RFID vs Bluetooth LE

Bluetooth is a wireless technology based on a standard and used in telecommunications to easily create personal wireless networks: devices equipped with this technology, including smartphones, tablets, PDAs, wearables, and peripherals, can thus connect and communicate with each other. them a few tens of meters away.
The plus in value of Bluetooth is given precisely by the standard, which projects this technology towards open and interoperable solutions, with low consumption, low production costs, and a range of action ranging from 1 to 100 meters (and beyond).
The evolution in Bluetooth Low Energy
The BLE (an acronym for Bluetooth Low Energy) is the developed version of this standard with the 4.0 release and later: among the pluses of this variant, the wireless communication up to a range of 100 meters and the very low consumption of the interconnected devices stand out, thanks to the small amounts of data exchanged and reduced transmission time.

The user does not have to worry about turning off the Bluetooth connection of his smartphone once the data exchange operation is finished, on the contrary it is advisable to always leave it active in order to take advantage of the information services offered, for example, in the retail world, through the use of Tag Beacon BLE (iBeacon in Apple language); this also applies in the emergency context generated by COVID19, in which the Immune system, based on Bluetooth LE technology, notifies the user of the potential risk of contagion, having come into contact with a person who is positive for the virus.

The potential of BLE is in fact to allow the connection between your smartphone or tablet (Apple, Android, Windows) and other Bluetooth Low Energy devices scattered in the surrounding environment, automatically receiving, without any voluntary action, information messages or data from sensors (Wireless Sensor Network).

Another distinctive note of the BLE is its communication architecture, designed in a “light” and user friendly way: the smartphone is the receiver of small data packets from the BLE tags scattered around the environment and can generate notifications to the user thanks to special app.

The developers themselves have great freedom in creating new customized apps, benefiting from the widespread presence of BLE devices with which to interface: this explains why Bluetooth Low Energy is spreading beyond the consumer sphere, involving the industrial world to interact with data loggers, sensors, and others. typical measurement tools for IoT (Internet of Things) and M2M (Machine to Machine).
Traditional applications of Bluetooth LE
In the setting of events (concerts, stadiums, exhibitions, museums, parks, etc.), the Bluetooth Low Energy technology, which also operates indoors, generates multiple valuable services, including guiding the guest/spectator from the nearby bus stops. subway or bus to the place of destination, up to the precise seat booked, the possibility to purchase coupons for drinks directly from the seat or receive detailed reports on the current show.

In all these typical applications, the Bluetooth device, equipped with an active connection and an app to interface with the surrounding Beacons, automatically reacts to them, without the user carrying out any voluntary detection action, such as typing commands on their smartphone.
Born in the context of proximity marketing to create a “magical” engagement with the public (among the most dynamic sectors, the museum one stands out) and provide valuable information on their behavioral attitudes on which to synchronize the offer, Bluetooth LE rests on a traditional technological architecture, in which the Beacon tag (Broadcaster) is positioned in specific points of the area (e.g. shop, restaurant, exhibition) and, when a smartphone with a specially designed app enters the range of action of the Beacon, it receives a notification , i.e. a message (advertising).

Thanks to the optimization of the energy consumed by BLE devices, obtained by activating them only at the moment of transmission or reception and by sending small data packets, you can keep your smartphone with Bluetooth connection always active without quickly discharging the battery .

The world of BLE therefore lives in countless application scenarios, thanks to the standard and therefore the extensive interoperability between the different devices capable of communicating with each other, reduced costs and ease of use!

Unconventional approach to Bluetooth LE
Our approach to the world of Bluetooth Low Energy is the result of over 15 years of experience in RFID, inheriting its benefits (including the ability to massively detect a large number of objects and people without eye contact), but using it in an innovative way the standard features of Bluetooth LE.

The goal of this “out of the box” vision is to create an active RFID system for automatic identification, traceability and localization (IPS – Indoor Positioning System) of people and objects in a simple way and with reduced costs: this is how the BluEpyc Business Unit, whose devices make it possible to create similar architectures in a user friendly and non-invasive way, leveraging all the application pluses of BLE.

In such a vision, the Bluetooth LE devices operate with a logic that mirrors the traditional conception, inverting the usual technological architecture: it is the person or object to be detected that is equipped with the Beacon tag, while Gateways are installed in the area to be monitored. Reader or EchoBeacon to detect its presence and movement, all inspired by the logic of active RFID.

RFID vs Bluetooth LE?

Among the evaluation parameters to be considered for choosing the correct technology, there is also the economic one: for example, in an application with high quantities of disposable tags, the passive RFID technology in the UHF band is ideally suited to traceability needs, in terms of both in terms of performance and costs.

However, these are not rigid rules, but food for thought, to be then set to the uniqueness of each project: if among the expectations of traceability there are high detection distances (up to 100 meters) of valuable assets or for the safety of people , Bluetooth LE has priority, becoming a valid alternative to (active) RFID in terms of performance and cost, as well as greater ease of installation, greater flexibility and speed in set-up.

Its native presence in widespread devices, primarily tablets and smartphones, also plays in favor of BLE.
Positioned in the different areas to be monitored (warehouse, hospital, playground, museum or exhibition, school, bus, office, etc.), the BluEpyc gateways receive the data transmitted by the Beacon tags affixed to objects or people, thus collecting the associated unique codes to each person / object, and monitor their position (Zone Method).

Being also a writer, the Gateway can write data remotely in the memory of the BLE tag, even if there are several Beacons in the field, exploiting the uniqueness of the address.

The beacons are in motion, while the receivers – the gateway or, in the case of granularity of the location data, the EchoBeacon – are fixed: in a similar view, the IPS (Indoor Positioning System) / RTLS (Real Time Locating System ) is realized by exploiting the Zone Method, where each Gateway or, if the granularity of the localization data is required, the EchoBeacon delimits the detection zone and, also based on the received signal strength (RSSI) from the Beacon tag, identifies the position of the latter; by modulating the intensity of the signal, it is thus possible to monitor more or less restricted areas.

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