Beacons, Bluetooth tags or BLE tags are similar to active RFID tags. They have inbuilt batteries which provide them with long read-ranges. The most unique difference between BLE and RFID is that beacons work on Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology which is highly energy-efficient. BLE is further a universally available protocol that also happens to be a feature present on most GSM chipsets (in other words, your cellphone), giving BLE Beacons the strategic advantage in terms of cost effectiveness and scalability.
- You can read Beacons with your cellphone or any hotspot device that uses a GSM chipset with BLE. Since GSM devices are already connected to the web, you need no network creation, router installations or WiFi zones.
- You can get real-time location by using a GPS chip in your GSM device or through cellular triangulation thereby not just knowing if you package is in the truck, but also where the truck is.
- High Read-Range: Beacons have a read-range which is higher than that of active RFID due to the energy conserving nature of the BLE technology. You can cover a large warehouse with just a few hotspot zones or cover the entire length and breadth of a truck carrying packages with a single mobile phone.
- Less power consumption: Beacons can effectively transfer a wealth of information (sensor data such as temperature, humidity, light) without consuming much power – again due to the nature of the BLE protocol. This enables BLE tags or beacons to last for up to 3 years without a recharge.
- Cost Effective: Due to the prevalent use of Bluetooth protocol on mobile phones, tags are being mass-manufactured and are close to hitting economies of scale. Beacons already cost so little that you can dispose them after each use.
Having discussed about the advantages of BLE beacon technology compared to RFID and barcodes, the comparison wouldn’t be complete if we do not cover a new trending technology called Near Field Communication or NFC and how it fares with RFID or BLE beacons.