Replacing RFID wands with beacon technology

Michael Carne /

RFID wands and readers have long been used as a way to track activity and monitor whether contract, SLA or safety requirements are met. Some industry examples include commercial janitors creating an audit trail of cleaning activity, farmers monitoring cattle progress, and medical staff tracking inventory and equipment.

However, emerging technologies – in particular low energy Bluetooth beacons (or iBeacon) – present a new option for generating contextual intelligence in the workplace. With the increased adoption of smart phones and apps as business tools, it’s due time to consider the benefits of opting to a more enabling technology.

So what are the benefits of replacing RFID wands with a beacon (or iBeacon) solution?

  • Beacon solutions automate manual activity. RFID wands require employees to tap wands to fixed readers. This distracts employees from completing the task at hand, and adds another activity to an already full schedule. In contrast, beacon solutions operate in the background, tracking activity without the need for manual intervention.
  • Beacons are flexible and cheap. Beacons typically cost $10-$30, are battery operated and may be placed and moved as circumstances change. In contrast, RFID readers can cost $1000 – $5000, and are permanent fixtures. This limits the ability to adjust your setup based new service agreements or changed environments.
  • Leveraging smart devices creates extensibility. As beacon solutions leverage your smart phone, they can be used for much more than simple tracking. For example: receiving location specific task lists, automating safety and compliance alerts and integrating with other applications, like time-tracking.
  • Greater accuracy and coverage. Using techniques such as trilateration and fingerprinting, beacon solutions can accurately track movement and activity across a space. Conversely, RFID wands only track if a tap occurred, and not the activity in between each tap. This provides the opportunity to ‘game’ the system, rather than effectively ensure compliance and safety standards are met.

While beacon adoption in workplaces is relatively new, early adopters are already benefiting from their transition off RFID wand solutions (see iBeacon case study here). If you would like to discuss how you can benefit from adopting a beacon solution, please Contact Us.