BLE or RFID: Which works best for event analytics?

Posted by Gerald Ortiz on Fri, Aug 2, 2019

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Not all wireless technology is created equal, so in today’s ever-digital world of corporate events, which of these two technologies works best for reliable event data and experiences that are cost-effective as well?

You may or may not have given it much thought, but the type of wireless tech your event engagement solution of choice uses can have an impact on your event’s performance, data quality — and even your bottom line.

Nowadays it’s come down to two main types: BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) and RFID (Radio Frequency Identification). Here’s how each works in a nutshell:

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BLE: Bluetooth is very similar to WiFi as it allows wireless devices to communicate with each other over short distances. BLE is a newer Bluetooth standard that consumes less energy and is aimed at communications with modern devices that operate on software like mobile phones, for example.

RFID: Radio Frequency Identification records the presence of objects using radio signals and has traditionally been used for inventory control, or timing in sporting events.  

If both of these technologies could be considered each other’s contemporaries, we would stack up the pros and the cons. But that would be a little unfair considering RFID has been around since World War II, and was officially invented in 1948.  

Although RFID has been a standard for geo-tracking, the benefits that the newer BLE provides exposes the generation gap between the two. Full disclosure — klik uses BLE technology in our smart wearables-and-software-based ecosystem precisely because of these clear key advantages:

Greater accuracy and coverage

Both BLE and RFID use what are called tags: small card-sized transmitters of perceived movement. That’s where the similarities end though. 

Where an RFID sensor that relies on the help of an antenna and wired connections will have a radius of roughly 3-6 feet with location accuracy of up to 6 feet, BLE sensors are able to cover an area of between 150-180 feet and can pinpoint location accuracy to 12 inches.

This makes for a huge leap in data quality, since with BLE, less sensors and tags are required to monitor the same surface area and the accuracy is far greater. That also means less room for error as fewer connected network pieces reduces the probability of one of them failing.

It also reduces the cost as less devices are required for setup.

More cost-effective

Average costs of BLE-based event analytics solutions also tend to be cheaper than their RFID counterparts. This not only has to do with the cost of the devices but also the specialized services required for deployment (more on that later).

Because BLE doesn’t require any specialized service technician for setup, there are no service charges attached. RFID deployment can cost on average $100 000 due to hourly rates for technicians to individually test and configure a multitude of antennae, readers, and tags.

But by its very nature, BLE’s low energy model means the hardware tags and beacons also operate on very low consumption. Batteries in these devices can last several months or sometimes even years, as they only need to broadcast data packets periodically — saving businesses significant operating costs for events.

Easier and quicker to deploy

Possibly one of the biggest perks of BLE is how much less of a headache the technology is to set up. This is because no specialized skill is required for set up. Sensors run on batteries instead of current, and everything can be configured in an event management app like klik.

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As mentioned, with RFID, the radio frequency technology needs to be set up by a trained RFID operator. The technician will be responsible for connecting each zone on the event grounds to a WiFi network, calibrating, and testing the connections piece by piece. This can take hours, often days depending on how big the event grounds are.

Without going into all the nitty gritty tech details, the core advantages of BLE over RFID are already pretty clear — at the end of the day you get more bang for your buck with BLE. So if you’re organizing a large scale event or just in charge of the IT systems behind one, you might want to keep in mind most event engagement platforms like klik have already embraced this technology. And there’s no mistaking BLE is already better equipped for the immersive event technology that’s to come.


 

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