RFID Vs Barcode Scanners

Neil van Niekerk, Business Development Executive

What You Need to Know About These Similar, but Different Scanner Options

Take a look around at products you use each day. Upon inspection, you will almost certainly see a barcode or an RFID. These two types of verification are seemingly everywhere these days and tend to be commonly mistaken for one another. Although there are some similarities, they remain as two separate entities. We will examine barcodes and RFID today to help you determine which is the correct device for your needs. 

What is RFID?

You may have heard reference to RFID in many instances, but what is it exactly? RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification. The original technology was invented in 1946, by a Russian physicist, Leon Theremin, however, there is evidence of its use even earlier than 1946.

Essentially, RFID utilizes a small radio frequency transmitter inside products that emits a signal to a receiver. Electromagnetic technology is how RFID works. 

What is a Barcode?

Barcodes were enacted in 1951 and was patented in the United States based on Morse code technology. The use of thin and thick lines acted as a code for barcode scanners. The linear bars can be scanned by a wide range of different scanners. They are often seen on product tags and a variety of other items, but are not connected to radiofrequency technology as with RFID. 

integrated system

It can be difficult to know, especially with such similar products, when to use RFID or Barcode. Essentially, RFID has become an essential tool for logistics tracking through warehouses and manufacturing facilities throughout the world.

RFID Pros & Cons

  • It is possible to scan multiple tags at once resulting in faster scanning capabilities.
  • You can avoid scanning the same RFID twice unlike with barcodes.
  • RFID is more of a reusable, durable format and remain resistant to heat, humidity, and temperature changes.
  • You can scan when in range of the device without having to scan exactly that barcode.
  • Exceptional data storage, but does not maintain SKU information.
  • Enhanced security measures with more accurate data transfer. 
  • Metal and liquids may interfere with RFID functionality.
  • Encoded tag information for read and write functionality. 

Barcode Scanner Pros & Cons

  • Tags must be scanned individually for inventory purposes.
  • Barcodes are printed on paper or cardstock materials.
  • The scanner must line up with the barcode in order for it to be scanned.
  • A limited amount of data is stored within each barcode, including generic information, manufacturer, and SKU number.
  • Due to the lack of additional technology requirements, barcodes tend to be less expensive than RFID.
  • They maintain a read-only functionality without additional data references.
  • Lower entry cost compared to RFID systems

When to Use RFID

It can be difficult to know, especially with such similar products, when to use RFID or Barcode. Essentially, RFID has become an essential tool for logistics tracking through warehouses and manufacturing facilities throughout the world. The products can be scanned in bulk rather than individually and provide additional data about where a product is and how long it may take to reach its destination. RFID can also provide limited demographic information about those purchasing specific products. The technology is also used in pharmaceutical transports to ensure the right medication makes it to the correct destination. RFID can also be used to track stolen goods, so in the event of a theft, the product can potentially lead authorities to the culprit. 

Anyone who desires additional security or higher intensity inventory tracking should invest in RFID, but often, in the case with retail products, RFID can work in accordance with barcode, so they are not always separate. Many products utilize both RFID and barcode to enhance security and tracking of inventory while keeping SKUs available. 

Warehouse Management Systems

Bran Systems implements RFID in Warehouse Management solutions, integrating with SAP Business One, that transforms your manufacturing and logistics processes into finely-tuned operations that drive productivity and profitability in your supply-chain. The warehouse management system supports multiple warehouses and operators, processing high volumes of transactions all while maintaining high performance.

Access Control
RFID can be used in company badges to help control access to certain, more secure parts of a facility without the need to continually scan a barcode on a badge.

Medical Supplies
RFID is especially useful for medical supplies. Not only can the devices be used to track medical shipments more effectively, they can also be used while in the operating room or within hospital, itself. While operating, each product used can be tracked to ensure nothing is left in the patient. The doctor and nurses can easily keep track of how many sponges and other materials were used, so everything is always accounted for.

Quality Control
Controlling the quality of products can be a challenge, especially during transport. However, RFID can be used to monitor temperature and other vital information to ensure the product is transported correctly and remains at high quality.

Automotive Industry

Bran Systems specializes in RFID technologies that brings solutions to the many challenges faced by the automotive industry:

  • Unique Car identification Automation and monitoring throughout the manufacturing process
  • Supports LEAN management and improves operational efficiency
  • Eliminates  the manual scanning of barcodes Manages the flow of parts’ containers
  • Manages the maintenance of machines, tools and robots in compliance with ISO standards and other standards specific to the automotive industry 

When to Use Barcode

Barcodes are generally used for simply scanning limited information about a product. They are essential for inventory and can be used in instances where tracking is not necessary. However, it is important to note there are two different types of barcodes. The most basic type of barcode is considered a one dimensional variety. It represents data through parallel lines. This type of barcode includes EAN codes and UPCs. QR Codes and Datamatrix codes are considered 2 dimensional as they do not maintain the same line based formulation and cannot be used with a standard laser scanner. These are the types of barcodes scanned with a mobile device or similar instrument. 

Barcodes are best used for singular information needs. Inventory purposes and providing customers with valued information about a product or coupons is where barcodes tend to thrive. As stated before, barcodes can be used in accordance with RFID to help aid in inventory needs and maintain a well rounded form of information about a specific product or group of products. 

Both RFID and barcodes have their place and depending on what type of product you are tracking or your informational needs will determine which is the ideal solution for you. Remember, barcodes tend to provide more basic information while RFID is a bit more intense with informational possibilities. 

For Further Information About RFID & Barcode Scanners Contact One of Our Experts


ERP Solutions from SAP Business 1


Car Plant Robot


Design, Development & Fabrication



Packaged & Bespoke Software Solutions


Schedule a Meeting

4 + 10 =

Bran Systems

6 Slater Street
North End, Port Elizabeth, 6000

041 582 1140

Mon-Fri: 8am – 4:30pm
Sat-Sun: Closed