I was faced with a recent discussion that really surfaced a debate over the use of 2D bar code (UID) vs. pRFID (passive RFID) for serialized item identification and tracking. Let’s assume for a moment that there is absolutely no cost difference between the implementation and ongoing sustainment of these two technologies.

Which would you choose?

It’s easy to quickly assume that the more sophisticated technology, pRFID, would be the logical choice. However, thinking through the use of the technology and the application is the first step in choosing the right technology for the application.

Let’s take simple office IT equipment as a good example. You would apply a pRFID tag to a monitor, keyboard, CPU, and a few other various items in this category. In concept you could walk into a cubicle to scan to account for these items. But additional items are captured in the cubicles next to or adjacent to where you are standing. The mobile computer may report them but now you have the onus to prove that these items have not been assigned to this location or owner (sometimes referred to as custodian).

UID or barcode requires a line of sight scan of an item which entails ‘touching’ each item. In some cases validating the exact item on the mobile computer must be done anyway. pRFID as well as UID have their strengths and weaknesses. There is no question that pRFID has great benefits and since it is often more expensive to implement, it’s worth the cost. But stop and consider the application and your objectives for UID versus pRFID before drawing the conclusion that one technology is any better than the other.