Tracking barrel locations requires a barrel tracking system that can input and store data for each barrel fast and effectively. Choosing the right technology to meet the organizational needs of your cellar, barrel stacking arrangements, and budget can be tricky. Below are 3 technologies that you can use for barrel tracking, either individually or by a designated lot.

3 Existing Barrel Tracking Technologies:

  • Barcodes
  • QR codes
  • Passive and Active RFID codes
Photo: Pixaby

Barcode Barrel Tracking System

Barcodes are 1- dimensional codes made up of a series of lines that vary in their thickness. They encode for a series of numbers and characters that translates into an objects ID number. This number will link back to a repository or database, that will hold more information for the object like cooperage, barrel type, etc. Compared to other technologies, barcodes store the least amount of data, but are more economical in terms of price.

Until recently, barcodes required a special barcode scanning device to read. Today many are using barcode apps available on smartphones for scanning. Either way, scanning a barcode requires direct line of sight, and thus requires a particular stacking arrangement of your barrels for barcode scanning access.

The durability of a barcode to withstand the working conditions of a winery cellar, and common barrel work tasks  is a must. Barcodes are now made for almost any purpose, like those from Metal Craft that are made to resist high temperatures and chemicals.

Can barcodes help you to track barrels to a specific location? Absolutely. Designate a barcode to represent a specific location, like an aisle, row, stack, and stack height. Scan your barrel’s barcode to the location barcode and you’ve got location data!

Source: Pixaby

QR Codes for Tracking Barrels

In comparison to barcodes, Quick Response (QR) codes are 2- dimensional and contain numbers and characters that encode for URL’s and other applications. They are also very economical in price, but store 100 times more data than barcodes. QR codes can be scanned from your own phone and will direct you towards an app or website. On the website you can enter information about your barrels, although this may require Wi-Fi which is difficult to get in some cellars. Since QR codes are often printed out on paper, durability in the cellar is of concern. Thankfully QR codes can also be custom printed out on metal, although this increases the price.

Indirectly, QR codes can even be combined with GPS functionality for tracking barrel locations. When scanned with your smartphone, the location of your phone can be linked to the location of the QR code. This is a great benefit if you are looking to track your barrels by location. This style of location tracking may be able to track an individual barrel to a stack but may not achieve stack height. Check out this guide to see how to enable GPS tracking for QR codes.

Photo: Pixaby

Passive and Active RFID Tracking

Radio frequency identification (RFID) can be used to identify and track objects and their data using radio waves. They are fast to scan, and do not require line of sight. There are two types of RFID codes to choose from: Passive RFID and Active RFID. Passive RFID codes do not require an internal power source and are rather activated by the electromagnetic energy of the RFID reader. Active RFID codes have an internal battery power source and can consistently transmit their own signal to the cloud.

Passive RFID codes

Passive RFID are the more economical choice. In comparison to active RFID, they are smaller and more compact without the need for a battery, although this reduces the data storage capacity. Passive tags can be made as inlays or hard tags. Inlays are the cheapest and can be adhered to the object like as a sticker. Hard tags are more durable and made to withstand harsher environmental conditions.

Like active RFID tags, passive tags do not require close line of sight, but must be no more than 5 meters from the reader to be recognized. Some passive RFID tags are also able to automatically record temperature – a useful quality control measurement in a cellar, and even inside the barrels.

Passive RFID and real time location systems (RTLS) combined can also be used to track barrel locations. Location and temperature data together can allow you to track variations in temperature against fluctuations in barrel ullage and free SO2. Without the need to replace a battery, passive RFID codes can last a lifetime.

Active RFID codes

Active RFID codes, although more expensive, can read much larger distances (100 feet) and have larger memory storage then passive RFID codes. Since they are battery powered, they are consistently transmitting their own signal. This can offer the benefit of real-time tracking for your barrels. Having an internal battery, active tags need to be much larger and bulkier than passive tags.

On the flipside, their size and hard exterior can also allow for multiple internal sensors that can track environmental factors like temperature and humidity. Active RFID tracking can also include GPS technology, beneficial for tracking real time locations of your barrels.

Which Barrel Tracking Technology is Right for You?

Determining which technology to choose to be a part of your barrel tracking system can be difficult. The decision comes down to what level of cost, data storage, and efficiency you are looking for. Barrel tracking systems utilizing barcodes can provide you with enough information to keep an inventory of what barrels you have in house and may also help track barrel locations. Tracking information like barrel work orders, barrel history, along with barrel location, may require the use of QR or RFID codes. If low cost is what you are looking for, QR codes can provide increased data storage and can read straight from your own mobile device. If efficiency is your goal, RFID codes are the way to go. Passive RFID’s can give you more data storage than QR codes. Benefits also include fast tag scanning and tracking attributes like location and temperature. Active RFID tags will give you real-time location data, and can include sensors to track temperature, and humidity, but all at an increased cost.

This article was written by Brittany Goldhawke