Tag Technologies

A tag technology describes the physical way in which a device can interact with a tag. Tag technologies are based around a specific type of sensor and communications technology. Each tag technology has its own appropriate use case, benefits, limitations and costs. The choice of which tag technology to use is an important decision which should be made in the planning phases of a Connected Things project.

Tag Technology Comparison

A high-level comparison of the most common tag technologies.

Tag TechnologyBarcodeNFCUHF RFIDBLE
UsagePrinted labels; low-cost itemsBetter usability; secure; near-field rangeIndustrial; far-field rangeGeolocation; far-field range
Reading Range1 m5 cm; 50 cm ⁽¹⁾10 m100 m
PowerNoneHarvestedHarvested or batteryBattery or wall
Unique IdNoYesYesYes
MemoryLess than 1Kb32 bytes to 8 Kb0 to 128 bytes20 bytes
Hardware in PhonesYes (camera)Yes (NFC controller)NoYes (Bluetooth controller)
App RequiredNoSometimes ⁽²⁾YesYes
Lowest Cost$0.005 USD$0.04 USD$0.035 USD$3.00 USD
Tag ImplementationsBarcode FormatsNFC Chip TypesUHF RFID Chips
Additional InformationBarcodeNFCUHF RFID
  1. The range of an NFC chip is dependent on the tag technology and the device reading the NFC tag; learn more about NFC tag performace.
  2. Both iOS and Android have the basic ability to read an NFC tag with a NDEF website record and open it in a browser; more sophisticated functionality including writing NFC tags requires a 3rd party app.