Imagine yourself in a room with just your phone. Imagine that you could open an interface that would instantly inventory all of the items in the room, and allow you to “page” that object – ringing an alarm on that item. Now, imagine that you could know at any given time – automatically – when items have moved locations. This is the scenario we at BLEvolve achieve using our AssetBeacon BLE-based tagging, tracking and locationing software.
When comparing RFID to BLE for applications that require unique identification of items, the range that a uniquely identified tag can be “heard” must be considered. Working ranges for most RFID systems (of the most common passive tag type) is usually ~6 feet.
Greater distance for RFID can be achieved using stationary antennae, sometimes called “signal boosters” – but this eliminates the possibility of using a mobile terminal. These antennae set ups can easily weigh tens of pounds! Even worse, there are very few RFID readers available for iOS and android – while bluetooth (and recently Bluetooth Low Energy support is now built in to most new consumer phones. BLE support is even built in to the iPod Touch (5th generation) available at $199 a unit!
The newest bluetooth spec and BLE devices made to be tags – like the widely available StickNFind tags used by our own Asset Beacon software – make it possible to uniquely identify thousands of items, and scan and inventory hundreds to thousands in matters of seconds. It can also store instantaneous location readings on its server-side database indefinitely, for historical tracking purposes.
The RSSI strength, which is a signal strength determination, is important to the internal calculations of most RFID as well as BLE systems. The Asset Beacon system uses RSSI internally to differentiate where an item is when the user takes readings from multiple locations. This calculation is done automatically inside of the software, and the results are presented in a Location Report, as well as in the mobile app. This provides the user with a direct answer to “Where is ____?”, any time, from anywhere you can reach a computer, phone or iPod.