What is a location SDK? A Complete Guide for 2024

Marc Kranendonk
Marc Kranendonk
Content Manager
January 30, 2024

--Updated on January 30th, 2024--

In short: Location SDK's are a great alternative to building mobile location-aware features from scratch; reducing the go-to-market time, decreasing cost, supported with maintenance and updates, scalable with needs and growth, and offering high quality data developed by experts. They contribute in a range of mobile apps, and help streamline businesses by improving the user experience and insights. With the geolocation market growing year by year, quality location data is growing in value too. Those seeking how to utilize this data for mobile apps should consider using a location software development kit.

In a previous article, we explored the larger question of “what is an SDK?”. In this article, we're going to dive deeper into the specifics of a location SDK is, how they benefit location-aware applications across industries, their features, the type of data they can collect, and a discussion on their future development.

What is a location SDK?

While GPS is the most well-known service, there are several different sources and types of location data including Wi-Fi, beacons and bidstream. One of the most common and efficient ways to detect location data is using a location SDK.

Location SDKs provide all the tools and documentation needed to detect and process accurate location data and location intelligence from a user’s device. In other words:

A Location Software Development Kit is a set of tools and APIs that developers use to build location-based services and location-aware mobile applications. It allows developers to accurately collect and analyze user location data.

SDKs use a variety of methods to collect and process location real-time location data from a user's device. These methods include GPS, WiFi, cell tower triangulation, and more to identify and process a device's geographic location.

Once the data is collected, the SDK processes it to determine the user's location, accuracy, and other relevant information. This data can then be used by developers to power a range of location-based features, such as on-demand delivery tracking, geofencing, or location-based marketing through location history.

They are also are used for a wide range of use cases from on-demand delivery tracking, targeted location-based advertising campaigns to simply and accurately showing a user’s real-time location on the map. If you’ve ever been sent a friend's location, or tracked the food you just ordered as it comes to you, chances are a location SDK is behind it!

One of the key benefits of using a location software development kit is the ability to collect accurate and reliable location data.

This is particularly important in use cases such as logistics and transportation, where even a small error in location data can lead to significant delays and other issues. By using a location SDK that is specifically designed for location accuracy, developers can ensure that their application is providing users with the most precise location information possible.

Each SDK will have different capabilities depending on who is supplying it. Some combine and process data from multiple sources to increase the accuracy and precision of native location data. Others are designed to be "always-on", even when the user is offline or the app is running in the background. And some are built specifically to process data into detailed location intelligence of the user's movements for marketing or ad campaigns.

It's important for app developers to carefully evaluate the different options available and choose an SDK that is best suited to their specific needs. So it’s important to evaluate what you need for your application before making your choice.

What are the benefits of location SDKs?

So why should you use a third-party location software development kit instead of building your own solution from scratch?

Creating quality location-aware functionality for mobile devices from scratch can be costly and time-consuming.

Using a pre-existing SDK is a great alternative to building your own, with fast integration and reliable data to bring your location-aware app to life without the hassle. It requires expertise in geolocation, data collection, and data analysis, which may not be available in-house.

Using a third-party location SDK is a cost-effective and efficient solution. These SDKs are often pre-built with all the necessary tools and documentation, making it easy for developers to integrate location-based features into their applications quickly and without the need for specialized expertise.

Building and maintaining a custom location-aware solution is a significant ongoing expense for companies. Third-party kits, on the other hand, often come with ongoing maintenance and support from the SDK provider. This includes regular updates, bug fixes, and technical support, which can help ensure that your location-based features continue to function smoothly over time.

Another benefit of using a third-party location kit is the ability to scale your location-aware application as your needs grow. These SDKs are often designed to work with large volumes of location data, making it easy to process data from multiple sources and handle large user bases. This scalability can be particularly important for companies that are looking to grow their user base or expand their location-based features.

Most importantly, high-quality location data is vital. Whether it's for location-based marketing campaigns or tracking a delivery, you need to ensure your data is accurate and consistent in order to deliver a great user experience and gain the insights you need. Location SDKs are designed in a way that allows you to always collect reliable, accurate, and noise-free data.

