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What’s the Advantages and Disadvantage of Bluetooth Beacon/Tag?

Release date:2022-5-19 23:37:59

Let's start by defining beacons, which hit the market around 2010 and are generally considered an enabling technology for Bluetooth-based positioning solutions for mobile devices such as phones, tablets, and computers. Beacons are relatively simple Bluetooth devices that typically act as fixed nodes, a bit like beacons, installed in fixed, known locations to periodically broadcast signals through three Bluetooth advertising channels (usually following Eddystone and iBeacon profiles). Mobile devices receiving these signals can then use received signal strength indicator (RSSI) measurements to calculate their own relative positions. In some cases, beacons also provide connection-oriented services for remote telemetry and configuration.

Since the introduction of the beacon, members of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group member companies (Bluetooth Special Interest Group) have been advancing, following the principles of the beacon and developing it into a state-of-the-art technology. Today, Bluetooth direction finding-based technology can provide some of the most advanced real-time positioning systems (RTLS) and indoor positioning systems (IPS) on the market. High accuracy and low latency are just some of the signature features that can be achieved with Bluetooth direction finding-based systems. Also, they are cost-effective and scalable.

Various devices with the "tag" designation have been introduced to the market over the years, but the introduction of Bluetooth direction finding technology formalized the specification for smart tag devices. At the hardware level, these tags are very similar to their predecessor beacons. However, their operational logic and firmware are very different. Tags are not only static broadcast signals, but also dynamic devices that can move and change their operational behavior (i.e. profiles) based on their location, motion state (static or mobile), and other configured factors (e.g., remote commands). The ability to efficiently track items in action using the updated Bluetooth direction finding method is a game-changer for the asset tracking business.

The main differences between beacons and tags can be summarized as follows.


Profile logic

Beacons are typically mounted to a fixed location and transmit signals according to a defined profile, while tags move and dynamically change (using finite state machine logic) their transmit power and rate based on their motion state, location, or commands from them. Centralized system. By dynamically adjusting the transfer rate and power of states based on profile settings, this ability to transition between states significantly increases battery life and reduces radio congestion in the area, improving system capacity and performance.


Tags can be attached to industrial tools and configured to emit at 2-3 Hz while moving at 0.1 Hz when stationary (for example, on a shelf) (with smooth and continuous tracking). In some advanced cases, artificial intelligence (AI) logic can also be integrated into the tags so that they can automatically detect predefined events (for example, a person falling to the ground).


Deployment Density

While beacons are generally evenly distributed throughout the environment, tags are attached to items in motion and can be found in higher concentrations in certain areas. For example, when tracking goods or tools in industrial facilities. With the ability to switch between states as needed, Tags can enable thousands of devices to transmit Bluetooth signals in the same space without burdening the air interface.


Not uncommon in industrial settings (e.g. warehouse facilities) where 30,000 units (e.g. boxes, pallets, tools, machinery, barcode scanners, printers) need to be tracked in real time. If all these devices are active at the same time and broadcasting at 1 Hz, the air interface will become very congested. However, it is more common that only some of these items are in motion at the same time, so by controlling the transfer rate based on motion (2-3 Hz for motion, 0.1 Hz for static) we can dynamically allocate air interface resources to those that are in motion and need the system Tags for more aggressive tracking. Likewise, tags attached to stored items can be set to be sent infrequently to reduce the load on the air interface.


Because beacons are usually mounted in fixed locations, their size or shape is not strictly limited by usage (although larger devices do allow for larger battery capacities). However, since tags are dynamic devices that move in an environment, form factors such as shape, size, weight, and ergonomics become essential design parameters.


Wearable tags such as those integrated into ID badges must be small, lightweight and unobtrusive. These requirements are very different from those of a rugged industrial label that will be attached to the device.

Selection of Color

Differences in the use of labels and beacons can also affect color choices at the design stage. Beacons are effective infrastructure devices designed to blend into the background, while tags are used to track items that are moving and to be easy to spot when needed (e.g. remove them if needed). Therefore, labels often have bright or even fluorescent colors to make them stand out.


Typically, labels used to track items on a production line are affixed to objects at the beginning of the line and moved only after the items are ready to ship. This means they need to be easy to find and remove at the right time. Additionally, the aviation industry has a foreign object damage (FOD) policy that requires easy identification of foreign objects (eg labels) from the surrounding environment.

Mechanical Installation

Installation requirements for tags and beacons vary widely. For beacons, the attachment is designed for static use (i.e. once fixed, the beacon will not move). Labels, on the other hand, have more general attachment requirements. They need to be mountable to a wide variety of moving objects (eg, people, equipment, machinery, pallets, boxes). They need to be securely fastened, and may even be configured to sound an alarm if they are accidentally sent out, but can also be easily removed when needed. It's even common to see a variety of temporary mounting options such as cable ties, glue, tape, Velcro, magnets, bolts, or screws to secure labels.


Typically, the tags used to track items in the warehouse are attached when the item arrives at the facility and removed when the item is shipped out. The tags need to be securely attached to the item and remain in place throughout the warehouse, but are easily removed when the item is ready for shipping.

