May 7, 2019

RFID vs QR as a Data Transmission Method

One of the big questions we're asked before a customer buying our data loggers is "why QR and not RFID?" While we're obviously biased as a company, here's a personal explanation, as objectively as possible.

While the QR code has been around since 1994, it did not really catch on until years later. The technology was ahead of its time and nobody really knew what to do with it yet. However, as the years progressed big data became more and more important to businesses and that all changed.

In 2022, QR codes are possibly more common than ever before. Data is now the digital gold of any industry, and every company is looking for the best way to transmit and make use of that data, and in the future, they will very likely do it using the QR code.

Data transmission at the click of a camera shutter

The QR code is simple to use, and the costs for implementing it are significantly less than using RFID for data transmission. The data on a QR code can also be read using nearly any device, including mobile phones. That means that literally any iPhone or Android device can be used to transmit QR code data, unlike RFID tags which require specialized hardware and infrastructure to function. That’s why cryptocurrencies jumped on using QR codes for their wallets. While QR codes can be read with specialized equipment such as barcode readers, they are not necessary. It’s a technology that can be used by literally anyone in the world and with almost any device.

RFID: Large-scale infrastructure for full automatization

In contrast, if you’re planning to go the RFID route, then be prepared for the sticker shock. Handheld devices for reading these tags can run from several hundreds to thousands of dollars each. A single RFID reader might not be a huge expense, but full automation will require a considerable investment. Think of automating it all: building gateways for all your incoming and leaving shipments.

Granted, RFID does come with the benefit of being able to scan products at a greater distance, and you don’t need to manually scan each of them like with QR codes. It’s also possible to read multiple RFIDs at the same time. Certainly makes things easy after the infrastructure is complete, but then again, one of the gates is bound to cost thousands of dollars as well. Without automation, finding a specific item in a system amongst hundreds of packages might be more of a challenge, even if you held that item physically in your hands.

That being said, QR provides equal accuracy to RFID methods, and it can provide even greater benefits. This includes a greater memory capacity which can provide superior data logging capabilities, and the transmission speed for both is very similar.

Barcodes on steroids

However, QR codes have brought something to the table that’s just not possible with RFID. They’ve created an easy to use and affordable method for every business to better manage their shipments and inventory.

QR codes offer the ease of use of the barcodes of the past but with amazingly better functionality. While these inventory management methods could only transmit limited data sources in the past, they can now track intricate shipping condition metrics and offer circumstance monitoring.

That’s because QR code devices can include sensors which capture important information like humidity, temperature and shock data. This helps you to learn whether your products have been handled appropriately while in transit and it can even help to avoid shipping goods which could be compromised or to identify weak points in your logistics.

As an added bonus, everyone knows how to use a QR code these days. It's basically a barcode, after all.

Surprising transparency

However, one of the most attractive aspects of QR codes over any other data transmission method is that this data can now be passed on to the customer. Consumers can verify for themselves, using their smartphones, that their products were safely handled.

This is something that a pricey RFID will never provide, and it establishes trust between you and your clients. While sharing data isn’t always touted as a perk of big data, it can be a valuable way to interact with your clients. It can also help them to become an important link in your supply chain for preventing the sale of counterfeit or unsafe goods. It’s an advancement that’s unique to the mighty QR code, and in the future it seems likely that consumers will demand data-based guarantees on their purchases.

Implementing a QR code-based system now is just another way that your business can get ahead of the curve and be on the cutting edge of technology before it’s too late.

Did you enjoy this article? Take a look at our other blog posts about QR codes and logistics: 4 Ways Technology Will Boost Warehouse Efficiency, Evolution of the QR Code and 4 Ways Technology Will Shap the Future of Supply Chain Management.

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