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RFID & EAS: The Key Differences

For anyone overseeing inventory management or retail security, inventory tracking is absolutely crucial, given that organized retail crime costs businesses roughly $30 billion per year. For most businesses, this means putting one of the two most prominent tracking technologies, RFID or EAS, in place. But which system is best?

Retail stores have used traditional EAS systems for tracking and loss prevention purposes since the 1960s, and to great effect.

RFID systems, on the other hand, are a more recent addition to the inventory tracking landscape, but with their read and write capabilities, businesses can use them for far more than anti-theft purposes. Both systems use physical tags (and sometimes labels) to keep track of assets and alert organizations to their loss, but only RFID systems allow organizations to go above and beyond simple source tagging and loss prevention.

In this piece, we’ll go into detail about how, exactly, EAS and RFID tags work, and explain their differences (and similarities) in order to help you make the best decision for your organization’s needs.

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RFID & EAS: How These Systems Work and Their Similarities

EAS Systems

Electronic article surveillance (EAS) tagging systems have long been among the most commonly-used anti-theft measures in retail spaces, and they’re what come to mind when most people think of classic loss prevention measures.

EAS security systems consist of antennae (often placed at the store entrance in retail spaces), the EAS labels or tags themselves and tools that can deactivate or detach the labels and tags.

Strong sensor EAS tagging systems were considered the gold standard in EAS security for decades until new technologies, including RFID, began to appear.


RFID Systems

A Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) system includes RFID labels or tags and an RFID reader. RFID security tags feature integrated circuits (ICs) that store information about the source and transmit a signal containing that information, which the reader then receives.

Although it’s considered a new-and-improved EAS solution, radio frequency identification technology in fact has been around for many years, but only in recent decades has it become a popular tracking tool across numerous industries.

Despite their differences in terms of hardware, any RFID or EAS system will share certain commonalities. Both detection systems:

  • Are used as an effective security solution in retail industry to organized crime
  • Can utilize either reusable tags or single-use labels
  • Improve operational efficiency by automating processes, such as inventory management and security monitoring
  • Can be seamlessly integrated into existing retail infrastructure

Where the EAS and RFID systems differ, however, is what they can tell you about the items marked with an EAS or RFID tag.

RFID & EAS: The Key Differences

While EAS and RFID systems are both helpful for anti-theft purposes, the introduction of RFID accessory tags to replace EAS systems has revolutionized inventory management.

Beyond its use in retail stores, RFID technology is useful in a range of other industries, including manufacturing, healthcare, transportation and warehouses. RFID can, for example, track items or materials as they pass through production and beyond, including automobiles, pharmaceutical products and more.

That’s because RFID tags also have read and write abilities, which means that those utilizing RFID systems can go further than simple tagging and can actually record and read specific details about items, such as their make and model, color, size, batch number, etc.

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That ability enables retail store owners, warehouse managers and others to not only identify that an asset has been lost, but also generate useful data about the movement of specific assets.

EAS loss prevention systems, meanwhile, are primarily good for just that: loss prevention.

Some see EAS as the “simpler” solution in that any thought that goes into EAS tagging systems is over as soon as the tag has been placed and the assets are out in the world, but that’s an approach that ultimately leaves business owners in the dark. They will know when their organization loses assets, but not much more than that.

To simplify the distinctions, we will list them below on the basis of their functional criteria.

– Purpose: RFID is primarily used for inventory tracking and management, while EAS is focused on theft prevention.

– Technology: RFID utilizes radio waves for contactless identification and data capture, whereas EAS relies on tags and sensors to trigger alarms at store exits.

– Functionality: RFID offers real-time visibility and advanced data capabilities, whereas EAS is primarily designed for security purposes.

– Applications: RFID is used for inventory management, supply chain optimization, and customer engagement, while EAS is deployed for theft prevention and loss reduction.

– Integration: RFID can be seamlessly integrated into various retail systems and processes, while EAS typically operates as a standalone security system.

Cost: RFID implementations tend to involve higher initial investments but offer long-term benefits in efficiency and visibility, while EAS systems are relatively simpler and more cost-effective for basic security needs.

RFID vs. EAS: Which Is Best?

The choice between EAS and RFID systems is a complex one, and one that you shouldn’t make without considering what it is you want to get out of inventory tracking—basic loss prevention, or loss prevention and the opportunity to automatically collect asset data, optimize operational efficiency and make well-informed business decisions.

RFID offers real-time inventory tracking and management, contactless identification, and advanced data capture capabilities. On the other hand, EAS primarily focuses on theft prevention through the use of tags and sensors that trigger alarms at store exits. The choice between RFID and EAS depends on the specific needs and priorities of a retail operation, with RFID being more comprehensive in its functionalities but EAS being more targeted towards security.

If that sounds like your business or organization, Lowry Solutions has the RFID inventory tracking system for you. Request more information to discover how RFID can benefit your organization.

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