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RFID duels with bar codes for data center dominance.

by on July 5, 2010

Tracking assets in the data center has largely been the domain of the bar code, but RFID has begun to make inroads into the striped label’s territory.

Barcode One driver of the change has been government regulation of some industries, notably finance and health care, that require them to keep closer tabs on what they say they own. Closer tabs translates into more informationmore information than can be provided by bar codes.

Moreover, there are savings connected to the RFID approach that can’t be matched by bar code technology. For example, the labor costs of scanning a large number of bar codesa process that can take days or weeks in data centers with thousands of pieces of equipmentcan be greatly reduced with RFID tags. Those savings can be realized quickly, too. Depending on the number of assets being surveilled, the return on an initial investment in an RFID system can be in the six to 12 month range.

Nevertheless, initial cost remains an obstacle to concerns that want to jump on the RFID bandwagon. That may be why RFID systems appear to be attracting interest in large companies with equally large data centers and not among smaller businesses–those with $100 million in revenues or less.

There are ways to mitigate those costs. One strategy would be to slowly move your data center to RFID. For example, B&L, provides a dual format bar code scanner for their tape management systems that reads barcodes as well as RFID tags. The dual compatibility allows users to slowly transition to and immediately enjoy the benefits of RFID technology without having to revamp their entire system.

In the mean time, RFID researchers continue to make breakthroughs that enhance the promise of the technology. For instance, Rice University and Sunchon National University researchers have developed a printable, passive RFID tag using nanotechnology. When perfected, tags produced with the technology are expected to cost a penny a piece to produce.

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