Wireless technology has become ubiquitous in our society. Today, businesses, healthcare professionals, and manufacturers use various technologies to track assets, including Barcodes, RFID, Wi-Fi, UWB, GPS, NFC, and BLE. Among these technologies, RFID and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) stand out as leading methods due to their unique features. In this article, we’ll compare the key difference between RFID beacons and BLE beacons, and then help you decide which technology is best suited for your business needs.
What are RFID Beacons?
Radio waves are used by the technology known as RFID, or radio frequency identification, to identify and track objects. An RFID beacon is a small device that contains an RFID tag, which can be stuck to an object or embedded in it. An RFID reader can identify the distinct identification on the RFID tag.
RFID beacons come in two main types: passive and active. Without a power source, passive RFID beacons rely on the energy generated by the RFID reader to send data. Active RFID beacons can send data over greater distances and have their own power source.
Advantages of RFID Beacons
- Can be read through solid objects
- Can be read at a distance without line of sight
- Can be used for large-scale asset tracking
- Can store a large amount of data
Disadvantages of RFID Beacons
- Limited range for passive RFID beacons
- Expensive compared to Bluetooth beacons
- Limited read speed for large-scale asset tracking
What are Bluetooth Beacons?
A wireless protocol called BLE technology allows devices to communicate over short distances. Small devices called Bluetooth beacons transmit a signal to adjacent Bluetooth-enabled devices that include a special identification number. Mobile phones, tablets, and other gadgets with Bluetooth technology can pick up the signal.
Bluetooth beacons usually come in two main types: iBeacon and Eddystone. iBeacon is a proprietary protocol developed by Apple, while Eddystone is an open-source protocol developed by Google.
Advantages of Bluetooth Beacons
- Low power consumption
- Low cost compared to RFID beacons
- Can be used for indoor navigation
- Can be used for proximity marketing
Disadvantages of Bluetooth Beacons
- Limited range compared to RFID beacons
- Require line of sight to transmit data
- Limited data storage capacity
Use cases and applications of Bluetooth Beacon and RFID Beacon
There are many uses and applications for the two unique wireless communication technologies known as RFID and BLE. When it comes to deciding between RFID and Bluetooth beacons, it is essential to take the specific requirements of your business and applications into account.
RFID beacons are ideal for large-scale asset-tracking applications that require long-range identification and a high level of accuracy. They are also well-suited for applications where the line of sight may be limited or obstructed, as they do not require direct visibility to function properly. Additionally, RFID beacons have a lower power consumption compared to Bluetooth beacons, which can be an important factor in certain applications.
One case study of RFID technology at work is inventory management. It can be used to track assets and manage inventory in real time. RFID beacon tags are attached to assets and read by RFID readers to accurately track the location and status of assets in labs, data centers, manufacturing facilities, or warehouses. This enables businesses to have a better understanding of their inventory and avoid stock shortages or excess inventory.
On the other hand, BLE is better suited for indoor outdoor lcoation and proximity marketing applications. They have a shorter range compared to RFID beacons but offer a higher level of accuracy, making them ideal for applications that require precise location information. Bluetooth beacons are also more versatile, as they can be easily integrated with mobile devices and other wireless technologies.
One example of the Bluetooth Beacon at work is indoor navigation. BLE technology can be used in in-store navigation to help retailers to improve the shopping experience and increase sales. It helps customers find products and navigate the store. BLE beacons can be placed throughout the store and paired with a customer’s smartphone to provide real-time information and promotions based on their location in the store.
Comparison of the two case studies
- BLE can easily communicate with everyday devices such as smartphones, laptops, and tablets.
- RFID needs to send and receive messages with the help of expensive readers, while Bluetooth beacons require customers to simply download the corresponding apps to realize indoor navigation services.
- Bluetooth can automatically receive small amounts of data at fixed intervals.
- Bluetooth enables real-time asset tracking — not just when a tagged asset goes by a reader.
- RFID has a long read range and is not interfered with by obstacles, while Bluetooth beacons are suitable for short-distance, barrier-free application scenarios.
Comparison of Bluetooth Beacon and RFID Beacon
While both beacon technology and RFID chips use wireless technology, they differ in several aspects, including range, power consumption, data transfer rate, interference, reliability, security, cost, ease of deployment, maintenance, offline access, use cases, and applications. To help you make an informed decision, we’ve compiled a comparison table below that outlines the key differences between RFID beacons and Bluetooth beacons:
RFID beacon tags have a range of up to 100 meters. This makes RFID beacons may be suitable for inventory tracking that requires long-range reading.
Due to their capacity to triangulate the positions of surrounding devices, Bluetooth beacons offer more accurate placement than RFID tags. Therefore, they are better suited for applications that require high accuracy.
