Nortech Control Blog

6 Differences Between RFID Tags And QR Codes (Simple Guide)

RFID Tags vs QR CodesAs the security industry evolves, we see more and more technologies either become increasingly prevalent or fade into obscurity. 

It is important regardless of your business type to understand the solutions that can improve your operations, increase your security, and save you time and effort, both of these solutions can provide this and more.

In this simple guide, we are going to cover the basics, pros, and some core differences between two popular technologies, RFID Tags and QR Codes.

In this comparison guide, we'll cover:

  • What are RFID tags and the different types of tags available
  • What are QR codes and how they work
  • The benefits of using RFID tags
  • The benefits of using QR codes 
  • RFID Tags Vs QR Codes - The 6 main differences
  • Summary

What are RFID Tags?

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Tags are the part of the system that the user has which grants them access to a location, lock, or gate. As the name suggests, the data is transferred by electromagnetic fields which can identify and even track the devices.

The majority of RFID systems use a microchip with an antenna, otherwise known as the tag, which communicates with a reader and an access control server. 

Next, the RFID system will check the information against its internal database to determine if access should be granted or denied. 

RFID Tag Components 

The tag itself has three core components, the microchip, substrate, and antenna. Let us look at each part separately and how they make up the RFID Tag.

Microchip - this is where the information is stored within the tag. The microchip processes the data, and will both modulate (encode) and demodulate (extract) the radio-frequency.

Antenna - this component of the RFID tag is how it receives and transmits the signal to the reader. Typically a strip of conductive material and the largest component in the tag.

Substrate - in short, this is what holds the other pieces together, it is often a flexible plastic or polymer. The substrate can also limit environmental damage (moisture, heat/cold, impact, chemicals).

What are the Types of RFID Tags?

RFID Tags fall into two categories when used in access control, Active Tags and Passive Tags. These two are differentiated by their uses and power supplies.

Active RFID Tag - these are battery-controlled tags that are constantly broadcasting their signal. Active Tags are great for real-time asset management or for high-speed applications like tolls. The range of an Active RFID tag is much greater, but they are also more expensive.

Passive RFID Tag - these have no internal power source and are solely powered by the electromagnetic energy which the RFID reader transmits. Passive Tags will often be used for access control, timing races, tracking files, and more.

 

What are QR Codes?

Quick Response (QR) Codes are a type of barcode that was designed in the 90s in Japan. The original use of these QR Codes was for the automotive industry. 

To put it simply, a QR Code contains data that is scanned by a reader and transfers that information to it. This could be anything from a coupon or discount code, ticket to an event, or getting a restaurant's menu on your phone.

How Do QR Codes Work?

Just like a barcode, each QR code is unique, the combination of different encoding modes (alphanumeric, numeric, kanji, and binary). The use of both vertical and horizontal components create a pattern for the data that can be read with ease.

This means the information is stored within black squares arranged on a white background which are read primarily by cameras or other lens-based media.

You will find QR Codes in all sorts of industries now, mainly for visitor access, from the fitness industry to large businesses, to campuses.

 

What Are The Pros of RFID Tags?

There is a wide range of benefits that RFID Tags have with some dependent on certain industries. We will cover the more general pros that can be applied to most businesses.

Robust Technology 

Due to the components, design and size of RFID Tags, they can operate in more challenging situations than other systems. For instance, these tags can be used for pets, theme parks, security, and everything in between.

Secure & Simple 

RFID Tags are incredibly simple technology compared to other things in the security and access control realm. The system is secure and will only grant access to permitted tags within their radius.

Can be Scanned in Bulk

Depending on the way an RFID is being used, this can be a really important factor. Having the ability to scan lots of RFID Tags in a short space of time can have a plethora of benefits and uses.

Real-Time Data

RFID Tags provide information that can improve multiple facets of a business, security and customer interactions and support. The real-time data can be captured at multiple stages and provide opportunities for better management, operations, and security. 

Convenient 

Unlike other methods, RFID readers can scan data instantly and have a wide range of applications in business and for people management. In addition, RFID does not require a point of reference to read data.

