Tag your equipment with barcode QR and RFID

Tired of typing with your keyboard to manage, identify, and search for your equipment, which takes a lot of time and effort? Sometimes, you accidentally type in the wrong input which leads you to work on the wrong equipment as well.

That’s why tagging your equipment with a digital key is crucial. Reading numbers digitally is much faster and more precise to identify your equipment than typing numbers on a keyboard.

There are several methods and technologies available that can help you with it, this article will introduce them to you and show you their differences:

1. Barcode and QR code

Barcode (1-dimensional barcode)

Barcodes are often used to identify products or a group of products. Because of its limited space for data storage, it is not very suitable for the unique identification of equipment.

QR code (Quick Response Code)

QR code is a type of matrix barcode (or 2-dimensional barcode) because the content is stored as a matrix rather than bars. It is becoming a widely used standard thanks to its capability of storing a quite large amount of data.

QR codes must be printed and are thereby “read-only”. The stored content is often formed as a URL followed by a unique code in order to easily look up a predefined web page or an online application.
For example: http://eq.mydomain.com/A126662BC001

QR codes can be read by most modern smartphones, simply by using their built-in cameras.

2. RFID (Radio-frequency Identification)

Radio-frequency Identification (RFID) uses electromagnetic fields to automatically identify and track tags attached to your equipment.

RFID has the benefit that it can be read even if the tag or surface is not visible to the user while the printed QR code can be worn out leading to difficulties in scanning. Moreover, RFID tags are likely to survive behind a protected shield.

NFC (Near Field Communication)

NFC (Near Field Communication) tags are popular since they can be read from almost every modern smartphone. The stored content is often programmed the same way with QR codes: a URL bringing you to the supplier’s website or application.

NFC is based on the HF (high frequency) standard, and as the name Near Field Communication (NFC) tells, the tag and the reader must be placed very close to each other (almost touching) to get a positive read.

Sample standard: ISO 14443A / 13.56Mhz

LF (Low Frequency)

LF (Low Frequency) has been much used in the industry before, because of its low cost and the ability to handle extreme conditions (fluid and rough).
But LF is considered rather slow and has limited space for data storage. That’s why years later, HF (High Frequency) has taken over most of this market.

HF (High Frequency)

HF (High Frequency) is considered a kind of in-between solution. It has been preferred by the industry over the last few years, where the main need is reading item-by-item instead of several items at a time.

HF is capable of handling electromagnetic noise quite well. The reading distance is short but its reading ability is accurate.
HF indicates the radio frequency, but there are still many standards within this category.

Some of these standards include NFC which can be read by some modern smartphones.
Unfortunately, most HF readers are made to handle several standards of HF tags, however, they are not all compatible.

The stored content of an HF tag consists of a unique Tag-Id (TID) and an optional record for storing information. For NFC, it is common to store a URL/URI that refers to a website or application.

Sample standard: ISO 15693 / 13.56Mhz

UHF (Ultra High Frequency)

UHF (Ultra High Frequency) is rapidly coming up as a standard for the retail industry. The ultra-high frequency makes it suitable for reading from long distances as well as fast reading of multiple items simultaneously.

UHF is more vulnerable to electromagnetic noise. If the tag is attached to metal, it will require a special shield to separate it from the metal surface.

The most commonly stored content on a UHF tag is an Electronic Product Code (EPC). This is a globally unique code that identifies a specific item in the supply chain.

UHF and EPC form the popular standard of RAIN. The term RAIN is derived from RAdio frequency IdentificatioN, also known as RFID. But it is a cloud-based infrastructure, where RFID data can be stored, managed, and shared via the Internet.

Sample standard: ISO/IEC 18000-6C / 860~960Mhz


3. Additional Information

The above overview covers only passive tags. Passive tags are tags that get power from the reader and do not need an internal battery to operate.

The RFID tag itself is about the size of a pinhead or grain of sand. This is surrounded by an antenna, which covers most of the visible surface.

  • The larger the antenna (surface) of a tag, the better the performance.
  • The antenna can also be layered, which means that a thicker tag also may perform better than a thinner one.

Since the chip and antenna are quite delicate, it often comes in a “hard tag” version.
Hard tags contain metal strips or electronic circuits encased in a plastic housing.

Unless the tag is naturally covered behind a protective surface, consider it a “hard tag”.

4. Tags supported by Onix

Onix currently supports all the technologies that we mentioned above for your different purposes. Moreover, we also deliver some sample tags of RAIN RFID and the adhesive NFC tag (stickers).

We also provide, deliver, and support Onix ID - a pre-printed label (adhesive) with a QR code that you can attach and use as a unique identifier for your equipment.


5. What suits you best?

There is not a single unified conclusion to this.
You may even need to combine several of the above technologies to cover your needs.

  • The RFID standards cannot be easily combined together (e.g. RAIN RFID + NFC).
  • But you can easily combine QR with one of the RFID standards.

In order to find what suits you best, you have to know your own needs first. Read the Q&A below to see what fits in different usage:

1. Do you need to read the tags without any “special” devices?
If yes, you should consider NFC or QR codes. These can be read from almost every smartphone.
2. Do you need to read multiple tags, and from a distance further than 10cm?
If yes, RAIN RFID should be your choice. You will need a special external reader (scanner), however, this works for fast and accurate readings.
3. Do you own equipment that is already tagged by RFID?
If yes, please consider staying with the current technology, or else, you will have to re-tag the existing items.

6. Our experience

We often experience that the warehouse will benefit from RAIN RFID . RAIN RFID tags enable you to collect data from a box of items rather than picking one by one. Using special rugged readers for this purpose will normally not be an issue.

Inspections are often done one by one, therefore, NFC tags or QR codes will perform better since they will not be affected by other nearby items. Moreover, the pros of these solutions are almost every new smartphone can be used for scanning.

7. Well-known tag brands

You can go for tags from well-known brands. These are high-quality tags and often perform better than others.

Some brands such as: