QR vs. RFID, which is better?
The benefits and drawbacks of each type of asset tag
The answer to an age old technological question: QR tags or RFID tags? Which one is more helpful for my asset management? Which one would win in a fight? Which one is right for me? The answer is quite simple: it depends. Yet, this only raises more questions. So, which one should you be using? Read on to find out.
What is the difference between QR code asset tags and RFID asset tags? Both of them have a similar purpose and usage, but, if you have a scanner nearby, an “active” RFID tag will constantly transmit information (more on the different RFID tag types later), where a QR code needs to be rescanned each time individually and with line of sight.
While this makes it sound like there’s an obvious winner, that’s not necessarily the case. While RFID tags have increased functionality and connectivity, QR tags are often a lot more practical. They’re also cheaper as they’re easier to print.
There is a lot to take into account before you make a decision on which to invest more of your time and money into. You don’t want to spend a fortune on RFID tags and scanners and then use them in the same way you’d be using QR tags, or even cheaper RFID tags.
The first benefit of QR codes is the effectiveness. All you need to scan one is a smartphone and some software and they’re cheap and easy to both use and generate. The time you would be spending configuring an RFID tag (unless you use itemit, in which case your RFID tags are configured for you) could be used simply shipping around your assets, as all it takes is thirty seconds to stick on a tag, scan the tag and add your asset to a register.
As they’re so easy to generate, this means that they’re incredibly cheap, also. You won’t have to worry as much about time constraints or budgeting because before you order tags, you’ll probably own everything else already.
QR tags have two main drawbacks. The first is that they’re don’t have as many applications as RFID tags due to limitations such as needing a line of sight to scan. So, depending on what you’re planning on using them for, you may have to invest in RFID tags for a wider range of uses. This isn’t a problem if your asset management doesn’t require easier, more efficient, and faster updates (multiple tags getting scanned at once).
With passive RFID tags and QR codes, however, there’s more of a chance of human error as each asset needs to be scanned manually. This is more of an issue with QR code asset tags due to the need for line of sight as if a QR tag isn’t spotted, and therefore isn’t scanned, an asset may potentially remain unaccounted for.
Another fear people have is the thought of sticking QR stickers onto their items. RFID tags look instantly more integrated and technological, and due to how they work can be hidden.
Some people worry that QR tags must be visible. The solution is simple, itemit tags are smaller and more attractive than other companies. They instantly enhance any asset and make it look more futuristic and no negative attention is drawn to the tag.
Types of RFID Tag
First of all you’ll need to know a little bit about the two types of RFID tag. These have different prices, different purposes and different applications. The first type is a passive RFID tag, the second is an active RFID tag.
Passive tags are “powered” by the electromagnetic energy sent from an RFID reader. What this means is that, depending on wear and tear, there is a possibility for passive RFID tags to last a lifetime. They don’t require a battery or any other internal power source.
Passive RFID tags can therefore be smaller, more flexible, and a lot more durable, allowing the ability to use them in harsh conditions. However, the scanning range, although a lot larger than a QR code, is still a lot smaller than with an active RFID tag.
Active tags, however, do require an internal power source which means that they must be larger. This can affect their longevity and durability. So, yes, active tags can be read from a much, much larger distance than passive tags, but it’s also probable that at some point the RFID tag will have to be replaced sooner than a passive tag.
As an added benefit, however, as active tags have a much larger scanning range, reading/writing ability and communication with assets can be more remote and done with a lot more ease. This means updating an asset register is a lot faster and simpler.
The benefits of using RFID tags are very clear, very quickly. First of all, being able to walk into a room and press a button and all of the assets in that room appearing on your scanner is futuristic and feels amazing. RFID tagging can really bring inanimate objects to life in a more fulfilling way than QR tagging.
With QR tagging, the scanning range is vastly different, even if the RFID tag is passive. Not only this, but QR codes need line of sight and need to be scanned one by one. RFID tags on the other hand can be scanned through surfaces and multiple assets can be scanned at once.
QR codes must always be “read-only”, whereas RFID tags can be “read-write”, depending on the radio frequency that’s being used. What this means is that assets can be changed and updated and communicated with whilst they’re either in use or in transit.
So, not only are RFID tags futuristic and have more uses than QR tags, they also have many more applications. The read range is far superior for an RFID tag. Also, as multiple can be scanned at the same time, various deadlines can be met with much more ease than if you were scanning assets one by one.
RFID tags also have many uses that are still being explored. For example, Amazon used RFID tags in trollies and on assets in order to show that it was possible to use weighted shelves and RFID tags to make shopping easier. The experiment showed that right now it is possible to simply take items from a shelf in a shop, place them in your trolley, then walk out of the shop and get charged for the items with the help of RFID tags. No more queues!
There is one immediate drawback for using RFIDs, and that’s the price. The RFID tags themselves can be extremely cheap, or they can be expensive. It all depends on your needs. If you want a basic sticky label tag that isn’t durable and has a relatively low read range it’ll only cost around 0.05-0.1USD. Scanners can be expensive, however. Whether you want to make this investment depends on how many you need to buy or, again, your company’s or individual needs.
It is certainly worth it depending on what you’re trying to track and what you want to do with your assets as QR tags simply don’t do everything RFID tags can. Of course, if you are planning on using RFID for a purpose that can be easily reached with QR tags, why would you spend the extra money on scanners? Especially as they need a dedicated reader with bluetooth that works with smartphones or fixed readers. Again, it depends on your purpose and your budget.
Including the cost of scanners, in which you may need more than one depending on your purpose; unless your assets need to be scanned from a larger distance, in bulk, or with no line of sight, it might be better to invest in QR tags instead.
Which One is Right for You?
You’ve probably seen that RFID tags are objectively better, more useful, and easier to integrate. This doesn’t mean you should instantly reach for your wallet and start ordering. It’s all about your specific purpose.
For example, if you want to move house and you want to make sure everything from your old house makes it to your new one, you don’t need RFID tags as much. The benefit of an RFID tag is that you simply scan using the itemit app and RFID reader and detect everything that’s still in the house, but QR tags can serve the same purpose it’ll just be a little slower and cheaper.
However, if you’re making a movie and you want to track your expensive equipment, props, and costumes, it might be better to invest in RFID tags because faster, more efficient updates from a larger distance mean that it’s cheaper to purchase RFID tags and scanners than risk losing your favourite camera.
The answer, therefore, is think about if what you’re doing can be done with QR tags. If it can’t, think about if it can be done with passive RFID tags. If it can’t, think about if it can be done with active RFID tags. Then, when you’ve thought about this, invest accordingly! You don’t even have to right now, as itemit works with both QR and RFID tags and so you can future proof your business with the best asset management possible.
With itemit you can use both QR and RFID tags!
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