Amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, there have been countless discussions regarding upcoming technology and what the post-pandemic future looks like for our current logistics and supply chain management systems. When we talk about logistics management or asset management software, barcodes and barcoding machines are easily one of the most common and widely used devices. Ever since its inception commercially during the 1970s, it has become a prominent aspect of every sector that deals with inventories and warehouse management.
Speaking of logistics and supply chain management systems, RFID tracking, developed back in 1983, is also a prevalent technology in this sector. RFID tracking can also prove to be more efficient than barcoding when used for asset management software.
The current state of Barcoding and RFID tracking
While barcoding machines are in widespread use, limitations are a reality. An example of one would be 1D barcodes supporting only a limited character range, typically around 20-25. Since they store data proportionally to the entire code’s horizontal length, limiting users’ ability to add information before the barcode is too long for usage. This isn’t necessarily a disadvantage for businesses since each set of codes can have 1013combinations. Those are enough combinations even if everyone alive made around 1000 products with a unique code!
However, 1D isn’t sufficient to encrypt information other than numerical data.
On the other hand, 2D barcodes have a larger range of up to 2000 characters or more. Since they can store information both horizontally and vertically, they take up less space than 1D barcodes while also storing much more information. While 1D barcodes need database connectivity to be useful, 2D barcodes can store image data, encrypt URLs, contact information, etc.
The latest development, 3D barcodes, brings even more durability and capacity to store information in a smaller space. These continuous enhancements to barcoding machines and technology have had a massive influence on supply chain management, making business processes run faster than ever before.
At present, RFID technology is predominantly used for asset management and identification, warehouse management, and IoT applications. However, the accuracy of RFID technology depends on certain factors such as the strength of the emitters, the shape and size of the RFID tag, environmental interferences, etc.
While these factors need to be kept in mind while using RFID tracking, it doesn’t stop the business sector from utilizing them. You’ve probably made use of it without even noticing.
RFIDs have a read range of around 20-100 meters (60 to 300 feet) and function at 2.45-5.8 GHz. RFID tracking has been able to fill in the gaps barcode technology couldn’t, a few being supporting geographical positioning data, being more resistant to abrasive environments than barcodes, and RFID trackers having a much larger range than barcoding machines. Some of the only drawbacks RFID faces are its much larger setup and usage cost compared to barcodes, the need for specialized operators, and regular maintenance of RFID tracking systems.
The future of Barcoding and RFID tracking
Barcode technology has advanced significantly since its creation. Barcodes single-handedly revolutionized the way we make payments, record information, track inventories, and brought about the Universal Product Code, creating a new standard for barcoding machines to be used globally. From delivering increased efficiency and productivity by reducing human errors in logistics and supply chain management, to allowing complete warehouse automation in time-critical industries such as cold chain logistics, barcoding has made several business operations significantly easier.
Another version of 3D barcodes, QR (Quick Response) codes, have brought a new direction to storing data. Being omnidirectional and storing upto 7,089 numeric characters and readable by simple camera phones, they have revolutionized the barcode information technology, which already established a firm hold in asset management software and logistics and supply chain management systems.
With the impressive mechanics of 2D and 3D barcodes, they are becoming increasingly popular and are taking over the original 1D barcodes.
RFID technology’s reach has broadened as well, especially in the pharmaceutical industries. Since manipulated drug hazards have risen to the surface more than ever, RFID can be the perfect anti-counterfeiting solution, allowing real-time tracking of compounds and products across warehouses and transportation points. RFID chips can turn everyday objects into smart pieces of technology and allow them to exchange data over the internet. This technology is set to transform the way we make daily transactions and could soon be the most prominent sector of IoT technology.
The most interesting development to come would be a hybrid between barcodes and RFID tracking, taking the best of both worlds while minimizing the limitations of each technology. Barcoding machines need a clear, unobstructed line of sight to read barcodes, while RFID uses radio waves, allowing for a much wider detection range. Barcodes are also susceptible to dust, environmental abrasion, and user error while reading the code, limitations RFID tracking is immune to. But where RFIDs are useless in environments with high radio wave interference, such as radioactive chemical compounds, radio transmitters, etc., barcodes are immune to such environmental factors. A significant amount of research is already being done in this sector which shows potential for exponential growth.
Exciting Times for Barcoding & RFID Tracking!
While barcodes and RFID tracking have individually been incremental to the growth of inventory and asset management, and logistics and supply chain management, their combination has the power to reinvent these industries and how we share data quickly across distances. The importance of new innovations in barcodes and RFID tracking was highlighted during the pandemic, emphasizing the need for contactless and quick exchange of information. Apart from this, since IoT (Internet of Things) is predicted to connect about 21 billion devices by 2025, barcodes and RFID will inevitably accompany IoT technology, allowing companies to track and categorize their IoT inventories all at once, in a wide range of environmental conditions. Exciting times!
Bar Code India (BCI) is India’s leading barcode software solutions provider that offers advanced solutions to identify and understand customer problems and effectively resolve them. To learn more about Bar Code, check out our website and follow us on our social handles to stay updated: