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Are There Applications for Which Bar Codes Would Be More Effective Than RFID?

Posted By RFID Journal, 11.18.2010
Is radio frequency identification always the preferred technology?

—Name withheld

For every data-capture application, it is important to consider the type of data that needs to be captured, as well as the most cost-effective way of capturing it. Parcel-delivery firms, such as UPS, have optimized their bar-code systems so that they can read bar codes on almost any package in any given orientation. These companies see little value in moving to RFID at this point.

Generally speaking, bar codes make sense when a human being needs to be involved in the process, and when switching to RFID would not reduce the labor involved with data capture. For instance, if your warehouse staff inspects each item as it arrives, it might not require any additional labor to scan a bar code on that product, so using RFID would not likely deliver additional benefits.

Point of sale is another area in which companies might want to continue having employees handle transactions manually, rather than changing over to fully automated, RFID-based checkout systems. I've heard some retailers say that interaction between checkout clerks and customers is important, and they don't want to eliminate it. In such a scenario, having a worker scan a bar code might make more sense than using RFID.

It's important to remember, however, that just as RFID is not perfect, neither are bar codes. People sometimes forget to scan bar codes—and they sometimes deliberately scan the wrong ones, in order to give friends an item at a lower price.

—Mark Roberti, Editor,
RFID Journal

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