What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of RFID

This question is often posed by our customers when they are evaluating RFID as a technology. If they are currently using barcode to track their assets, the question of what the advantages of RFID are and how RFID is different from barcode arises.

RFID, as an auto-ID technology, has been around for more than 40 years, in various flavors. Today, the most prevalent RFID technology is RAIN RFID, which functions in the UHF (Ultra High Frequency) band.

An RFID system broadly consists of:

  • RFID Tags
  • RFID Scanners (Handheld and/or Fixed)
  • RFID Software to process the tag reads by the scanner
  • Other accessories including buzzers, stack lights, etc.

These components have all improved through several revisions over the past 15 years or so and therefore, tracking with RFID offers more advantages today, than at its early stages.

Advantages of RFID Tracking

Listed here are some of the key benefits of RFID Tracking and it will certainly answer the question, why RFID is important.

  • No line of sight needed– Very useful when you want to read RFID-tagged assets inside non-metal containers and pallets, without requiring the container to be opened. Tagged assets on carts, being moved through RFID-instrumented doors can be read even if the RFID tags are not in the line of sight of the reader or its antenna. One can see how useful tracking with RFID would be, in tracking apparel, uniforms, hotel linen, etc. – these tagged items can all be read in a pile without needing to scan each item individually.
  • Scan multiple RFID tags at one time – This allows for inventory scans to be sped up by more than 90% as compared to barcode. The RFID technology allows multiple asset tags to be read at the same time – dozens of RFID Tags. Therefore, when working with handheld RFID readers, one just has to wave the RFID reader in the general direction of the RFID tags for them to be picked up. One can easily see how quickly servers in datacenter racks can be scanned with RFID vs needing to scan barcodes on each rack server.
  • Scan from a distance, enabling real-time monitoring – This is a big win for RFID. This characteristic of RFID technology allows tagged assets to be picked up while they move through portals – doorways, egress/ingress points, dock doors and gates. This greatly helps in automating supply chain tracking. Inventory in rooms and buildings can be automatically updated when tagged items are detected going in or out.
  • Can handle challenging environments – RFID tags can be made from ruggedized materials that can withstand outdoor elements including temperature extremes, sun exposure, moisture and dirt. This makes RFID a much more viable technology for the outdoors. Barcodes, even when etched on ruggedized material like metal, can still be rendered unreadable if they have scratches or dirt smears on them. RFID asset tags are available for medical and lab equipment that undergo sterilization and autoclaving. Dredging pipe sitting in water can have ruggedized-RFID tags applied on the pipes, so that the tags are read even when they are covered with moss and algae.
  • Doesn’t require change of human behavior – Barcode scanning requires a human to scan a barcode, one at a time. With RFID, because of the above characteristics of being able to read from a distance and being able to read multiple asset tags at one time, automated tracking is possible. Lab managers know exactly when a piece of lab equipment was removed from a lab or when it was brought into a lab, just by monitoring the lab doorways using RFID tracker. No change in human behavior is required in this case.
  • Physically search or locate RFID tagged assets – The advantages of being able to read multiple RFID tags without line of sight, RFID also allows tagged assets to be searched for and located amongst many other tagged assets. This is a big plus when one is searching for one specific vehicle in a parking lot or specific book in a library.

Disadvantages of RFID

  • Price – The most significant one is price. The price of RFID tags is significantly higher than that of barcodes. However, given that the price of barcodes are sub-$0.05, a significantly more expensive RFID tag would still be under $2.00. This difference is easily paid for within the first few inventory scans using RFID.
  • Hardware – Hardware for RFID can be more complex. RFID handheld scanners are quite similar to barcode scanners. However, the fixed RFID readers used on doorways can be more complex, since they include RFID readers, antenna, antenna cables, etc.

An RFID system deployment involves thorough planning and a clear understanding of the technology’s capabilities and limitations. AssetPulse offers free consultation to customers, who think they need RFID solutions, to understand their requirements and provide the best possible solution that suits their business.

AssetPulse offers more than 18 years of expertise, offering the best RFID Tracking solutions to businesses in the public and private sectors, including many tech behemoths, manufacturers, and biotech enterprises in the US and internationally.

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