In short: Geolocation involves a combination of hardware and software components to determine the geographical location of a device. It brings insights for companies to understand consumer behavior, helps optimize operations and logistics, delivers the ability to track assets, navigation, quick location identification, and much more. With 5G and its low latency, location data is transmitted between devices at a rapid speed, impactful for GPS, IoT, and smart devices who can now transmit and receive data at greater accuracy and speed. This will propel the relevance and importance of geolocation, which will see itself enter more industries, such as healthcare.
I've completely underestimated the number of terms that start with "geo." I understand why that is the case, but I find myself getting lost with all these "geo" terms. That’s the nature of the industry, but it has come to the point where I’m convinced people throw "geo" in front of words like how Hollywood writers toss in "quantum" to sound like they’re talking about something beyond the viewer's casual understanding of science, technology, or whatever jargon they’ve come up with—except for Oppenheimer. That might be the one film where "quantum" is used accurately.
Like Oppenheimer, this article is also using "geo" accurately, and we’re all about accuracy at Roam.ai (a knee-slapping "Ha" hopefully emanates from the reader). This blog is about geolocation—a vital aspect of many applications and services, ranging from location-based marketing, real-time user tracking, and navigation.
Geolocation is the process of determining the geographical location of a device or object using various technologies such as GPS, Wi-Fi, cellular networks, or IP address.
Geolocation is central to the service that we provide at Roam, and understanding it as a concept should give you an idea of why that is. We’ll be discussing the technology behind geolocation, its applications across industries, the benefits it brings, a use case, a glimpse into the possible future, and then we’d have pretty much wrapped it all up by that point.
The Technology Behind Geolocation
Geolocation involves a combination of hardware and software components to determine the geographical location of a device. Understanding these hardware and software components provides insight into the complexity of geolocation technology and how it leverages multiple sources of information to accurately determine a device's location. Here's a breakdown of the key elements:
GPS: The satellite-based navigation system provides accurate location information. A device with GPS receives signals from multiple satellites to triangulate the device’s precise location. Since its emergence after World War 2, GPS and its fellow sat-nav systems have been the bedrock for all things geolocation and still play a significant role today.
Sensors: Many devices have numerous embedded sensors that contribute to determining the geolocation of a device. Smartphones and tablets typically have accelerometers, gyroscopes, and magnetometers, measuring movement, orientation, and magnetic field, respectively. These sensors play a crucial role in providing accurate location data.
Wi-Fi Module: The technology keeping you connected with everyone and facilitating endless social media scrolling is also used to triangulate location. Almost all smart devices have wireless communication hardware for connecting to Wi-Fi networks, and Wi-Fi signals can be used to triangulate location, particularly indoors.
Cellular Module: Similar to Wi-Fi modules, the hardware communicating with cellular networks can estimate the device’s location through tower triangulation and signal strength. While not very useful in remote regions, it proves effective in urban areas.
Beacons: Unlike the ones for Minas Tirith (I’ve made this joke before), these beacons are small devices that emit Bluetooth signals, which can be used for proximity-based location tracking indoors. It’s location technology that has really nothing to do with Roam, but worth mentioning either way. We like to be objectively informative here.
Geolocation APIs: This Application Programming Interface allows developers to integrate geolocation features into applications, acting as a bridge between applications and the underlying hardware and software components determining a device’s location. It enables apps to retrieve latitude and longitude coordinates from cell towers and Wi-Fi modules, among other sources.
Algorithms: Those who have watched School of Rock will remember that Math is a wonderful thing. Mathematical algorithms process location data, interpreting information from multiple sources to calculate and refine a device’s location.
Operating System Integration: Operating systems like iOS and Android include geolocation features, providing system-level access to location data for applications.
Cloud Services: Remote cloud servers store and process location data, facilitating real-time updates and data storage for geolocation applications. Cloud storage is particularly vital for handling high volumes of location data in demand.
Applications Across Industries
Here are some major industries currently affiliated with geolocation:
Many retail companies utilize devices and mobile apps to effectively reach their customers. Hyper-local marketing, personalized location-based marketing, and advertising have become avenues for creating personalized offers and promotions to generate sales and create brand loyalty. Geolocation has played an increased role in improving the user experience, allowing marketers in retail to achieve this.
