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Why Is RFID Better Than Other Technologies?

Posted By RFID Journal, 04.01.2014

What, in your opinion, makes it the right tool for most applications? Why is it superior to, for instance, bar codes, infrared, ultrasound and GPS?

—Name withheld


Radio frequency identification, like all technologies, is just a tool used to do a job, and it is not inherently better than or superior to other technologies, any more than a hammer is better than or superior to a screwdriver. If you are driving a nail, a hammer is the better tool. If you are screwing an item into a piece of wood, a screwdriver would be preferable. Similarly, RFID is a better tool than GPS for tracing smaller items indoors, whereas GPS is better for tracking vehicles traveling long distances outdoors.

If you want to track and manage billions of items that are not being tracked and managed in today's market, RFID is most often going to be the best choice. RFID does not require line of sight, it is relatively inexpensive and it often requires no human involvement. Bar codes are expensive because they usually require a human to orient the scanner to the bar code and then pull the trigger. Other auto-ID technologies, such as infrared and ultrasound, do some things better than RFID, but they also have weaknesses that make them unsuitable for tracking billions of items.

There are a wide variety of technologies available for identifying goods or items, such as tattoos with RF-resonant inks, the Microsoft Tag (which is being phased out), QR codes and so forth (see RFID Tattoos for Livestock, RFID News Roundup: Microsoft Announces Its Tag App for Smartphones Is NFC-Ready and What Is Chipless RFID?). Each has some strengths, but several weaknesses as well. So companies need to evaluate the technologies available for a given problem and then use the best one available.

I will say that RFID is going to be the right tool for many more applications than these other technologies. When people talk about the Internet of Things, they mean that millions of items will be connected to the Internet via Bluetooth and ZigBee devices, but hundreds of billion—or even trillions—will be connected via RFID.

—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal

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