QuestionThere are many benefits to using barcodes and RFID tags for auto identification. Auto identification technology allows for simple product identification and authentication, visibility of assets, items, and equipment, enhanced security, faster, more accurate inventory control, labor savings, and precise data. The difficulty of implementation, however, often lies in deciding between barcodes or RFID tags for your auto ID needs.

Barcodes are price-friendly and simple to implement, but require direct line-of-sight reading and touching each item or asset. RFID tags require less handling and are therefore less intrusive. RFID tags also allow for faster reads with no direct line-of-sight. With RFID tags, there is a reduced risk of asset tags being copied. RFID tags are often ideal where a barcode cannot be used.

When deciding between barcodes and RFID tags, there are four main factors to consider:

  1. Compliance
  2. Accessibility
  3. Workflow
  4. Physical Form


The auto IDs you choose to use for marking assets must meet industry asset tracking standards as outlined by the Department of Defense, manufacturing standards as outlined by the FDA, and follow commercial best practices as outlined in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.


When deciding between barcodes and RFID tags, consider the accessibility of your assets. Are items packaged? Do your assets have embedded or hard-to-reach components? What is your data capacity? Are you connected or disconnected to a mobile computer environment?


Consider your workflow requirements. What kind of security is needed for “walking” items? What is the process for physically checking items in or out of locations? How difficult is it to find items? What is needed to perform a cycle count? 

Physical Form

The physical form of barcodes and RIFD tags can be crucial to implementation. Durability, size, and profile differ, so consider which physical form would best work for marking your assets.

Choosing one method for item marking over another will require determining:

  • How often you need to capture data
  • The quantity of items you need to mark
  • The value of your marking system
  • The accessibility of your items
  • The number of locations where items need marking
  • Your accuracy requirements
  • The cost of personnel overhead
  • Your current loss, theft, or duplicate purchases
  • The cost of implementation compared to potential short and long-term gains.

After determining your specific Auto ID technology needs, you may find that the best solution is a barcode-RFID hybrid. Barcode and RFID will work together for many generations to come. Both barcodes and RFID tags are extremely effective in saving costs and increasing accuracy across any operation. Implementing both technologies will provide benefits well beyond manual processes, and integrating RFID into an existing barcode-based environment can create significant gains.

To determine whether barcodes, RFID tags, or both are better for marking your assets, answer these 5 questions:

  1. What’s the problem that I’m trying to solve?
  2. What business practices will be impacted?
  3. Do I prefer barcode or RFID?
  4. Does my solution need to meet any commercial or government standards? If so, which standards?
  5. What potential benefits to my organization will I realize using Auto ID technology?

Then take our survey to help determine which Auto ID technology will work best for you. For more information on Auto ID systems, visit the Resources section of our website.