I'm trying to evaluate options of identifying real world objects. We are creating a product that need to write data and read data based on the object. This would be a consumer product.

Some researched options are:

  • RFID
  • barcode (loses some of it's magic if you have to scan a visual bar code)
  • iButtons by Dallas Semiconductor (I think these are pretty costly)

What are some other ones that are out there?

  • computer vision is way out there in terms of difficulty and cost

The scanning/identification would be up close...a few centimeters.


This would be a consumer handheld device. The objects would be common household objects that can be identified with whatever technology we use...RFID, QR Code, etc. At this point I'm not ruling out touch, but iButtons are expensive.

The MSRP of the reader with some user applied tags should be ~$30 (so if we're using QR codes, we could have them printout QR stickers...if we're using RFID, then the cost of the RFID stickers would need to be considered)

It should be fairly accurate b/c we want a good user experience. We don't the user to be frustrated.

  • \$\begingroup\$ To the barcode, I would add the option of QR-codes, which can store more information. \$\endgroup\$
    – clabacchio
    Mar 27, 2012 at 19:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ There is also NFC (RFID derivative) \$\endgroup\$
    – spearson
    Mar 27, 2012 at 20:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ If scanning and identification distance is less than or equal to 10 cm, and the data is simple, I would suggest RFID as it is the cheapest alternative. I guess reliability is good with error checking algorithms, but two items in front of the reader will give error at low frequency (125KHz). \$\endgroup\$ Mar 27, 2012 at 20:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you provide some numbers, like: how many reader stations, how many objects to read, acceptable costs, accetable misread rate, etc. You included iButton, but that requires electrical contact. Is that (contact) alllowed? \$\endgroup\$ Mar 27, 2012 at 21:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ iButtons have been around for a long time, but I've never quite understood their advantage, especially not when comparing to the non-contact RFID. \$\endgroup\$
    – stevenvh
    Mar 28, 2012 at 8:10

1 Answer 1


Consider this chance: you can use NFC tags (it's becoming popular, and you can already buy stickers from China at a very low cost), and with a reader you can not only read the tag, but create a communication session with the TAG (identification, encryption, data transfer...).

Plus, since many vendors are embedding NFC readers on their smartphones (Samsung Galaxy Nexus has been the first), you can think of creating a smartphone app to replace your reader.

For the tags, gargoyling gives TagStand, IdentiveNFC and many others, with prices below 1€/tag for small numbers, you can go much lower with big purchases.

Reliability and security are surely available, as NFC is being used for payment in many places, and it's being adopted also for ATM services.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Good idea @clabacchio. I like the idea of thinking ahead so that we can take advantage of the devices in our pockets. :) \$\endgroup\$
    – milesmeow
    Mar 28, 2012 at 17:36

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