Bluetooth beacon and tag are common terms for Bluetooth positioning devices used in positioning systems. Although they are different devices, tags are derived from original beacons, so the two terms are often confused, leading to misunderstandings about what Bluetooth can provide for positioning. The purpose of this article is to clarify some common misconceptions by comparing the two devices.
Beacons were introduced to the market around 2010 and are generally considered to be the enabling technology in positioning solutions for Bluetooth-based mobile devices such as phones, tablets and computers. Beacons are relatively simple Bluetooth devices that usually work as fixed nodes, which are a bit like lighthouses. They are installed in fixed and known locations and regularly broadcast signals through three Bluetooth advertising channels (37, 38 and 39) (usually following Eddystone and/or iBeacon profiles). Then the mobile devices that receive these signals can calculate their relative positions using the measurement of Receiving Signal Strength Indicator (RSSI). In some cases, Bluetooth Beacon also provides connection-oriented services for remote telemetry and configuration.
As a technology company, let Crepak give you a summary of the main differences between Beacons and Tags.
1. The brief logic
Beacons are usually installed in a fixed location and emit signals according to a defined profile; tags, on the other hand, can be moved and dynamically (using finite state-machine logic) change their transmitting power and rate according to their motion state, position, or command from the central system. The transmission ability between states dynamically adjusts their transmission rates and power according to configuration file settings, which significantly extends the battery life, reduces the wireless congestion in the region, and improves the system capacity and performance.
2. The deployment density
Beacons are usually distributed throughout the environment evenly, while tags are attached to moving objects and can appear in high concentrations in certain areas, such as tracking goods or tools in an industrial facility. Tags can switch between different states as needed, so thousands of devices can transmit Bluetooth signals in the same space without overloading the air interface.
3. Form factors
Since beacons are usually installed in a fixed position, their sizes or shapes are not strictly dependent on usage (although actually larger capacity batteries can be added to larger devices). However, because tags are dynamic devices that move in the environment, form factors (such as shape, size, weight and ergonomics) become important design parameters.
For example, wearable tags such as tags integrated into ID badges must be small, light and unobtrusive. The requirements of these tags are quite different from those of sturdy industrial tags mounted on the equipment. Crepak is one of BLE tag manufacturers. Welcome to consult and purchase!
4. Color selection
The difference in the use of tags and beacons also affects the choice of color at the design stage. Beacons are actually infrastructure devices that are designed to blend into the background, while tags are designed to track moving objects, so they should be easily spotted when needed (for example, when they need to be removed). Therefore, tags often have bright even fluorescent colors to make them stand out.
5. Mechanical installation
The installation requirements for tags and beacons vary greatly. In the case of installing beacons, the accessories are designed for static use (i.e. once fixed, the beacons cannot be moved). On the other hand, tags have more requirements for general accessories. They need to be able to be mounted on a variety of moving objects (such as personnel, equipment, machinery, pallets and boxes). They need to be firmly fixed, and may even be configured to sound an alarm if they are inadvertently removed, but they can still be removed easily if needed. A variety of temporary installation methods such as zippers, glue, tapes, hook and loop fasteners, magnets, bolts and screws are used to fix tags.
6. On-board sensors
Unlike beacons, tags can carry a variety of sensors, so they can become the best devices that combine tracking and remote sensing. Sensors that track parameters such as acceleration, temperature, light, humidity, and pressure are often added to devices. In addition, the sensors can report the motion of the objects they are connected to, like whether they are stationary, moving or vibrating. All of the data can be sent to the software application layer via a locator (which can also serve as an IoT gateway). Wearable tags can even be used to provide real-time feedback to wearers, or to reveal the information about a person’s vital signs.
7. Radio characteristics
The design features of tags and beacons are also different. Beacons are designed for wireless data transmission, so the data transmission is more important than how the data moves between beacons and phones (which is similar to how Wi-Fi connects to the Internet). However, tags are designed for positioning, and positioning systems use radio signal propagation characteristics to estimate the source. This means that phenomena such as rich scattering, shadowing and multipath propagation must be reduced as far as possible, otherwise they will be commonly considered useful for wireless data transmission. To ensure the best effect, the antenna of the Tag needs to be carefully designed to maximize the visibility of the tag.
8. Manufacturing performance
Compared with bluetooth beacon, tag are subjected to much greater mechanical stress during their life cycle. In order to withstand wear and tear, every part of the tag should be designed to be strong. From soldering to battery accessories, all components and PCBs need to be durable. Crepak can provide different tags for you such as rugged BLE tags.
In summary, it is important to note that bluetooth beacon and tag are commonly used for Bluetooth-based positioning solutions and devices, but tags and beacons are quite different and should not be confused. A beacon is essentially a simple radio device that is designed to be installed in a fixed location and usually operates statically throughout its life cycle. Tags, on the other hand, are designed to be attached to moving objects, which requires higher durability. Tags can be customized according to use conditions, and dynamic behaviors are realized through additional firmware logics. These differences enable tags to provide better tracking effect for indoor real-time positioning solutions.