NFC VS iBeacon --which is your type?

NFC and iBeacon, two hot techniques being applied in the fields of mobile Internet, O2O, mobile payment, and scenario calculations, both have promising futures. Since there is much similarity and overlapping between the two, many developers often get confused. Today, Zhang Qiang, Chief Hardware Designer from SENSORO, will explain to you about the differences between NFC and iBeacon for your better understanding.


 NFC (Near Field Communication) is a form of short-range high-frequency wireless communication (operating at a frequency of 13.56 MHz within the distance of 20 cm) at the speed of 424 kbit/s, 424 kbit/s or 424 kbit/s. People are familiar with NFC, but what about iBeacon?

iBeacon uses BLE 4.0 proximity sensing to create a signal region.  The technology enables a smartphone or other devices to perform contextual computing actions such as pushing notification or mobile payment when in close proximity to an iBeacon.

The working principles of iBeacon technology can be described in the following three steps:

  1. A Beacon transmits a universally unique identifier through BLE;
  2. A compatible APP picks up the identifier then looks up over the internet to determine the smart device's physical location;
  3. A smart device triggers an action.

A comparison of basic information between two techniques




Technique Principle

Short-range high-frequency wireless communication (operating at a frequency of 13.56 MHz within the distance of 20 cm) through electromagnetic induction coupling

Carried by BLE 4.0 (operating at a frequency of 2.4GHz, within the longest distance of 80 m)


Medium. Applied in high-end smartphones, to be gradually popularized in the future.

Higher. Applied in iPhone 4s and later models, with support of BLE 4.0

Driving Force

UnionPay, operators

Apple Inc, etc

User Habit

NFC on

BLE on


Short-distance communication

Data encryption



A comparison of Application scenario between two techniques





Mobile payment


Earlier appearance, in commercial tryout

Later appearance, in concept testing

Pushing notification

Supportive. Manually operating within 10cm to NFC mark

Supportive. 1m-50m active notification pushing(adjustable)

Indoor positioning

Does not support

Supportive. Positioning accuracy is based on the deployment of Beacons and the signal transmitting power

People are familiar with NFC mobile payment, but how does iBeacon realize this?

One is through standard iBeacon broadcast—when consumers enter Beacon-covering regions (1-50m, adjustable), they can quickly find the payment through APPs and process online payment. The other scenario is when Beacon is o , but only triggered in case of payment where consumers’ APPs are woken and then they confirm on the smart phones. This practice has greatly improved the user experience by reducing the time of lining up for payment and getting changes.

The initial intention of iBeacon is to trigger particular indoor events as well as to realize indoor positioning. We can calculate the distance between a smart phone and Beacon using RSSI and distance formula. But one thing to be noted is that this formula only applies in case of short distances; the longer the distance, the higher the risks of being disturbed by the multipath effect of electromagnetic wave, signal interference and human/object blockage thus lowering the calculation accuracy. Higher accuracy can be achieved by triangulation and fingerprint algorithm, however, requires more research and exploration by developers. SENSORO will provide open-sourced Demo APPs and application development SDK in the future. Moreover, Yunzi Beacon--light, temperature and motion integrated sensor developed by SENSORO, is already for sale on the market.

On the whole, NFC technique is comparatively more mature in regard to mobile payment, while iBeacon technique appears later but leaves more to the imagination. Aside from mobile payment, iBeacon can also be widely applied in the fields of indoor navigation, off-line consumer perception and behavior analysis, real-time hotspot statistics, next-generation network and smart home furnishing.



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