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Geofencing vs Beacons: 7 Differences you need to know

In the next few minutes, I'm going to show you what the key differences are between Bluetooth beacons and geofencing. Let's do it.

Wistia video thumbnail - Episode 41 | Geofencing Vs. Beacons: What's the difference?

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VIDEO NOTES | location based marketing series


Requires an app?

Geofencing versus beacons. First of all, which requires an app to be installed on the user's smartphone, on their device, to make this a possibility? First of all, geofencing does require an app to be installed on the user's device, and, generally speaking, so does beacon-based marketing, so you're gonna need an app on the device. There are some exceptions around Eddystone and on Android, and things you'll be able to do in the future or with Chrome, but generally, if you want to do proximity marketing right, you're gonna need an app on the device. And of course, for geofencing as well, it's pretty much the only way to track users, and then sending a push notification to engage them when they are there.

Requires hardware?

Does geofencing or beacons require any hardware? In the case of geofencing, geofencing doesn't need any hardware at all, so I'm gonna give that a red "x." And Bluetooth beacons is a physical device, it is hardware, so that gets a tick from us.

Requires Bluetooth?

When we look at what actually requires Bluetooth to be turned on, and you know, geofencing does rely on certain sensors being enabled on the device, one of which is not Bluetooth, so I'm gonna give this one a red "x." And of course for, as you'd expect, for Bluetooth Beacons to work, you do need Bluetooth turned on, so that's a "yes" on that one.

Requires WiFi and/or GPS?

Now, what requires Wi-Fi and/or GPS? Do we need this for beacons? Do we need it for geofencing? Yes, in fact, geofencing does rely quite heavily, predominantly, on Wi-Fi technologies, ambient Wi-Fi, and cell towers. In certain cases, it does use GPS, and these are the main sensors that we use on the device. Beacons are not dependent in any way on Wi-Fi, cell towers, or GPS, so that gets a red "x."

Static Location?

And, in terms of static locations versus moving locations: you know, what about geofences versus beacons? A geofence usually is placed not on moving locations, it's a static location, it's a latitude, a longitude, with a radius of accuracy, or perhaps a shape. Yes, geofences are static.

Now, you may think of beacons as being static. You put them on that product, you put it on that object in the store above the door to welcome people when they arrive, but beacons could really be positioned anywhere, so potentially it could be on a vehicle, a train, a car, a plane, or something else that might move. Yes, sorry, or no to static locations for beacons. They could be fixed on moving locations.

Can be used outdoors?

Next up, what about these technologies and how do they apply to outdoor use? geofences can definitely be used outdoors. Don't worry, they're not gonna blow away because they are a virtual perimeter. They're not going anywhere. You place them on a Google Map, and when someone walks in, you can notify them. You can track that they were there, so absolutely perfect for outdoor use. And they're kind of a macrotechnology. They cover big areas. If you want to do hundreds of meters, or maybe even geofence a whole city, that's perfect. Imagine having to beaconize a whole city. Very unlikely that you're going to be able to do that.

Now, can beacons be used outdoors? Some people might think "no," but in fact, yes, they can. They are suitable for outdoor use. You want to get the waterproof ones if you're going to be putting them outdoors, and you want to have the signal turned up a little bit more as well. Remember that people are made of water. The human body absorbs 2.4 GHz, so if it's on a crowded street, you could have issues. Or if you're positioning beacons with water, or if they're getting...you know, there's a lot of rain, that's going to actually affect their ability to do proximity marketing when outdoors. But generally speaking, they do work outdoors. You just need to be kind of a little bit careful where you actually place them.

Good for close proximity?

And then the last question here that we have is, in terms of the range and, you know, above or below 10 meters, are they good for anything that is, that should be probably less than 10 meters of accuracy? Geofences are probably better above 15 meters. 15 meters of accuracy without hardware is incredible, but when it goes below, let's say, sub-10 meters, it gets a little bit tricky to do just with the sensors onboard, without deploying hardware, so I'm gonna say no to that one. Geofencing is not suitable really if you want to do anything that's below 10 meters of accuracy. You're looking at proximity marketing. You're looking at things like Bluetooth Beacons.

I hope this has been very helpful to compare the two different types of technologies, what they're good for, what they're not, what you can do with each, and some of the challenges and things that you need to be aware of. Thank you very much for tuning in. As always, if you have any questions at all, you can leave a comment below the video, inspiring the whole community. You can also send me a tweet. I'll leave my handle there. I am Patrick Leddy. See you guys next time.