NFC has no B2B benefits over barcodes

In our previous post in our “barcode vs. NFC” blog series, we talked about the prohibitive cost of NFC tags and the effort required to develop custom tagging solutions for many different product packaging. Today, we’ll look at the benefits of NFC tags on consumer products from a B2B perspective or — too be more precise — the lack of such benefits.

In recent years, RFID has received a lot of attention as a potential replacement for the barcode to improve visibility into various B2B and supply chain activities. These benefits resulted from the fact that RFID systems operating at UHF frequencies can

* identify multiple tags simultaneously

* identify tags without line-of-sight

* read tags over distance of a couple of meters.

This means that staff for example no longer needs to point the barcode scanner at each logistical unit on a pallet, but the “tagged” logistical unit can be automatically identified when the pallets moves past the RFID reader. RFID also has the potential to automatically monitor the inventory on retail shelves – reducing the likelihood of stock-outs. The figure below highlights that all these different B2B use cases of RFID technology rely on a range of a couple meters:

 

Click image for an enlarged version




NFC systems can be considered a special kind of RFID technology but one that has a very limited range, typically just 2-3 inches. The limited read range means that none of the B2B business benefits mentioned above can be realized. With a read range of 2-3 inches, staff for example needs to point an NFC scanner manually at the NFC tag to identify it in any business process. Automatically counting inventory on retail shelves or identifying all logistical units on a pallet are thus not possible with NFC technology. It is also not possible to replace the manual nature of the checkout process. Due to the small read range, staff at checkout would still need to swipe each NFC tag past an NFC reader – just like they are doing it today with barcodes.