Barcode, RFID or Hybrid Systems

Barcode, RFID or Hybrid Systems
OPRFID, the worlds leading manufacturer of label and barcode printers and a specialist in data collection systems (DCS) and radio frequency identification (RFID), offers their customers comprehensive identification solutions, whether with barcodes, RFID or a combination of both.

As every company has their own specific requirements, today’s demands lead more and more towards an individualized combination of both technologies. Off-the-shelf universal solutions cannot comply with each company’s individual needs. OPRFID offers not only pure barcode or RFID solutions, but also offers hybrid systems that integrate traditional barcode technology with an innovative RFID solution. The clear advantage of OPRFID’s Hybrid Solutions: The information on the label is accessible in different ways. Through the combination of barcodes and RFID, a label can incorporate 3 different levels of content: Besides the comprehensive amount of data written into the embedded RFID-tag,OPRFID’s RFID printers simultaneously print the data as a conventional barcode and as text information on the label surface. In this way, OPRFID’s RFID solutions, which comply with the very latest RFID Gen2 technology, guarantee universal readability throughout the entire supply chain.

With their broad product portfolio and highly flexible solutions offering, OPRFID can meet individual customer’s demands. Besides complete RFID implementations, OPRFID also offers a wide range of classical labelling solutions, from heavy-duty industrial printers, to OEM print engines for Print & Apply, compact printers for low volume print requirements, and standalone printers for mobile applications. A broad selection of labelling software and the OPRFID range of consumables complement this offering.

Will RFID overtake the barcodes?

Will RFID overtake the barcode?
In some industries, RFID is a must-have technology. In retail, for example, it has taken the clothing industry by storm because the return on investment for that vertical is just so good: reducing stock-outs from double digits to less than one percent and taking store inventory counts from 90 hours to three, as examples. Wal-Mart and other mega-retailers are also driving RFID adoption, but for the great majority of retailers RFID hovers somewhere off in the future. So the short answer, according to two opinion leaders in Finland, is yes, RFID will eventually replace the barcode, but not quickly. Jorma Lalla, CEO of Nordic ID, a manufacturer of mobile data collection handsets, explains that the slow pace of adoption is not due the cost of tags: Early in the millennium, research institutes and universities forecasted a revolution in identification of goods within a few years. As we all know, he continues, this didnt happen. Thats because retailers had invested huge dollars in barcode technology. No ones going to reinvest just because theres a new technology available.

Benefits and standards: the driving forces of adoption
Like any technology, the more RFID is used, the more valuable it becomes. In an open supply chain environment, RFID can play a major role in tightening inventory and shipping logistics along the entire chain. Because tags can store item-level information from site and date of manufacture to stock keeping unit (SKU) to transportation and logistics information every item carries a complete, individual history of its journey from manufacture (or harvest) to sale. Taking it a step further, tags can have sensors built in to log moisture, temperature and other parameters over the course of their journey. And because of the robustness of RFID tags and the accuracy and ease of reading them, items can be scanned in bulk, while goods are still in boxes, greatly improving inventory awareness and timing. Security is also a plus, says Lalla. The FDA is having problems with counterfeit pharmaceuticals. RFID tags can have encryption built in an easy way to find the fakes. And if youre looking for a needle in a haystack, try high frequency RFID. Think libraries and music stores.

A sticking point for any technology is the development of universal standards. We now have standards for many facets of RFID, including near field communication for payment cards and many industrial applications. Although RFID is currently used to track goods in open supply chains, however, there are still various standards at play. The RFID ecosystem has not yet undergone a VHS/Betamax-style battle royale, but the International Standards Organisation (ISO) is taking a leading role in developing conclusive, comprehensive RFID standards across the board.

Beyond inventory
Heikki Sepp, known in European circles as Mr. RFID, believes that we have reached a point of sufficiency in terms of standards. A professor with the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Sepp envisioned RFID technology 20 years ago and helped to bring it into existence. He thinks that existing data content and air interface protocol standards for tag-reader communication are robust and ready for the open market, and hes taking bets on RFID becoming a fixture of the consumer world within 5 years. RFID is the Internet of things, he says. You will soon be able to read product information, service records and more by touching a tag with your smart phone. So much information can be stored on these tags that applications are virtually endless. Take, for example, car maintenance. The vehicles tag shows the details of all previous service, as well as information from the cars own diagnostic system showing whats wrong. This scenario may not yet have made it to the consumer world, but it currently plays out daily in the airline industry, where high-memory tags allow maintenance crews to work effectively even if no WiFi connectivity is available.

Consumers will drive adoption
Retailer demand is currently leading adoption of RFID throughout the supply chain, but Lalla thinks that consumer demand will soon drive significant adoption. People are curious, they demand to be informed. Theres already significant interest in knowing the lifecycle of goods. In the grocery store, consumers will be able to scan RFID electronic product codes with their mobile phones and find out about allergens, where and when the product was produced or grown, and more. RFID is going to become a big part of the consumer shopping experience. Staying informed is one driver, but convenience could be another. Shoppers might simply walk past a scanner at the exit; the scanner would read all items in the cart at once and charge the customers account while adjusting the store’s inventory.