6 industry use cases for location SDKs

The geolocation market is projected to reach $161 Billion by 2028, at a compound annual growth rate of 33.7%. Location SDKs have had a large role in this overperforming growth, and will continue to do so. They contribute in a variety of everyday consumer apps, and help streamline businesses with brand-new insights.

Here are just a few industry use cases that location SDKs can benefit:

  1. Ride-hailing:  Users wouldn't be able to connect with nearby drivers without location technology. Location data is used to connect users with drivers, track the location of the driver, create optimize routes, pick-up and drop-off points, and finally, predict an accurate ETA.
  2. Delivery: Quality real-time location data is needed to accurately track a delivery personnel and order for a smooth handover, predict the ETA, and optimize routes for the shortest delivery time possible.
  3. Fitness applications: Location SDKs are crucial to helping fitness app users accurately plan and track their exercise route and distance. A location SDK allows your users to track their runs, bikes and walks in real-time with precise accuracy. That means you can track users no matter the speed or mode of transport
  4. User Tracking: Whether it's for family tracking or salesforce tracking, precise location, utilize a location SDK for your user tracking app to ensure safety, privacy, speed, accuracy, and battery efficiency of location tracking.
  5. Logistics and asset monitoring: Real-time, accurate and battery efficient location data is extremely useful for streamlining delivery and asset movements. Also, with location-based insights, you can gather information to improve the efficiency of your delivery and tracking of assets.
  6. Retail (Location-based marketing): Target user’s at the right time using their physical location. For example, send a personalized discount when a user enters your store or send out reminders for your event when a user is close to the location.  

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Location SDK

You have a range of location software development kits to choose from, with some more popular, like the Samsung location SDK. Here are a few things to think about when selecting the right one.

  1. Accuracy: When you’re looking for the right software kit it starts with guaranteeing accurate location tracking within your desired range.
  2. Data quality: Location updates require consistent data processing in order to avoid GPS drifting and inaccurate tracking. With more people using mobile data, and more apps needing location technology for its features, the way data is processed and delivered is pertinent.
  3. Cost: Evaluating the cost of using a third-party SDK can be boiled down to two factors; the size of your company, and your location tech needs.  The plan you choose depends on what location services and features you need for your app to perform optimally, such as, the number of location updates.
  4. Ease of use: A location software development kit has to be lightweight, compatible for both iOS and Android apps, and easy to implement because that’s what developers want.  For that you also need good docs for the integration phase. The last thing a developer wants is to constantly contact support for help. In sum, it should be lightweight, friendly, secure, easy to integrate, and have clear docs.

Roam.ai’s location SDK features

What makes Roam.ai’s SDK different from the variety of other location SDKs?

We’ve designed a fully customizable SDK that solves the problems of inaccurate and battery-draining location data collection. Plus, we’ve made our technology accessible to a range of different businesses, in terms of size and use case.  

Here are some features of Roam.ai’s location SDK that directly bring value to apps:

  • Accurate: Through combining sensors on the phone with GPS and WiFi, and removing any noisy data points with filters, we can guarantee an accuracy of up to 5 meters with no location updates delivered outside your desired range.
  • Battery efficient: Don’t waste your user’s battery and lose their trust unnecessarily. With adaptive tracking modes, you can decide the amount of battery drain for your specific use case.
  • Customizable: You can choose exactly what data you need from your users, at what time or distance intervals and how accurate you need the data to be. Plus, Roam.ai provides four location APIs including Trips and Geofencing, so you can create a complete and truly personalized location-based experience for any use case!
  • Highly reliable tracking: We have three features to guarantee high reliable tracking. Always-on, offline tracking, and mock-location prevention. All three features guarantee no data is lost whether the app is closed, the mobile is offline, or if the user is using mock location apps. Read more details of these features.
  • Optimized for all devices: With an iOS SDK and Android SDK optimized for broad integration across almost all devices, you can ensure that your location features work seamlessly for all your users.

