Beacon Technology

Beacon technology allows for contactless data exchange via Bluetooth.

The ability to transmit data without contact is an integral part of many mobile devices today. It is used in contactless payment processes (mobile payment) and in the direct transfer of data between two devices. The best-known format is probably NFC, followed by Airdrop and Android Beam. Less well known, on the other hand, is the so-called beacon technology, which opens up new fields of application, especially in the payment sector, but also in location and proximity determination.

Beacon technology is a small radio transmission device that can exchange data with end devices that use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) proximity detection. The Beacon sends out a signal to Bluetooth-enabled devices within a range of up to 20 meters. When the signal is received by another device, a direct connection can be established between the two devices and data can be transmitted and/or the transmitter's position can be located based on the signal strength of the received data.

Beacons are a powerful tool for location-based campaigns, events and entertainment venues. The technology makes it possible to send messages, promotions, coupons and provide information. Furthermore, the technology is also compatible with other platforms such as Tactify. This allows companies to keep branding and communication up to date.
The acquisition and setup of beacons is straightforward and fairly affordable. In addition, the range of data transmission is higher and the energy consumption lower than with NFC.

What is the difference between BLE and NFC?

• Beacons are transmitted via BLE 4.0, a technology that operates at a frequency of 2.4 GHz. NFC, on the other hand, is a short-range communication technology that operates at 13.56 MHz through what is known as electromagnetic induction coupling (EIC).

• BLE beacons constantly transmit a discovery signal. When users activate Bluetooth 4.0 (BLE) and their smartphones are in range of the transmission, they can receive it. NFC, on the other hand, only sends a signal when 1. NFC is enabled and 2. a corresponding application (e.g., a payment app) enables a signal for transmission.

• Since beacons are built on the Bluetooth 4.0 standard, which is built into most current phone models, they (theoretically) have greater compatibility with other devices than NFC technology, which is currently only used in the high-priced smartphone segment.

• Beacons have a communication sphere of 1 to 70 m, while the optimal range of NFC is five cm or less.

• Beacons have a battery that lasts about two years on average before needing to be recharged or replaced. NFC, on the other hand, requires external battery. Each NFC tag can generate its own power.

• With location, the location is measured by the signal strength of the beacons. In contrast, location is comparatively irrelevant for NFC devices, as the technology is usually location-based (maximum range of a few cm).

• Beacon or BLE transmission signals are outgoing and do not reveal any personal data. However, there are minor security risks when transmitting sensitive data. NFC is much more secure here, because the technology supports secure and unsecured data transmissions and deliberately limits the maximum range (signal strength).

• The price of both technologies is determined by the volume that is purchased/used. However, beacons are generally more expensive than NFC tags.