1. What is geofencing
Let’s start by introducing what geofencing is, its definition, how it works, and its importance for businesses and individuals.
A geofence is a location based technology that uses GPS or other location tracking technologies to create a virtual boundary or "fence" around a specific geographic area. When a mobile device or other tracking device enters or exits this virtual boundary, it triggers a pre-defined action or event.
How does geofencing work
A geofence is first created around a specific location, such as a store, a stadium, or a city block. Then, the location of a certain device must be collected in order to know when the mobile device or tracking device enters or exits the geofence. If an entry or an exit event is detected it triggers a pre-defined action or event, such as sending a push notification, displaying an ad, or alerting security personnel.
Importance for businesses and individuals
Geofencing enables app developers to add more functionality to their app and create unique and tailored user experiences. It can provide businesses and individuals with a range of benefits, including targeted marketing, improved safety and security, and better logistics and transportation management. With more and more apps using location services, these virtual boundaries have become a quintessential component of create location based experiences within certain apps. Their applications in last-mile delivery, ride-hailing, or retail have become all the rage in recent years.
2. Geofencing technology and its components
There are different technical components, each with a certain degree of importance.
Location tracking and mapping
Location tracking is a key component of geofencing technology, as it is what will determine whether a user enters or leaves the virtual boundary created. Most apps that use geofences will primarily use GPS position as the sole source of data for location tracking, but GPS hardware can also be used.
While these options provide a basic understanding of a user’s position, opting for a more accurate way to collect location updates is crucial. If too much GPS drift occurs a user might not be detected, even if they are at the center of the desired area. With a more accurate location tracking technology you will be able to guarantee a much higher hit-rate.
Mobile devices and wireless networks
Geofencing also relies on mobile devices and wireless networks, which allow for real-time tracking and communication. Much like the accuracy of the location tracking technology is important, the real-time aspect is just as crucial. Geofences are all about triggering events or functionalities when a user reaches a certain location. This becomes a lot more difficult to deliver if there is too much delay in the location update.
- Software and algorithms: Geofencing software and algorithms are used to create, manage, and analyze geofences and location data. These software and algorithms can be customized to meet specific business or individual needs. This may include adding marketing functionalities for location based marketing, or including algorithms to process the entry and exit events data.
- Other technologies that support geofencing: Other technologies, such as Bluetooth beacons and RFID tags, can also be used in conjunction to provide more precise location tracking and communication. These can be used to create more accurate and diverse experiences.
3. Types of geofences
Geofences come in all shapes and sizes in order to be able to accommodate for different use cases. Depending on the quality of the software you develop or purchase, you might be able to use one or more of these types.
Geofences can come in different shapes. The most basic shapes being a circle or square with a certain radius. These shapes are useful when speed and efficiency are the most important variables.
However, for use-cases that require more customizability, certain companies support polygon shapes. This enables developers to create a completely custom virtual boundary around a park, a building block, a parking lot, etc.
User specific geofences are an advanced feature that allow developers to create scenarios only for certain users. Unlike standard geofences that apply to all users, this method is personalized to individual users and can be triggered by their unique profile information.
By grouping users, further customization can be added by creating geofences specific to a group of users rather than an individual user.
Time sensitive geofences are an essential feature that enable developers to create custom scenarios based on the time of day. This functionality can be useful for businesses that want to target users with location based offers during certain hours, such as happy hours at a restaurant or sales at a store.
It can also be used to set up temporary geofences for events or campaigns that only run for a limited time, ensuring that users are only targeted with relevant information when it is most valuable to them.
A very rare but powerful functionality is the ability to pass metadata into the parameters of the geofence. Each company collects data on their users, some might be more personal than others. This can be demographics, purchase history, or other more specific data points.
Imagine being able to pass that data into certain geofences, to ensure the events are only triggered in hyper specific use-cases. For example, only triggering events for females aged 30-40 that have recently purchased a certain product.
The final type is a moving geofence. Traditionally, geofences are set around a specific area and trigger events when moving users enter or leave said area. However, some companies allow you to place a geofence around a specific user, which will follow that user as it moves, rather than being set around a location. This opens up room for creativity in various use-cases for delivery, ride-hailing, or even certain dating apps like Happn.
4. Applications of geofencing
Geofencing can be used to create targeted marketing campaigns that reach consumers in specific locations, such as near a store or at a sporting event. By sending push notifications or displaying ads to users who enter a geofenced area, businesses can increase their visibility and engagement with potential customers. This practice is called location based marketing, which we've written a lengthier blog about.