What data does Roam.ai’s location tracking SDK collect?

Location software development kits collect a lot more than simply latitude and longitude. Roam.ai’s location SDK collects a wide range of data with every location update. You can use this data to make informed decisions or other features into your app.

The data comes as a JSON file that you can customize depending on what data you need for your use case.

A list of the types of data that Roam.ai's SDK collects, in a JSON file

User privacy and location permissions

The ability to track and gain insights into a person's whereabouts is something that has rightly raised a number of privacy concerns. But there are a myriad of regulations and guidelines designed to protect users’ privacy.

Roam.ai’s SDK, for example, is GDPR- and CCPA-certified and commits to never sell or share location data to third parties. Instead, the SDK is designed to simply provide maximum value to use cases that many of us can’t live without. However, you always need to ensure you’re using an SDK from a trusted source!

Additionally, every location SDK code requires users to grant permissions at every stage of the process in order to function with the device. An app must request permissions for any kind of location tracking, either foreground or background.

To read more about location permissions, check out the iOS and Android location permissions guidelines and Roam.ai’s blog post about location permission best practices.

Future of Location SDKs

As mentioned earlier, the geolocation industry is projected to see a significant increase in value since 2021 and until 2028. These types of reports can mean one thing; the use of location-based services continues to grow, and the future of location SDKs is likely to see advancements. Here are some potential developments that we expect could happen down the road:

Advancements in AI and machine learning

It seems to be the only thing we talk about nowadays, but it’s undeniable that AI is going to change the overall tech and business landscape. It’s here to stay.

We could see location software development kits increasingly incorporate AI and machine learning algorithms to improve the accuracy and precision of location data. For instance, machine learning can help predict a user's location even when the GPS signal is weak or unavailable, by analyzing data from other sensors such as accelerometers or gyroscopes.

Machine learning can also be used to improve location-based recommendations and personalization, by analyzing a user's past behavior and preferences.

Should any of these developments happen in the future, let’s not give that kind of technology to a robot that has a striking resemblance to Arnold Schwarzenegger looking for a Sarah Connor. They do not need that kind of advantage.

Increased use of sensors and IoT devices

Location software kits will continue to incorporate data from a wider range of sensors and IoT devices. For example, location data can be collected from beacons, WiFi access points, and other IoT devices to provide more precise and accurate location information.

The adoption of these sensors are already happening with more sophisticated location-based services, such as indoor navigation and location-based advertising. We expect to see it rise in popularity as they work seamlessly across multiple devices and platforms.

The growing importance of privacy and security

As the use of location data becomes more prevalent, privacy and security concerns will become more important. Introduction of regulations and laws such as GDPR have already made an impact on personal data protection and privacy.

More and more location-specific SDKs will need to incorporate strong privacy and security features, such as anonymization and encryption, to protect user data from unauthorized access.

Transparency about how location data is being used will be a given and users should have more control and knowledge about how their data is shared.

Third-party Cookies will become obsolete at the end of 2024, and this will have an affect on the way companies, like digital advertising agencies, collect data. Non-personal location data will be one avenue that can adapt with this change, whilst upholding the importance of privacy and security of individuals.

Integration with other technologies

Location software development kits will increasingly be integrated with other technologies such as augmented reality, virtual reality, and 5G networks.

This will enable new and exciting location-based experiences, such as immersive location-based gaming or real-time 3D mapping. We should all embrace another Pokemon Go craze to run rampant across the app stores of Android and iOS in the near future.

The rise of edge computing

Finally, the rise of edge computing. Edge computing is an emerging computing development which refers to the processing and analysis of data to occur at the edge of the network, rather than in a centralized location.

As the goal of edge computing is to improve the processing of data, such as location data, at greater speeds and volumes, it will enable location-based services to work even when the network connection is slow or unreliable.

Want to know what we do at Roam?

if you’re looking to build location-aware mobile apps, and utilize location 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.

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Marc Kranendonk
Marc Kranendonk
Content Manager
January 30, 2024