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What is the Difference Between Barcode and RFDI?

By Derek Schauland
Updated May 16, 2024
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Before looking at the differences between barcode and RFDI, an example of each technology has been included below to demonstrate how each is used. Although the way they function is very different, barcode and RFDI technology are both useful for inventory management and other applications. A quick note about terminology. RFDI stands for Radio Frequency Data Identification or Radio Frequency Data Identifier. It is more commonly referred to as RFID which stands for Radio Frequency Identification, or less commonly, Radio Frequency Identification Device.

A barcode is a series of lines and numbers used to record information about an item. For example, a product bar code found in a supermarket on a can of chicken noodle soup might contain the manufacturer lot number for the can, which also tells the user when this can of soup was produced. It might also dictate the item code that tells the user which item has been selected. Barcodes can also include the price of the item, as would be the case for the chicken noodle soup, allowing the cash register to scan the barcode and record the price of the item. This also serves as an inventory tracking mechanism for the soup, when the item is scanned by the cashier, these units can be removed from inventory.

A Radio frequency data identifier or RFDI is a microchip embedded in a product's packaging or label. This microchip, like a barcode, stores data about the product or item to which it is attached. When the RFDI is scanned, the data on the RFDI chip can be used to move an item into and out of a company’s inventory system, or simply allow the RFDI and its attached item to be tracked throughout the system.

The barcode and RFDI technology can be used together for the same item. If the RFDI cannot be used but the barcode still appears, the information about a product can be obtained by scanning it.

The primary difference between a barcode and RFDI is that an RFDI is a microchip that is attached to or embedded inside a product's packaging, making it much more secure and less likely to be illegible or be removed. A barcode is usually printed on a product's label and can be smudged or removed before it can be used.

Technologies and uses for RFDIs are improving every day. It is possible for an RFDI tag to be embedded in a family pet to allow a veterinarian to immediately access information about the animal if it is found or wanders away from home. Barcode technology allows us to track items into and out of inventory, but will not assist in medical emergencies or track lost pets the way that an RFDI microchip can.

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Discussion Comments

By anon22525 — On Dec 05, 2008

Yes you can use the same item numbers.

By anon17058 — On Aug 21, 2008

We have a large stock of bar coded goods that are entered on a stock inventroy database. If we wanted to move over to RFID, could we transfer the same numbers across so that the database would still be relevant? i.e If an item is already bar coded and we want to replace the bar code with an RFID chip could the same number be carried across to the chip?

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