Logistics and Transportation
This might cause a bit of confusion. In the world of mobile app location technology, real-time asset tracking is not traditionally done through a smart device. However, in the broader world of geolocation, it's important to note that logistics and transportation businesses heavily rely on location tracking. Assets have barcodes and GPS trackers for real-time location updates, which is crucial for transportation and shipping. There's a lot to keep track of, and operational efficiency through geolocation is necessary to prevent chaos. That said, the location tracking of an employee's device through a Salesforce application is one way to keep track of the transportation of assets and the employee. In this case, geolocation via mobile apps helps optimize operations and efficiency.
First responders need quick location identification to reach the emergency situation as fast as possible. Whether it's an ambulance, police, or fire service, geolocation, by means of navigating toward the response site or delivering an accurate location point from where the emergency call was made, can make a life-saving difference. Quick location identification in emergencies also applies to family tracking apps that help family members keep track of their loved ones and respond quickly to any distress call triggered via the app.
Benefits of Geolocation
From the above section, you can gather that geolocation has various benefits. It brings insights for businesses to understand consumer behavior and reach their target market effectively. It helps optimize operations and logistics for organizations transporting and tracking a large range of assets. Finally, it plays a crucial role in emergency situations through navigation and quick location identification.
Apart from those specific examples, the benefits of geolocation can be found in many industry spaces; it just depends on the one you’re looking at. For instance, within the mobile development space, the process of determining the geographical location of a mobile device lets ride-hailing apps connect drivers with customers, provides real-time tracking for delivery orders, and lets users track their fitness activities.
Goody, a customer of Roam.ai, operates as an on-demand delivery, logistics, and transportation service. In their capacity as an on-demand delivery company, the primary use of location data revolves around the frequent tracking of drivers during their working hours. This information enables Goody to efficiently allocate drivers to specific orders, ultimately reducing delivery times and optimizing overall service efficiency.
The process of retrieving geolocation from mobile devices for real-time tracking can be demanding on the device itself, especially concerning battery life. The GPS receiver, responsible for delivering continuous location information, can drain the battery if handled inefficiently. To address this challenge, Goody leverages Roam.ai's Location SDK, ensuring efficient real-time location tracking without compromising device battery life.
It's crucial to note that relying solely on GPS for geolocation data isn't sufficient. Goody incorporates other modules like Wi-Fi and Cellular to achieve reliable results, even in situations where GPS accuracy might be compromised. This use case highlights that while geolocation may seem straightforward, its implementation in daily operations, as demonstrated by Goody, can be complex and requires thoughtful consideration.
Future Trends and Evolving Applications
The evolution from 4G to 5G took 10 years. It has significantly impacted the future geolocation. The introduction of 5G, with its low latency, has revolutionized the way location data is transmitted between devices. This is particularly impactful for GPS, where data can now be transmitted and received almost in real-time, providing greater accuracy and up-to-date tracking information.
For time-sensitive use cases, such as emergency services and logistics, the efficiency gained from 5G's low latency is essential. The increased capability of devices to handle a greater volume of location data means GPS receivers can manage more information efficiently. This technological advancement not only enhances the precision of geolocation but also opens new possibilities for applications in various industries. As we move forward, the integration of 5G is poised to shape the future landscape of geolocation technology.
This lightning-speed* connectivity between IoT and smart devices, which many will use GPS to determine the precise location for, can therefore open geolocation into other industries and have an impact there. For example, healthcare. As we have covered, emergency response services also benefit from geolocation, as it enables swift and accurate location identification in critical situations. The further integration of geolocation technology in healthcare will mark a transformative shift in improving patient care, resource allocation, and emergency services. The outcome? Optimized care coordination and efficient resource allocation.
It can also open up doors to fostering a more responsive and patient-centric healthcare system. Medical intervention and support based on the patient's specific location and needs will enhance their experience.
If it will take another 10 years for the next evolution from 5G (if that's possible), rest assured that this will again have an impact of geolocation. The question remains, how? I don't know. Let's wait another 6 years and find out.
If this article has peaked your interest in the world of geolocation technology and the opportunities it brings, explore our blog and knowledge base pages to learn more.
And if you’re looking to build location-aware mobile apps, and utilize geolocation technology, contact our team or sign up to our dashboard and discover how to build your app with Roam.ai’s Location SDK and APIs today.