID companies will justify the newer technology of RFID as a superior solution. The emphasis needs to be on efficiently managing data, not on the actual system to accomplish this.

Bar code tends to have a closer read range than RFID inlays and labels, although there are materials that help extend the read range for bar codes, i.e. retroreflective material. In addition, bar codes need to have a direct line of sight in order to be read where RFID tags don’t. The read range for RFID tags is highly dependent on the inlay used; however, in general terms passive tags are going to have a read range up to about 20 ft.; where active tags are going to extend read range beyond that.

The items being tracked are also a key factor in determining which technology to use. Is the item metal, plastic, wood, etc.? Manual methods or bar code work on nearly any surface condition without affecting readability; however, RFID reacts to different surfaces. 

If either RFID or bar code technologies are acceptable based upon environment, read range and surface conditions, determining ROI is the next logical step. Adding bar code to an RFID tag is a minimal additional investment that could reap many benefits. For example, not all locations may be able to support the RFID infrastructure required.