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BLE Beacon or Wi-Fi Beacon: Differences and Applications

  • Akansha Sharma
  • Nov 29, 2023
  • RFID
BLE Beacon or Wi-Fi Beacon: Differences and Applications

Communication and data transfer are an important aspect of an organization's ability to perform its business operations effectively and that is why selecting a right communication and data sharing technology or a combination of right technologies is crucial. This include security systems, Wi-Fi, wireless power transfer, and computer interface devices across various sectors like education, agriculture, medicine, defense, e-governance, e-commerce, banking, transport, etc. With the emergence of new technology like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, they are gaining popularity; there are ample IoT devices to choose from, two of them being BLE and Wi-Fi beacons.

What is a BLE Beacon?

Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons are wireless devices that provide location-based services and proximity marketing using BLE specification. These beacons transmit signals to nearby Bluetooth-enabled devices, For example, smartphones or tablets.

BLE beacons are efficient enough to provide accurate location data, which makes them an ideal solution for indoor navigation, asset tracking, and personalized customer experiences. Built on a small form factor and low power consumption, BLE beacons offer extended battery life, which reduces the need for frequent maintenance. BLE beacon technology has various applications, from enhancing retail experiences with proximity marketing promotions to revolutionizing healthcare with patient tracking solutions.

What is a Wi-Fi Beacon?

Wi-Fi (Wireless Fidelity) beacons are designed on existing Wi-Fi infrastructure for location-based services and indoor positioning. Beacons emit signals that can be detected by Wi-Fi-enabled devices like smartphones, tablets, or IoT devices within their range.

Wi-Fi beacons offer broader coverage, making them suitable for large indoor infrastructures such as shopping malls, airports, or convention centers. They use Wi-Fi networks that minimize the need for additional infrastructure and make them cost-effective in different environments.

Differences between BLE beacons and Wi-Fi beacons

Both Bluetooth beacons and Wi-Fi beacons use wireless communication and provide signals over short distances. Range, power consumption, data transfer rate, frequency and power consumption, security, cost, and applications are some areas in which they have differences.

Let's discuss their differences in brief:

1. Location Accuracy: Unlike Bluetooth beacons, Wi-Fi access points rarely give adequate indoor positioning precision (+/- 1 m) due to the high power levels of Wi-Fi signals and the dispersion of Wi-Fi access points. Even under ideal conditions, the accuracy is typically closer to (+/-15m) and rarely better than (+/-10m). Applications requiring a higher level of location accuracy are better suited for Bluetooth beacons.

2. Power Consumption: Wi-Fi beacons consume more power compared to Bluetooth beacons. This makes it best suited for applications that require more battery consumption.

3. Data Rate: Bluetooth beacons operate on a 1 Mbps data transfer rate, while Wi-Fi beacons operate between 2 and 866 Mbps. Wi-Fi beacons are best used in applications that require high data transfer rates.

4. Frequency: Bluetooth and Wi-Fi both operate in the 2.4 GHz frequency range. But, the Wi-Fi beacon can also operate on a 5 GHz frequency range.

5. Security: Both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi provide some additional security features. They both use high-level security capabilities, including encryption and authentication.

6. Interference: Bluetooth beacons are less prone to environmental interference compared to Wi-Fi beacons. So, a Bluetooth beacon device provides stable connectivity and is more suitable for applications that require low interference in communication.

7. Offline access: Bluetooth beacons offer features like texting, navigation, and notifications even without an internet connection. However, Wi-Fi requires the internet. Sometimes, Wi-Fi gets overloaded when multiple people are connected to the same Wi-Fi network. For services like indoor navigation or indoor positioning, this makes them unstable and disruptive. Another thing is that Wi-Fi signals cannot pass through solid objects (concrete, metal, wood, and walls).

8. Range: Bluetooth beacons range between 10 and 100 meters. On the other hand, Wi-Fi beacons have a range between 30 and 100 meters. Bluetooth has medium to high location accuracy, and Wi-Fi has high location accuracy.

9. Device compatibility: The compatibility of Wi-Fi beacons is limited to Android devices, but Bluetooth beacons support both Android and iOS. iOS devices do not support ranging for Wi-Fi, and without ranging, positing is inaccurate.
 

Where can I use BLE and Wi-Fi beacons?

 There are various applications where Wi-Fi beacons and Bluetooth beacons differ, even though they have some similar use cases and applications.

 Wi-Fi beacons are generally used for applications that require a wider coverage of regions and internet access. They are best suited for places like shopping malls, hotels, airports, and supermarket retailers. Wi-Fi beacons are useful for data analytics, indoor navigation, and location-based applications.

Bluetooth beacons have a shorter coverage range than Wi-Fi beacons. Bluetooth beacons provide greater accuracy in locating a user and tracking other tracking solutions. Such as indoor tracking or wayfinding, proximity marketing, asset tracking, and real-time location services.

Bluetooth beacons work well for proximity-based applications, but Wi-Fi beacons are more appropriate for data processing. However, in terms of cost, setup, and power requirement, Wi-Fi beacons are a bit costlier than BLE Beacons.

To conclude, selecting a technology between Bluetooth beacons and Wi-Fi beacons depends upon their specific requirements, applications, and use. BLE has expertise in precision and proximity, making it suitable for applications that require high accuracy in some particular spaces. On the other hand, Wi-Fi beacons provide broader coverage, making them more effective in larger indoor environments. The decision ultimately depends on the implementation and the need for precision to create seamless and efficient location-based services.

Frequently Asked Questions on BLE and Wi-Fi Beacons

Q1) What is the purpose of wireless beacons?

A wireless beacon transmits signals in a regular transmission from access points (APs) to inform users about the availability of services (Wi-Fi or Bluetooth) and the nearby location of access points.

Q2) When should I choose BLE beacons over Wi-Fi beacons?

You can pick BLE beacons when precision is required in proximity-based location or positioning, such as in retail environments for personalized promotions or in museums for pinpoint accuracy in exhibitions.

Q3) What are the different types of BLE beacons?

Some popular companies that provide various types of BLE beacons:

1. iBeacon (Apple)

2. Eddystone (by Google)

3. Altbeacons (Radius Networks)

4. GeoBeacon

Disclaimer: The information presented here is for general information purposes only and true to best of our understanding. Users are requested to use any information as per their own understanding and knowledge. Before using any of the information, please refer to our Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions.


  • Created on Nov 29, 2023
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