Difference Between Barcodes, QR Codes, And RFID

Almost everything that we see today is labeled or tagged. From pictures on Facebook to the things bought at a supermarket, everything is marked for identification. Mapping people or products stems from the need to track them from their point of origin. One of the prime instances of tracking can be found on barcodes. Those series of line that we are so used to seeing around us have helped manufacturers, retailers and business owners in general to easily store product data and then locate the trail their products took when moving from one end to the other.

As products move faster than ever to newer and multiple channels, the need to effectively track them has to pace too. QR codes and RFID tags have surfaced as the new means of storing, managing and tracking data faster and easily.

Barcodes, QR codes, and RFID are all means for carrying large amount of data in compact format. However, there is distinction to be made in terms of the purpose they are used for and the way they are used.


Barcode LabelsBarcodes have been a common sight for decades now. It is most commonly used on packaging at grocery stores, manufacturing units, and in shipping products. Barcodes have manifold applications – seeing how much you’ve sold, how much you have in stock, and how much you need to procure. Barcodes are read through barcode scanner. One can easily spot a barcode scanner at your nearest supermarket at the checkout point where salesmen use the scanner to read barcode labels printed on the products one buys. A linear barcodes can read up to 24 characters at a time.

QR codes:

QR CodeAlthough QR codes have been around for years too, their usage has skyrocketed in the past 12 months. One can easily read a QR code through a barcode scanner app installed on a Smartphone. QR codes are now heavily used by marketers to lead users to a website for special offers, first-hand information etc. A QR code is compact and can store more data when compared to barcodes. Moreover, QR code doesn’t cost a thing except when used in print media.

Scan this QR code using a barcode scanner app on your Smartphone.


RFID TagRFID or Radio Frequency Identification too, has been in the market for some time now but their application requires the user to have technological know-how. Application of RFID includes putting RFID tags to boxes, pallets etc. RFID tags store, move and track vast quantities of data faster and more efficiently when compared to barcodes and QR codes. RFID tags possess both read and write capabilities. Information stored on RFID tags can be locked, changed, and updated. The small antenna in an RFID tag gives out a signal which is then picked up by a special wireless reader, transmitting information from the tag to the object the RFID tag is attached to.

RFID tags will take some time to catch up among small business including retailers and manufacturers. While RFID may have more potential for storing and tracking data, barcodes fit better within small business owners’ budget and within their resources to implement them.

Barcodes, QR codes, and RFID, though fundamentally function similarly – store, manage and track data; are used under different circumstances and with different objectives in mind.


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