Onboard Sensors

Unlike beacons, tags can carry a variety of sensors, making them the best device for a combination of tracking and remote sensing. Sensors for tracking parameters such as acceleration, temperature, light, humidity, and pressure are often added to the device. Additionally, sensors can report the motion state of the objects they are attached to, for example if they are static, moving or vibrating. All this data can be sent to the software application layer through the locator (also used as an IoT gateway). Wearable tags can even be used to provide real-time feedback to the person wearing them, or to reveal information about that person's vital signs.


Wearable tags can be used for collision avoidance use cases by sending real-time notifications (such as hums, vibrations, or light signals) to the person carrying the tag if the system recognizes that there may be a hazard ahead, such as a forklift that may collide with a person.


Radio Characteristics

The design features of tags and beacons also vary. Beacons are designed for wireless data transfer, so the transfer of data is more important than how the data moves between the beacon and the phone (similar to how Wi-Fi works for internet connections). However, tags are designed for location, and location systems use the propagation properties of radio signals to estimate the source of the signal. This means that it is important to minimize phenomena such as abundant scattering, shadowing and multipath propagation, which are otherwise generally considered useful for wireless data transmission. To ensure the best results, the antenna of the tag needs to be carefully designed to maximize the visibility of the tag.


The tag antenna design should be optimized according to the radiation pattern. To this end, the antenna should be as omnidirectional as possible to minimize deep space. Due to this requirement, it is also recommended to use PCB printed antennas instead of ceramic dipoles. In some cases, it may also be useful to design tags with dual antennas to alternate transmitted packets to increase spatial and polarization diversity.


Manufacturing Properties

Compared to beacons, tags are subjected to significantly higher mechanical stress during their life cycle. To withstand wear and tear, everything needs to be designed to be strong. Soldering to battery attachments, all components and PCB solder need to be durable.


Tags are mounted on moving objects that are used frequently and in some cases accelerate or even collide (for example, forklifts and ice pucks). During the manufacturing process, the same labels are used over and over again throughout the production line, which means they need to continue to expand in industrial conditions.

All in all, it's worth noting that while both are devices for Bluetooth-based location solutions and applications, the Tag and Beacon are quite different and should not be confused. Beacons are essentially simple radios designed to be installed in a fixed location and typically operate statically throughout their life cycle. Tags, on the other hand, are designed to be attached to moving objects, requiring higher levels of robustness, customization to use cases, and additional firmware logic for dynamic behavior. These differences allow Tag to provide better tracking results for RTLS solutions.


Both tags and beacons are common terms for Bluetooth devices used in positioning systems.For Bluetooth tags and Bluetooth beacons, some people don’t know the difference. Following as the features,advantages and advantages charts of Bluetooth beacon and tag.

Bluetooth tag and Bluetooth beacon




Bluetooth Beacon

Bluetooth Tag


The Bluetooth beacon is a broadcast protocol based on the low-power Bluetooth protocol, and it is also a low-power Bluetooth device (slave) with this protocol, which is compatible with the Apple ibeacon protocol. As a beacon device, it is usually placed in a fixed position indoors to continuously broadcast to the surroundings, but it cannot connect with any low-power Bluetooth host, and all the just broadcast data are arranged under specific rules.

The main purpose of tags is to determine the location of objects, usually used for fixed asset management, positioning, inventory and other functions. A Bluetooth tag uses a small coin cell battery that can be attached to an object such as a key, wallet, luggage or even a pet. This requires a two-way link to the phone in order to pair with the tag and establish an "ownership relationship". After the pairing is completed, a code will be sent regularly.


–Equipment or nodes, usually mounted on walls or other static structures

–Simple behavior, sending periodic signals continuously

–Over time, its running behavior remains the same 24/7 because it is predictable

–There can only be at most one device on a certain distance grid

–Usually optimized for wireless data communication, directional antennas can be used to optimize

–Always attached to objects that are constantly moving, even wearables that people can carry

–Advanced dynamic behavior, running final state and logic

–depends on the ratio between active and inactive states and its configuration parameters

–There may be numerous labels on a grid at a distance

–Optimized antenna radiation direction to improve radio visibility, wireless communication is usually not limited by range


BLE has low power consumption, long standby time, and uninterrupted broadcast status. It can automatically send information to users in the coverage area, determine the location of the user, and then transmit corresponding information based on the location. It can cooperate with the indoor positioning and navigation system of shopping malls to realize shopping mall navigation. Reverse car search and other functions

BLE low power consumption, long enough standby time, uninterrupted broadcast status, can send information to surrounding Bluetooth gateway devices, and can realize the location, motion trajectory, inventory, electronic fence and other information of fixed assets with one key in the background


Limited by the transmission distance of BLE Bluetooth, the coverage of the Bluetooth beacon is limited, and the user needs to be close to the location of the Bluetooth beacon for a certain distance to push information.

Limited by the transmission distance of BLE Bluetooth, the coverage is limited


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