GPS Vs NFC Vs iBeacon: Which Indoor Location Technology will your Business Benefit from?

Quite recently, we have been asked by one of our retail customers to reinventing the promotions run through the app.

Here is the overview of the comparison between three indoor location technologies that is accurate, and cost effective. So, which among the following widely used location technologies – Wi-Fi, iBeacon, NFC, GPS, will your business benefit from?

iBeacon NFC GPS
Accessibility With smartphones primarily acting as receivers, beacons form a highly accessible indoor location technology. Deploying a NFC system requires a number of components such as tags, readers and reader control and application software to be in place. Therefore, businesses that plan to go ahead with NFC need to plan and invest upfront in new infrastructure. GPS is a highly accessible technology.
Range Beacons typically have a wireless range of 1m to 70 m. NFC works at an optimal range of 10cm or less. In this case, the range is unlimited.
Accuracy Beacons being radio transmitters are not very accurate as they stand the chance of interference, as radio signals can be absorbed by different media, such as water, air, human bodies or even metallic surfaces. NFC is an averagely accurate indoor location technology for near range alone. A number of factors such as atmospheric effects, sky blockage etc, play a critical role in the accuracy of GPS. Generally, high-quality GPS receivers provide a horizontal accuracy of more than 3.5 m. Higher accuracy in the range of centimeters is attainable by using GPS in combination with augmentation systems.
Security Beacon Hacking, a common threat to beacon security occurs when beacons with weak security measures are discovered by hackers who then change their UUIDs, Majors and Minors to leverage the beacon network without prior permission. Most beacon manufacturers have now put some measures in place to prevent this from happening. NFC supports encryption and since it requires close proximity between devices for proper functioning, the odds of a hacker intercepting the signal is minimal. GPS by itself is not invasive and the privacy and security risk associated with GPS mainly comes from the receivers (devices) and communication mechanism inherent in the manufacturer’s servers. Most manufacturers these days employ various authentication and storage techniques to secure a GPS receiver.
Ease of use Consumers respond to notifications that are triggered on their smartphone when they are within the range of a beacon. Consumers use a NFC tag to control timing and engagement. Consumers have to switch on the GPS on their smartphones.
Energy Efficiency Majority of beacons are battery powered and last for upto one year before they need to be replaced. You can even find, USB powered and electromagnetic wave powered beacons in the market these days. NFC does not need power to function. Each NFC tag creates its own power when it is in the presence of an NFC-enabled smartphone. Constantly searching for satellites can result in a huge battery drain. Thus, when it comes to an “always-on” use case, GPS is a poor solution to go ahead with.
Privacy Beacons can be more intrusive as irrespective of who deployed the beacons, a mobile app can be configured to monitor consumer movements as they move along. NFC is less intrusive as the movements of a consumer can only be monitored based on the NFC tag that they have engaged with. No third party, other than the one who has supplied the tag contents can monitor engagement. Privacy risk associated with GPS mainly comes from the receivers (devices) and communication mechanism inherent in the manufacturer’s servers.
Inherent capability of smartphones iBeacon only requires devices to have Bluetooth LE installed in them, which many smartphones already have. Neither Apple products prior to iPhone 6 nor other popular smartphones come with an inherent NFC chip. It is an inherent capability of all smartphones.

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