When selecting a tracking technology to track assets there are several factors to consider. First, what is your objective? If the objective is to collect and manage data you should select the technology that is best suited to help you achieve that objective – not let the technology dictate how you go about collecting your information. Second, what type of asset are you going to be tracking – fixed or mobile? Examples of fixed assets may include furniture, machinery, computers, etc. Mobile assets, on the other hand, may include pallets, returnable containers, racks, etc. |
once you have your objective identified and your assets defined it is time to take a closer look at factors that may have an impact of the type of technology you plan to use. For example, consider the material composition of the item being tracking, i.e. metal, plastic, wood, etc. If we are looking specifically at bar code and radio frequency identification technologies we need to consider that RFID, more specifically passive ultra high frequency (UHF) RFID, has limitations when attached to metal assets and assets containing liquids. Metal surfaces reflect RF, detuning the antenna, thus affecting readability. Likewise, liquids absorb RF also affecting readability.
On the other hand, surface composition for bar code products is not a factor. In addition, the radius or contour of a surface also affects readability when using RFID technology; whereas bar code tags and labels can be designed for radius or curved surface so as not to affect readability. Other environmental factors that can have an impact on the type of tracking technology you use may include heat, UV exposure, abrasion, chemicals and solvents.
After reading the above information you might think RFID may not be the answer. However, there are numerous benefits to using RFID as your tracking technology. First, RFID allows users the ability to read multiple items in a short period of time (i.e. case lot unit containers, pallets, etc.) unlike bar code where you can only scan one at a time. Second, line-of-site isn’t needed when reading an RFID tag unlike bar code where you have to physically scan each bar code image. Third, depending on the type of inlay and readers used, RFID has a much longer read range.
Bar code has its advantages and RFID has its advantages too. Why not use both? Really there is a minimum additional investment for bar code and utilizing both technologies will allow locations that are not able to support RFID infrastructure to utilize the data simply by integrating the bar code information into the RFID inlay.
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