In the beginning there was paper, pencils and filing cabinets. In June of 1974, the first barcode was scanned, introducing a new way to identify and track items. In the 1980s, RFID technology became fully implemented and applied to transportation systems, tracking, and business applications.


A barcode is an optical machine-readable symbol that quickly and accurately captures information. When read with a scanner, barcodes identify information such as the manufacturer, product category, location, size, and so on. A scanner reads the vertical bars and the white spaces between the bars. Different combinations of bars and spaces represent different characters. Barcodes are commonly utilized for tracking and inventory control.

Advantages of Barcodes:

1. Barcodes are fast and reliable. Instead of the time-consuming and labor-intensive act of manually entering data, barcodes quickly scan information into a system. The data scans accurately, eliminating human error.

2. Barcodes reduce employee training. With barcodes, employees do not have to be familiar with the entire inventory or pricing procedures and learning to scan a barcode only takes minutes.

3. Barcodes are a mature proven technology that is inexpensive and user-friendly.

4. Barcodes make it possible to precisely track inventory. Due to the precise tracking, inventory levels can be reduced, lowering overhead.

5. Barcode labels are inexpensive to design and print. The labels can be customized with a variety of materials, varnishes, adhesives, and constructions depending on the application.

6. Barcodes are versatile, as they can be used for various data collection, including pricing or inventory information. Barcodes can track not only the products themselves but also outgoing shipments and even assets.

7. Since information from a barcode is scanned directly into the central computer, barcode information is ready almost instantaneously, making rapid decisions possible.


RFID technology automates tracking, allowing multiple items to be read at once without the labor-intensive scanning of a barcode. RFID supports reading with no line-of-sight or item-by-item scanning, eliminating human error. The data collected from the RFID chip can be updated in real-time.

Advantages of RFID tags:

1. Multiple tags can be scanned at once.

2. Stationary readers are automated, not needing labor to operate.

3. RFID provides “just-in-time” information to quickly make business decisions.

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

5. RFID technology can be integrated with manufacturing and supply chain technologies to create in-time ordering/stocking and creating an omnichannel experience for the consumer.

6. RFID has read/write capabilities. RFID tags can be read and modified, and they can store more data than barcodes.

7. A barcode can be printed onto an RFID tag, giving you both technologies.


Download AT A GLANCE graphic comparison of Barcodes vs RFID.