Automatic Identification & Data Collection has become essential for the growth and survival of businesses, especially those dealing with valuable assets & documents. One such type of system is the Bluetooth Low-Energy beacon. These work quite similar to standard RFID tags, but better. They are more advanced and provide additional functionality.
So, let’s stop wasting time and learn more about BLE beacons, and how to choose the right one for your business needs.
What are BLE Beacons?
BLE beacons are a type of active RFID tag. The full form of BLE is Bluetooth Low-Energy, as it uses low-powered radio signal impulses to communicate. Unlike traditional radio frequency identification tags, these do not wait to receive an interrogation signal to start transmitting. Instead, they broadcast their signals continuously, regardless of a reading device in range.
In AIDC applications, the beacons keep transmitting signal impulses in search of a reader. Once the reader comes within the communication range, it receives the signal and converts it into a readable format. This technology can be used to monitor the movement, identity, and location of tagged items.
Let’s properly check out the applications of this technology.
Applications of BLE Beacons in a Business
Technologies like AIDC can have a variety of applications in many different industries. This is due to the fact that almost every business has some sort of assets, works alongside a supply chain, and need data collection for optimized operations.
These are some of the most common areas and uses of BLE Beacons.
These beacons are capable of being reprogrammed with the information regarding the item is it mounted on. With the help of this, the beacons communicated the identity and other data stored in it to the reader and the database. This allows users to easily identify the assets within a particular zone/area.
The identification capabilities also provide one more essential function. Users can place reader antennas strategically around their premises, this allows you to divide your facility into different sections, based on the interrogation zones of the antennas.
In the age of computers and the internet, information is the greatest asset any business can have. Data regarding the sales & demand of certain items, purchasing trends, etc can help businesses create custom-optimized marketing campaigns and strategies.
In environments like hospitals, time is always a crucial factor. Making it essential to keep close track of patients, equipment, tools, and access control. This is where BLE beacons assist in. With the help of this technology,
This refers to a system of access control to a particular device or area, using wireless radio communication. These devices provide users with proper authority to operate equipment or tools.
How to Choose Beacons for Your Needs?
Now that you know the basics of Bluetooth Low-Energy technology, it’s time to see how to integrate it into your business. There are a variety of these devices available in the market for users. Therefore, you should keep some things in mind, to make sure that you select the best option for your needs.
With the variety available in the market and all the different brands, users can face a problem finding devices that are compatible with each other. Due to the difference in the operational protocol, operation frequency, etc, some devices might not be able to communicate with each other. So, while purchasing a system keep two things in mind. Firstly, if possible, always set up a system using a single brand. Secondly, if making a custom setup, make sure that all the components are compatible.
These beacons require an internal power source (battery) to broadcast signals using their small antennas. The lifespan of these batteries depends on factors like battery size, power input, and broadcasting/advertising interval. Every time a beacon transmits a signal pulse, it uses energy from the battery, the longer the advertising interval, the longer the lifespan. Usually, they use small coin batteries with a standardized voltage and capacity. The higher the input power of the signal, the sooner it will drain the battery. On average, these beacons can last from 2 to 3 years.
Functionality & Features
Some beacons have additional features like connecting to multiple devices at once, telemetry sensors (temperature, motion, etc), button triggers, etc. However, these features may also influence the price of the beacons and the overall system. So, judging by the applications you desire you can select beacons with specific features tailored to your needs.
Ease of Implementation
Another factor to keep in mind is the ease of installation. Different systems require specific methods to effectively implement and work. Some systems are simple enough that the users can install them by themselves. However, others may require professional help to install and train the staff in using them.
Cost of Integration
Beacons can vary in cost based on severe factors like brand, operating frequency & range, lifespan, features & sensors, etc. And depending on the size and nature of their businesses, users may prefer or be able to afford a certain range of systems only.
Size & Shape
Lastly, these beacons come in all shapes and sizes. For example, they can be very small, like the Nibble BLE Beacon, or as large as a standard card, like the H6 Light Sensor Beacon. Making them suitable for different items.
Bluetooth Low-Energy technology is a type of advanced AIDC system. These beacons use an internal power source to broadcast Bluetooth signals for communicating information. Unlike standard RFID tags, BLE beacons don’t work like a transponder. They are transmitters, meaning, they are capable of both broadcasting and receiving signals on their own. There are several applications for BLE technology in many different sectors and markets. Therefore, users must also have a decent level of understanding of the technology to implement it correctly.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. What is the range of a BLE beacon?
Ans - The range of a BLE Beacon depends on factors like frequency, signal strength/power, surrounding obstacles, and reflective materials. However, on average, these beacons have an effective communication range between 100 to 160 meters.
Q2. How should retailers best use beacons?
Ans - The best way for retail outfits to utilize BLE beacons is by using them to tag valuable items within the store. Then using the system to have a real-time track of the location and movement of said assets.
Q3. How accurate is BLE beacon positioning?
Ans - BLE beacons provide a decent positioning ability, seeing that they only operate using local radio signals. Unlike GPS or Cellular towers, they are not capable of triangulating locations. BLE beacons can provide positioning as accurate as 5 meters, in a normal operational environment.
Q4. What is the battery life of BLE beacons?
Ans - The battery life of a beacon varies depending on advertising intervals, signal energy, type of battery, etc. However, on average, a BLE Beacon with standardized specifications & an advertising interval of 900 milliseconds, can last up to 2 to 3 years.
- Last updated on Jun 06, 2023