When you’re investigating ways to track your assets, you’ll read a lot about QR Code and Barcode tracking options. When it comes to QR codes vs Barcodes, what are the differences? And which is right for you?
Spoiler alert: whether you use QR Codes or Barcodes, you’ll still be able to track and manage your assets, but QR Codes have some critical advantages over Barcodes in terms of their capabilities.
What is a Barcode?
A barcode is a one-dimensional (1D) machine-readable code which is made up of a pattern of lines of varying widths. Commonly, barcodes are accompanied by numbers too. This means that should a barcode not be readable, the code can be manually entered instead.
Barcodes are ubiquitous. They’re the most common auto-identification technology used for stock control and to store basic information about products. Historically, a barcode scanner has usually been required to read the information in the barcode, but nowadays, even your smartphone can interpret this data.
What are the downsides of barcodes?
In addition, the way barcodes are used means that, in practice, they are usually not unique. Famously, barcodes are used to identify item type rather than individual items. This may come as a revelation to you, but you know when you’re using a self-checkout machine, and you have three packs of microwave rice to scan through, if each one is the same then you can scan one of the packet’s barcodes three times, rather than each individually! (Well, at least you could if the machine wasn’t yelling at you to ‘Please place your item in the bagging area’ each time). As a result, if you are attempting to track more than one of the same asset using barcodes, you will need to make sure your barcodes have unique tags on them, rather than just using those they have already.
What is a QR Code?
A QR Code is a type of matrix barcode. You’ll recognise them as being, most often, a mixture of black and white squares and dots. QR codes can contain many different types of data. The most common things held in QR codes are website URLs, email addresses, contact data and text information. There are many innovative uses for QR codes, though, including quick and easy access to your WiFi router.
What are the benefits of QR codes over barcodes?
Unlike barcodes, QR Codes are two-dimensional as they have rows and columns which combine to make a grid of modules. As a result, QR codes can contain much more data than a barcode of equal size. The more data the QR code contains, the ‘busier’ it will look.
QR codes also have correction abilities. This means that if your QR code is incomplete due to being covered by dirt or scratches, there is a higher chance that it can still be read, in comparison to a barcode. For anyone responsible for managing tools and equipment that spend most of their lives in the back of Engineers’ vans or left outside in yards – this will be music to your ears!
QR codes vs Barcodes – A summary of the differences
1. A large amount of data needed
The amount of data a QR code can hold over a barcode is arguably the most significant difference. QR codes are two-dimensional as opposed to their one-dimensional barcode counterparts. This means that QR codes can contain much more data.
2. Uniquely identifying items
Barcodes on items we purchase are not unique. This means that if you have 3 of the same item, they will have the same barcode. This is a problem if you wish to use your items’ barcodes to track assets individually. Instead, QR codes can be used to give a unique identity to assets.
3. Robustness and ease of scanning
We all expect the scanning of an asset’s tag to be very quick. As QR codes can be read from any direction, they are much easier and quicker to scan.
In addition, due to the error correction capabilities inherent in QR codes, they offer superior robustness against dirt and scratches. Even if your QR code is scratched, it has a higher chance of successfully being scanned. This is especially important when it comes to equipment tracking and management, as equipment will experience a lot of wear and tear throughout its life, as will the asset tags you’re using. We always recommend purchasing robust metal QR tags to ensure the longevity of your investment.
Which is better?
In the context of asset tracking and tagging, QR codes give you superior flexibility and tracking options.
When it comes to tracking enterprise assets, you must be able to identify your tools and equipment uniquely. Take three computer screen cables, for example. On paper and in terms of their barcodes, each cable is identical. However, from the perspective of the business, one cable may be showing signs of splitting and should therefore be marked as needing repair and not used until safe to do so. The other two are fine and available for use. Here, it’s easy to see how critical it is to use QR codes to identify each asset uniquely.
The fact that QR codes can get damaged and still be usable is also a crucial factor in asset tracking.
If you’re weighing up between barcodes vs QR codes, we’d always recommend QR codes as being the better investment, as they offer uniqueness, can contain more data and crucially, are likely to last longer.
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