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Indoor Tracking Using Beacons or RFID – What Are the Differences?

Indoor Tracking Using Beacons or RFID – What Are the Differences?

Frequently, clients or prospective customers ask us which tracking hardware we would recommend for indoor positioning: beacons or RFID. As always, it depends on the requirements and circumstances on site. However, in most cases the decision is pro beacons, because RFID is not suitable for extensive indoor positioning but rather for selective object identification.

Advantages and disadvantages of beacons and RFID in indoor tracking projects

Active and passive RFID tags need a reader on every point where the position has to be determined. Since readers are relatively expensive, it is not possible to install them across the whole area. Thus, it is only possible to determine the position at a few points (for example: “The object has passed hall no. 10”). Whereas, when an object or person is equipped with a beacon, the position can be determined in real time, for example with infsoft Locator Nodes. You can even see the whole itinerary. Beacons work with Bluetooth Low Energy which can be received by all modern smartphones, unlike RFID.

With beacons, it is possible to do client-based and server-based positioning. Client-based means that position determination happens on the device (smartphone). For this, an app is required which messages can be sent to (back channel). Server-based positioning means that Bluetooth beacons send signals which are detected by hardware (infsoft Locator Nodes) and passed on to a server. An app is not necessary.

RFID does not allow automatic indoor positioning or navigation. A typical use case is tracking wares in a large storehouse. There are some pre-defined points with RFID readers which an object passes by. The reader identifies the object and receives the information “Ware XY has passed checkpoint 5”.

When using beacons and Locator Nodes, it is possible to get the current position in real time and with an accuracy of less than 5 meters. In addition, you see the whole itinerary of the object.

In summary, it can be said that beacons are a technology which is more flexible and more powerful. But in some simple use cases, RFID tags can be a favorable alternative.

If you have questions concerning indoor tracking, please contact us.

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Great introduction to the topic of indoor positioning

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Indoor navigation using WiFi as a positioning technology

3 years ago
Eva Gaudlitz Reply

Hi Joe,

yes, this article is mainly about passive RFID. But the functionality of active/passive tags isn't so different. The main difference between passive and active RFID are costs (active RFID tags are much more expensive), range (active tags have higher range) and accuracy. But active tags still need expensive RFID readers and are not very flexible in positioning installations.

For indoor tracking we only use WiFi or BLE localization with infsoft Locator Nodes or infsoft Locator Tags, which is special hardware developed by us. Find out more about it here:
You might also want to check out the Ultra-wideband technology:

Eva from infsoft

3 years ago
Joe Reply

Does your comparison relate to passive RFID tags, what about active RFID tags or WIFI enabled active tags , won't this be similar to beacon and what or how do you compare to beacon technology which does not need an app on mobile device which will just work with URL to reduce barrier to access / communicate with / via the beacons. Please advise on differentiation to active RFID

3 years ago

b i u quote

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