And the homely barcode? Lalla believes it will die a slow death as barcode reading equipment reaches end of life and the cost of RFID tags continues to fall. Lets say Im the retailer, my barcode reader is old and RFID is part of the items. Efficiencies are such that I will not reinvest in barcode. Sepp agrees, but thinks that the barcode may be around for some time. Industries will self-select. Some wont find good reasons to replace the bar code for years and years. RFID tags can carry a barcode, and many stores will adopt combined readers in fact they already exist.

Price gap narrows
But many more industries may soon be self-selecting out of barcodes and into RFID as chips increase in functionality while they shrink in price and size. When I worked at Nokia in the 80s, we were making mobile phones that weighed up to ten pounds, remembers Lalla. We thought we were at the peak of development, but our visionary director said that one day they would be very small, quite cheap and everyone would have one. We thought hed gone nuts, but of course it happened, and the same thing has happened with RFID chip technology in the past 10 years. Where you see a barcode today, in the near future you will see an RFID tag.

Differences between RFID and Barcode

* Barcodes need to be brought close to the scanner to be read while RFID tags can be read from a great distance

* If there is a trolley full of items going out of a mall, an RFID scanner can read all the items in a few seconds which is not possible with a barcode system

* RFID tags are expensive in comparison to barcodes which is inhibiting their mass usage. On the other hand, barcodes are cheap and extremely popular all over the world

* No human capital is required with RFID system and it is completely automated. On the other hand full time employee is required to scan barcodes of items

* Barcodes can only be read while RFID can not only be read but also rewritten and modified depending upon requirement

* While barcodes can be easily damaged and are difficult to read when greasy or dirty, RFID are rugged and extremely durable

* Barcodes can be counterfeited or reproduced whereas this is not possible in the case of RFID tags

* While only one item can be read at a time with a barcode scanner, RFID reader can read up to 40 items per second

* The range of RFID reader is 300 feet. On the other hand barcode scanner can barely read past 15 feet.

RFID Works Better Than Barcodes

A significant advantage of RFID devices over the others mentioned above is that the RFID device does not need to be positioned precisely relative to the scanner. We’re all familiar with the difficulty that store checkout clerks sometimes have in making sure that a barcode can be read. And obviously, credit cards and ATM cards must be swiped through a special reader.
In contrast, RFID devices will work within a few feet (up to 20 feet for high-frequency devices) of the scanner. For example, you could just put all of your groceries or purchases in a bag, and set the bag on the scanner. It would be able to query all of the RFID devices and total your purchase immediately. (Read a more detailed article on RFID compared to barcodes.)
RFID technology has been available for more than fifty years. It has only been recently that the ability to manufacture the RFID devices has fallen to the point where they can be used as a “throwaway” inventory or control device. Alien Technologies recently sold 500 million RFID tags to Gillette at a cost of about ten cents per tag.
One reason that it has taken so long for RFID to come into common use is the lack of standards in the industry. Most companies invested in RFID technology only use the tags to track items within their control; many of the benefits of RFID come when items are tracked from company to company or from country to country.


What is a barcode?
A barcode is an optical machine-readable representation of data. The most common formats for barcodes are 3 of 9, 128, and UPC.


How do barcodes typically work on a gift card?
Each gift card is printed with a unique serial number barcode with or without human readable characters. When a customer purchases a gift card, the barcode is scanned or its human readable characters are keyed into a point of sale (POS) system. The point of sales system recognizes the gift card’s unique serial number and prompts the cashier for a value to be assigned to it. For this example, the customer wishes to put $50.00 on the gift card. The cashier takes the customer’s $50.00 and keys in this amount. The point of sales system then assigns this value to the gift cards serial number. The value of the gift card is not stored on the card but within the point of sale system.

When the customer returns with the card, the barcode is scanned or the human readable characters are entered. The point of sale system then displays the stored value assigned to its serial number. The customer may add additional funds to the card or use its value to make a purchase. The history of the transaction and remaining balance amount is stored within the point of sale system for reference and future transactions.

How do I know what type of barcode my Point of Sales system needs? How can you ensure the barcode will work?
We have the ability to print many barcode formats onto our products. If you are not sure what type of barcode your system requires, please contact your point of sale system provider. They can assist you with which type of barcode will work and the necessary characters for your particular system.

Please ask your point of sale (POS) system provider the following questions:

What barcode format or formats work best with your system?
Are there any specific characters or number of characters necessary to be used in a barcode serial number?
Once you get this information, please let us know and we will gladly email sample barcodes for you to test to ensure that they will work on your system.