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RFID vs. Barcodes - Which is Better for Inventory Management?

Updated: Jun 10

Inventory management is something that every business must face, and many businesses are actively looking for accurate tracking technologies to fulfill their needs. Both barcodes and RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) accomplish these needs but in different ways. Knowing the differences between RFID and barcode systems is necessary to determine what will work best for successfully running your business, and increasing profits.

Generally speaking, there is a lot of overlap between RFID and barcode, as they each solve similar problems in inventory-heavy industries. Both barcode and RFID systems can help companies track their inventory and store item information. This information is commonly printed on tags or labels and can be stored, accessed, and shared. It is common to see both systems in use at once. But what makes them different from each other? What do they have in common?



A barcode is a machine-readable symbol made of vertical lines of various widths. When these lines are combined, the scanner can detect the pattern and read information such as the manufacturer, product category, location, size, and so on. Barcodes can quickly and accurately capture information when read with a scanner and are commonly used for tracking and inventory control.

Advantages of Barcodes

1. Fast and Reliable – Rather than manually entering data, barcodes can quickly and accurately scan information into a system.

2. User-Friendly – With barcodes, being familiar with the entire inventory or pricing procedures isn't necessary, and learning to scan a barcode only takes minutes.

3. Tried-and-True – Barcodes are a proven technology that is inexpensive, easy to understand, and work with the same accuracy on various materials.

5. Inexpensive – Barcode labels can be customized with a variety of materials, varnishes, and adhesives to meet application needs, and are inexpensive to produce.

6. Versatile – Barcodes can track not only the products themselves but also outgoing shipments and even assets.

Disadvantages to Barcodes



RFID technology uses microchips embedded into an antenna to automate tracking, allowing multiple items to get scanned at once without needing to find a barcode. These tags can carry up to 2,000 bytes of data, more than enough memory for most applications. RFID scanners can read the chips without a direct line of sight, eliminating human error and saving time. The data collected from the RFID chip can be updated in real-time, making them reusable.

Advantages of RFID tags

1. Fast and Accurate – Multiple tags can be scanned at once, which results in faster reading. Since RFID can detect each individual item, it will avoid scanning something twice.

2. Long-Distance Scanning – RFID tags do not need to be positioned in a line of sight with the scanner and can work at much greater distances.

3. Secure – RFID tags can store large amounts of data that can be encrypted. They can also be password protected to protect the data stored within the chip.

4. Efficient – Barcodes have to be scanned one by one, but with RFID, thousands of tags can be read in seconds, reducing operational time and labor.

6. Reusable - RFID has read/write capabilities. They can be read, modified, and store more data than traditional barcodes.

Disadvantages to RFID


When choosing between barcodes or RFID, it is essential to look at the purpose, environment, and potential costs. Determine which system will work best with your process, product, and goals. Remember that both systems can be used together to take advantage of the benefits of both systems! Many RFID scanners have barcode reading capabilities.

Whether you are looking to implement barcodes or RFID into your system, it is always worth your time to research both technologies and weigh the pros and cons. If you have any questions, speak with our knowledgeable team to help identify which solution will work best for you!

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