Another application of this technology is hyperlocal social media marketing. Apps like Snapchat use geofencing in their filter selection and create geotags in certain locations. Hyperlocal social media marketing could be useful for platforms like Instagram or TikTok to display ads on a users feed according to where they are currently located while on the app.
Retail and e-commerce
Geofencing can also be used in retail and e-commerce settings to improve the shopping experience. For example, retailers can use geofencing to send special offers or coupons to customers when they enter a store or to track inventory and product availability. The possibilities in retail and e-commerce are even more interesting when beacons are used as well.
Fleet management and logistics
Geofencing can help businesses manage their fleets and logistics more efficiently by providing more accurate and real-time information on when delivery points are reached. This can improve delivery times, reduce fuel costs, and optimize routes.
Safety and security
Geofencing can also be used to improve safety and security in a variety of settings, such as airports, schools, and hospitals. By creating virtual boundaries around restricted areas, security personnel can be alerted when unauthorized individuals enter these areas.
5. Best practices
Before committing to using this technology there are certain best practices to be aware of in order to maximize their efficiency.
Planning and setting up
Businesses and individuals should carefully plan and set up their geofences to ensure that they are effective and efficient. This includes choosing the right location, defining the size and shape, and selecting the appropriate triggers and actions. All of these checks can either be done manually, or automatically by setting up certain algorithms.
Defining the right size and shape
The size and shape of a geofence can have a big impact on its effectiveness. Businesses and individuals should carefully consider this in order to ensure that the selected size and shape is appropriate for the intended purpose. Certain use-cases might call for a standard circle or square shape, whilst others require a more tailored polygon. Not picking the right shape could mean you are not optimizing the geofence's capability to reach users in the zones they should be detected in.
Choosing the appropriate triggers and actions
Geofencing triggers and actions should be carefully selected to ensure that they are relevant and useful. For example, sending a push notification to a customer who has just entered a store may be more effective than sending one to a customer who is already inside the store. Teams should spend time identifying the goal of a certain geofence campaign and make sure the chosen triggers match that goal.
Complying with data privacy regulations
Businesses and individuals should also be aware of data privacy regulations when using geofencing technology. They should ensure that they are collecting and using location data in a transparent and ethical manner, and that they are obtaining consent from users when necessary. Geofences should not be used to exploit data privacy laws, rather they should be built and used according to those laws.
6. Benefits of geofencing
Geofencing offers a range of benefits, including targeted marketing, improved safety and security, and better logistics and transportation management. They also allow tech teams to create hands free experiences where certain actions can be paired with entry and exit events to trigger actions without the end-user performing an action in the app.
However, there are also some challenges, such as the potential for data privacy violations and technical challenges during the set up phase. Depending on the quality of the geofence provider, certain functionalities may be missing or be too difficult and tedious to set up.
7. Future trends and developments
Geofencing is an evolving technology that is likely to see continued innovation and development in the future. For example, the use of augmented reality and virtual reality technologies could provide a number of exciting opportunities across many applications of the famous virtual boundaries.
Furthermore, there are a range of opportunities and challenges in the future, such as the need for improved data privacy and security, and the potential for new use cases and applications. As more and more apps use location services, newer use-cases are bound to arise, which creates a lot of new opportunities.
8. Conclusion and summary of key takeaways
A key takeaway is that geofencing is a location based technology that uses GPS or other location tracking technologies to create a virtual boundary or "fence" around a specific geographic area.
There are a variety of applications in marketing, retail, and transportation amongst others. It can be used to send targeted push notifications, track the location of assets or personnel, and improve logistics and transportation management.
When implementing geofencing, it is important to carefully plan and consider factors such as the size and shape, the selection of triggers and actions, and compliance with data privacy regulations.
Geofencing offers a range of benefits, but also poses challenges, such as the potential for data privacy violations and technical challenges in setting up and managing the virtual boundaries themselves.
This evolving technology is likely to see continued innovation and development. Its future presents opportunities and challenges, such as the need for improved data privacy and security, and the potential for new use cases and applications.
Overall, geofencing is a powerful and versatile technology that can offer a range of benefits to businesses and individuals. However, careful planning and consideration are required to ensure it is used effectively and ethically. As technology continues to evolve, it will be interesting to see how geofencing is used in new and innovative ways to solve complex problems and improve our experience with mobile apps.
Want to know what we do at Roam?
Thank you for reading! If you’re interested in developing a mobile app with geofencing and want to power it with reliable and accurate location tracking, check out our Geofencing API It offers customizable tracking modes, always-on tracking, offline location tracking, and mock location prevention. With low battery drain, your app can offer top-notch location tracking without draining battery life. Check out our Geofencing API page to find out more.