Remove Human Error

As a rule of thumb, RFID Tags and systems are automated and do not require human involvement. This removes the majority of possibilities for human errors that can occur with different types of systems.

 

What Are The Pros of QR Codes?

QR Codes have a lot of uses in a variety of industries and therefore have benefits that can be applied to their different applications. As with the RFID section, we will be looking broadly at the pros of the QR Code technology.

Accessibility 

QR Codes are not only easy to use but are also accessible. The fact that they can be scanned both digitally and physically allows for wider usage. We see this a lot with boarding passes on planes which can be on your phone or printed out. 

Contactless 

Now more than ever, it is important to explore contactless technology and the fact that QR Codes are so simple and effective, we are seeing them more and more often. Having an easy to explain and use system, such as QR Codes, is simple to implement in any business size.

Unlimited Space 

QR Codes have no limit of information that can be linked to them due to normally going to a URL, meaning you could have a lot of data ‘stored’ on your QR Code. In terms of security, you could have a user’s profile on a QR Code which would allow you to identify people accessing your buildings or systems.

Measurable 

Despite what most people think, you can actually measure a Quick Response Code and track its usage, and measure the results with programmes like Firebase. This is a big step for marketing, security, and visitor management. 

Unique 

Due to the combinations of the patterns, you can create endless QR Codes for your business. With each unique code being able to be used for a new user, campaign, or application. For instance in visitor access control, each new person could get a personalised day-code.

Call to Action

QR Codes can be used in a number of ways, to provide additional information, to grant temporary access, or to inspire an action. Being able to present more data quickly is a great benefit of a QR Code. In terms of access control, granting temporary access is a plus too.

 

What Are The Main Differences between RFID Tags and QR Codes?

There are quite a few differences between Radio Frequency ID Tags and QR Codes. In this section, we will look at some of the overarching differences between these two technologies.

Read Distance 

As you have probably gathered by this part of the guide, these two technologies have drastically different read distances. Depending on your RFID Frequency you may have anything between a few centimetres to 100+ meters.

A QR Code however is typically read directly in front of a reader, due to them typically being a form of camera that needs to focus on the ‘image’.

Trackable vs Static

One of the core differences between RFID Tags and QR Codes is that one is much more trackable and can be used in logistics, security, and other mobile operations. 

RFID Tags can be tracked and give real-time information and updates. A Quick Response Code on the other hand is static and information is only transferred when it is manually scanned.

Line of Sight

QR Codes have a disadvantage to an RFID Tag as they require a line of sight to be scanned. This can prove difficult depending on your choice of application. For a lot of businesses they may require proximity but not strictly line of sight, so QR Codes can be limited.

If you are using a reader for pedestrians and people approaching on foot, then this issue is negated as they will be close enough to scan their code.

RFID Tag vs QR Code

Technology

It is fairly obvious that these two different systems use different technology. RFID uses radio, to which there are a few different frequencies with their own uses vs QR which uses optics (lasers).

QR Codes are easier to make however and could prove more accessible to smaller businesses. The industry you are in and core intended use will help you decide which is a better fit.

Interference 

As with anything, both technologies have some susceptibility to being interfered with. In the case of QR Codes, it can be as simple as physical obstruction such as a tear, some dirt, or the phone screen being too dim.

For RFID, interference can depend on the type of frequency being used for instance liquids and metal can impact certain frequencies.

Human Management 

Broadly speaking a QR Code system normally has some kind of human managing the system physically, either helping the users scan their codes, or ensuring it is running smoothly.

On the flip side, RFID systems are often unmanned as a whole with fixed readers being automated and not requiring much human involvement and management. 

 

RFID Tags Vs QR Codes Summary

Both these technologies have their uses for different businesses and unique applications. Choosing the right one for you will be determined by your situation and various factors.

Understanding the differences between RFID Tags and QR Codes will help you determine which will be the most practical for your business. 

Knowing what you want from your system is instrumental in picking the right solution for you.

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