WiFi vs. Beacons — Which Is The Better Option For Location Based Services?


An important part of our smartphones is the different kinds of sensors that make your device ‘smart.’ Bring along some other technologies like satellite navigation and GPS, your smartphone starts communicating and sharing location details. With the increased traction in the Internet of Things field, the location services are even becoming more important.

But, before we dive into the world of location based services (LBS), let me tell you that it’s a software application for a mobile that needs to know where the smartphone is located. With the help of such services, a user can make queries and gain useful information related to pathfinding, product search, people tracking, marketing, etc.

There are numerous industries where location based services are used. In the healthcare industry, it’s used to help people navigate inside the building and assist them to locate different departments with ease. Many international airports are already leveraging such technologies to interact with the passengers and guide them to the boarding gates. The retail industry is already using it to push personalized notification to the users and increase the sales.

The major components of a location based service are a mobile network, a content provider to give geo-specific information, a software application, a positioning component, and a mobile device. These location based services are dependent on WiFi and Bluetooth as GPS and ultrasonic/infrared don’t work properly indoors.

WiFi LBSs vs. Beacons — Pros and Cons

As the name suggests, WiFi-powered location based services use the existing WiFi infrastructure to detect the devices whose WiFi is turned on. For example, if a person enters an organization or a retail establishment, the owner can send push notifications with relevant information.

To identify the customers, WiFi-based methods use MAC addresses and SSID. It’s widely accessible as most mobile devices and establishments already have WiFi to use WiFi LBSs for engagement.

On the other hand, beacons are basically Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)-based indoor transmitters that sense the nearness of a user and send information to the smartphones. They are known to provide a very accurate information of the user location, and it’s recommended for micro-location activities. When the signal reaches the user’s smartphone, a location-based information is shown.

However, due to the low power and short range, one would need many overlapping beacons to cover an area. Beacons are easy-to-deploy but they do need to be installed, which could bring up a substantial hardware/installation cost.

While beacons make sure that you get a very specific data and target the customer easily, it does require the need for an app; WiFi LBSs don’t need any such app.

In the end, everything depends on your need and strategy. While you might find WiFi appealing as it doesn’t need an extra hardware cost or app, beacons can help to hyper target your customers and get desired results. If the cost isn’t an issue, one can aim long term benefits and try out both the technologies.

Jibestream is one such creator of indoor mapping platform that allows the developers to create a robust set of tools for building map-enabled apps and drive user engagement. Using their SDK, one can create multi-dimensional indoor maps and embed them into web/mobile apps.

I hope that you would’ve found this article interesting? Don’t forget to share your feedback in comments below.

Adarsh Verma

Adarsh Verma

Fossbytes co-founder and an aspiring entrepreneur who keeps a close eye on open source, tech giants, and security. Get in touch with him by sending an email — [email protected]
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