Bluetooth or UWB? Or both?

RTLS Glossary | Favendo GmbH

Bluetooth or Ultra Wideband? Which technology is the better indoor positioning technology?We’re trying to sort it out. When it comes to indoor positioning, customers can choose from a range of technologies and a number of combinations. We take a closer look at Bluetooth and Ultra Wideband in this text.

Both are so-called local radio techniques with which one can miraculously determine the positions of goods and persons. An overview of the “miraculous way”, i.e. how this works, can be found, for example, at location-based-services.de or, for those who want to know exactly, here. But then please bring the time that we do not want to take here and now.

After all, it is much more important to users that the position of an asset or person is determined at all. And both technologies can offer that. With UWB technology, positioning is even more accurate than with Bluetooth technology. So the thing is clear: UWB wins, right? It’s not that simple. After all, in addition to positioning accuracy, there are other parameters that can influence a decision in one direction or another. Costs are at the forefront. And UWB is right at the top of the list. iBeacons – as a transmitter – are already available for a few euros, UWB Tags can easily cost ten times the amount. In view of this, the question arises of how much more precise positioning is worth to me. And does the positioning have to be accurate to the centimetre to meet my requirements? So we have to have a closer look at the respective use case. For example, if I want to track a person in a shopping mall or leisure facility, a lower positioning accuracy is sufficient, after all I do not only recognize and discover the person at a distance of 30 centimetres. The same applies to industrial goods such as pallets or fork-lift trucks or production parts, which may only move on a fixed band section anyway. In these cases I should or have to reach for Bluetooth technology – not only for economic reasons. Because what UWB technology cannot achieve is the display of a position on a map in an app. UWB can only fulfil this core function of indoor navigation with the help of Bluetooth technology. If only UWB technology is used, the position of a tracked asset or person can only be visualized in the backend. This is called server-side positioning, in contrast to client-side positioning, where a position can easily be displayed on the smart phone. So is Bluetooth Low Energy the positioning champion, unlike at first glance? The answer remains a clear “Yes and No“.

There’s just no such thing as the one positioning case. If you need high-precision three-dimensional asset tracking, you have to use UWB and bite the bullet of high costs. The more cost-effective BLE is the technology of choice for convenient indoor navigation or easier asset tracking. There is no answer to the question of which technology is the better one. However, there are answers to the question of which technology is better suited to your specific requirements. We can help you to answer this question.