Setting up an RFID system calls for a variety of elements, such as the hardware necessities of tags, readers, reader control, and application software. Beacons are signal transmitters that are mostly battery-powered in a BLE positioning system. Beacons can be set up with the aid of a mobile app.
Both Bluetooth and RFID beacons provide high-level security capabilities, including safe communications, encryption, and data transit or storage. BLE devices can utilize secure communication protocols to prevent hacking, whereas beacon RFID tags can be encrypted to prevent unauthorized access to the data.
While an Active RFID tag costs around the same as a beacon, it requires a more expensive investment in reader infrastructure, whereas beacons can be read by nearly all smartphones on the market.
Bluetooth beacons have a data rate of 2 Mbps, while RFID beacons have a data rate of 640 kbps. Bluetooth beacons are more suitable for applications that demand high-speed data delivery.
Depending on the application, RFID and BLE technology can be made to work with a variety of other gadgets. While BLE devices can be created to operate with other BLE devices and other Bluetooth-enabled devices, RFID readers can be made to scan a variety of RFID tags.
You can choose the sort of beacon that is most appropriate for your unique needs by taking these variables into account. It’s also worth noting that there are hybrid beacons available that combine the strengths of both RFID and Bluetooth technologies. These beacons can be especially useful for applications that require both long-range identification and precise indoor navigation.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Between Bluetooth and RFID Beacons
When choosing between RFID and Bluetooth beacons, there are several factors to consider. These include the range, accuracy, power consumption, cost, line of sight, and information storage requirements for your specific use case. When selecting your choice, consider the following important inquiries:
- What is the range required for your application?
- Do you need high accuracy or is moderate accuracy sufficient?
- Is power consumption a concern?
- What is your budget for the beacons?
- Will the line of sight be an issue?
- How much data storage capacity do you need?
These inquiries above will help you identify the kind of beacon that is most appropriate for your particular use cases.
Future Developments in RFID and Bluetooth Beacon Technology
Both of these technologies have practical value, and the technology is expected to continue to evolve in the coming years. The beacon technology market is expected to grow to more than $25 billion by 2024, and the RFID market is expected to reach billions of dollars.
The RFID trend will continue to evolve as industry leaders come up with new ways to leverage these solutions. These systems will be increasingly appreciated for what they actually are: not just tags, but interconnected solutions containing a variety of applications and readers.
Ultimately, these systems can be used not only in warehouses and even healthcare facilities but also in many other locations where users spend their time. For example, in the future, consumers could install their own RFID readers in their homes. They can use these to integrate RFID-related data with various management systems and IOT devices.
The future development of Bluetooth beacons is likely to focus on improving distance measurement and indoor positioning accuracy, reducing power consumption, and lowering costs. Bluetooth 5.1 introduced direction-finding capabilities, which can enable sub-meter accuracy in location-based services. The upcoming Bluetooth 5.2 standard is expected to enhance these capabilities further, enabling more precise location tracking and reducing interference.
Bluetooth beacons are also likely to integrate more sensors and data processing capabilities, enabling more sophisticated applications. MOKOSmart has already developed beacons with temperature, humidity, and air quality sensors for use in environmental monitoring applications.
The potential for hybrid solutions
The challenge for those responsible for tracking and monitoring the movement of devices is that all these technologies have advantages and disadvantages. Either of these two techniques can work in almost any situation. Choosing the right technology for your organization ideally depends on your company’s or team’s goal of tracking and monitoring assets, but also on the available budget.
Most of the time, the best approach is a hybrid approach: a combination of two techniques that can compensate for each other’s weaknesses and complement each other’s strengths.
Better yet, the hybrid approach doesn’t have to cost a fortune either. Taking advantage of passive RFID tags along a low-power Bluetooth tracking system, your organization can monitor and track devices locally as well as throughout a building or campus.
RFID beacons and Bluetooth beacons have distinct differences in terms of range, accuracy, power consumption, and cost. RFID beacons are ideal for large-scale asset tracking applications, while Bluetooth beacons are better suited for indoor navigation and proximity marketing. When choosing between the two, consider the specific requirements of your use case, including range, accuracy, power consumption, and cost, to determine which type of beacon is ideal for you.
If you just need a beacon with remote tracking, precise positioning, and no need to worry about line of sight, our H5 RFID Beacon will be an ideal choice. It is an RFID beacon tag that can broadcast iBeacon, Eddystone, and sensor data. It also has a 3-axis accelerometer sensor. Additionally, it works with iBeacon and Eddystone at the same time.
All in all, no matter what kind of beacons you need, MOKOSmart can help you go further. By choosing MOKOSmart, customers can be assured that they are collaborating with a trustworthy and experienced beacon supplier.
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