Learn the Pros and Cons of Sequence Numbers, Bar Codes, QR Codes & RFID tags for Asset Identification and Tracking. GRAPHIC

Use this chart as a simply summary of the advantages and disadvantages of using linear sequence numbers, barcodes with serial numbers, qr codes, RFID tags as well as different combinations to identify and track physical fixed assets.

This chart explains the differences between the most popular approaches for identifying physical or fixed assets or inventory items. The term inventory should be applied to consumable items or items which are sold or processed during the course of business. In practice many companies use these terms interchangeably.

Serial Sequence Numbers -These are the simplest and most common way to identify assets. While they are simple to implement and use they have a number of drawbacks which limit their effectiveness.

Barcodes with Sequence Numbers – Adding a linear bar code means that the asset labels can now be scanned with a proprietary scanner. This means it’s now possible to look up the item more quickly for viewing, making updates and checking in and out.

QR Codes with Sequence Numbers – By choosing a QR code it may now be possible to scan the label using a greater range of devices but in most cases the solutions still require installed proprietary software if non dedicated scanning hardware. The QR code is quick to scan and includes error correction, so is a big step up from a regular bar code.

RFID Tags with Sequence Numbers and optional Bar Codes – RFID enabled tags and labels bring something new to the table in terms of features. They are active participants in the scanning process and work by receiving a small radio signal, converting the energy and then using to send a small radio message to a receiver (the scanner). The message they send is usually a serial number very similar to the other approaches already mentioned. Large dedicated scanning equipment can scan from a distance of a few feet meaning items can be scanned as they move past the scanner automatically. In most cases the smaller hand-held scanners need to be a few inches away to scan effectively. Some Android powered smartphones and tablets now include a Near Field Communication (NFC) chip which means they can scan some types of RFID tags too. Apple recently introduced NFC support in the iPhone 6 with iOS8, but have yet to make the feature available to developers. In many cases a linear 2D bar code is applied to the RFID tag so there are actually two ways to scan, one optical, the other using the remote RFID scanner.

There are some significant drawbacks with the use of serial numbers in all these applications. In most implementations the user starts with asset number ‘1’ or ‘1001’ or something similar and then counts up from there.

1 – Overlapping sequence numbers ‘We have two assets with number 1001’!

But this means there is a high chance that there will be number overlap problems later on as other areas of the organization merge their systems or spreadsheets only to find that the other area did the same thing and now there are two number ‘1001’ in the system and so on. Also take into account that some assets have a very long life and the chances of these problems occurring increases significantly.

2 – Broken numbering schemes

It’s quite common for users and customers to implement a scheme like this. Let’s use asset numbers ‘1001’ to ‘2000’ for IT and then use ‘2001’ to ‘3000’ for Sales. With this approach a user can look at the number and see whether the asset it for IT or Sales. The problem with this is when IT runs out of numbers and then needs to add another group. Then the scheme is broken and instead of helping it’s now a cause of confusion and data quality errors. Over time these problem just keep getting worse. You can also imagine the problem which occur when other departments or organizations are added and they have a different scheme altogether.

3 – Data quality problems due to data entry error

This is especially true with systems that simply use a printed number. Since the number count upwards it’s very easy for a user to accidentally enter the wrong number. In most cases a single digit error will still result in a valid asset ID, so there’s a risk that the wrong asset will be viewed or updated. It may not sound that big of a risk, but when you have hundreds or thousands of assets and updates over years it can result in a large number of errors which can then cause problems that can cost thousands of dollars to resolve.

4 – Lack of security – Asset IDs can be guessed

By using a simple serial number, you often give away information about the number of assets in the system as well as making it easy for a user to look up and view asset information for other assets. A person who is acting badly has a much easier time researching information about assets because they can easily step through the serial numbers in the system or scanner.

The Solution – Randomized Unique Identifier (RUID)

GoCodes solves these problems by using a patented QR code technology which utilizes unique randomized global identifiers instead of sequential serial numbers. Instead of a sequential serial number, each GoCode tag or label comes with a globally unique randomized 8 character code which is associated with the asset for life.

This means there can never be a duplicate ID or overlap problem even if organizations with thousands of assets merge, their asset tracking IDs can remain the same. When other departments want to join together, GoCodes makes it possible to import any existing numbering scheme and assigns new master GoCodes IDs.

There will never be a broken numbering scheme as the GoCodes ID is only ever used as a unique key to a particular asset. The rest of the asset information is stored in the system when it can be easily maintained as needed.

Data quality issues are solved because if a user miskeys a GoCodes ID, it will never result in another valid asset ID in the system (the actual chance of this happening is millions to one). So the data entry error is spotted at the source and the user is able to enter the correct ID before viewing the asset information and making changes.

Security risks are eliminated as it’s no longer possible to learn about the number and types of assets by viewing their sequence numbers. For example two assets in the GoCodes system may have IDs like ‘2KZL-48HG’ and ‘2L89-89HY’.

Ease of use is improved because customers can perform wildcard searches for an asset in the system using only the first few letters of the ID. For example, a user wishing to look up asset ‘2KZL-48HG’ may only need to enter ‘2KL’ in order to get back the correct asset saving keystrokes and time.

Want to learn more about how GoCodes can help you design the optimal solution for your business?