The Difference Between Tags and Beacons

By Trent Fierro, Blog Contributor
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Asset tags move, beacons help move you!

Since we've released the Aruba asset tracking solution I've found that I often have to explain how tags and beacons differ. I think because both are BLE-based, people assume that they work the same way. It's almost like saying that you went for a bike ride, and people aren't sure if you meant a bicycle or a motorcycle. Two wheels, but definitely a different experience.

Aruba Beacons

Beacons are intended to be used as part of a mobile engagement solution – wayfinding, notifications and location sharing. By placing them in a facility, a mobile app then uses the data they emit to trigger a location-based message or triangulate where it is in the building that you're standing. For wayfinding use cases, the more beacons that you place, the better the accuracy of the data and app.


The trick is the placement of the beacons because you are taking a physical beacon and attaching it to a wall, cube or other permanent structure. The goal is to make sure that there are no dead spots, so Aruba helps by providing an app that lets you measure placement quality. Coverage is based on a combination of beacons and APs that contain BLE beacons if using an Aruba infrastructure.

If deploying proximity beacons, you simply place them near a point of interest or where you get great foot traffic. In either scenario above, the beacons do not move once you're happy with your coverage planning.

Now let's look at Aruba Tags

Tags are intended to be placed or attached to devices and objects that are often moved and forgotten. You do not need to measure the placement of the tags, as the assets are constantly being moved. For example, in a hospital, a wheelchair will move throughout the day from room to room, or between floors.  tag.png

The key to tags is correctly labeling them with data about the asset that they're being attached to. It's as simple as that. What is important is the coverage provided by the Aruba APs that contain BLE radios as they perform the triangulation that you need to determine where the tags are. And no, you can't use an Aruba Beacon in any form,  to listen for Aruba Tags.

Wrapping it up

Yes, you can have Aruba Tags and Aruba Beacons deployed in the same facility. Your Aruba APs can be a beacon and triangulate Aruba Tags at the same time.  The use case is to provide bluedot step-by-step directions for a person that is looking for an asset.

There are also a few subtle differences related to latency and accuracy that you can learn more about by taking a look at these additional blogs.

Success with location-based services is definitely about timing

When finding things, it's all about location, location, location