Is geo fencing right for my business?

Mobile & Apps

Geofencing, an artificial word from geographic [engl. geographically] and fence Fence]), is a location-based service in which an app or other software uses GPS, RFID, WLAN or cellular radio signals to trigger a previously defined action if a mobile device or an RFID tag has a virtual geographical limit ( Geofence).

Depending on the configuration, the action triggered by geofencing can be a push notification, text message or warning message; well-known scenarios are also the sending of targeted advertising messages in social media or the tracking of vehicle fleets, the deactivation of certain technology or the provision of location-based ones Marketing data.

Some geofences are also set up to monitor activities in security areas, for example by receiving alerts to the administration when someone enters or leaves a certain area. Companies can also use geofencing to monitor employees in the field, to automate time cards or to keep an eye on company property.

How geofencing works

In order to be able to use geofencing, an administrator or developer must first define a virtual boundary around a certain location in GPS or RFID-enabled software. This can be, for example, a simple 25 meter radius from a location in Google Maps, if this was specified when developing a mobile app using APIs. This virtual geofence then triggers a reaction defined by the administrator or developer when an authorized device enters or leaves the defined area.

Usually, a geofence is already predefined in the code of a mobile app, especially since the users have to agree that the app can access location-based services. For example, when you go to the location of an event, there is often an app there that provides information about the event.

A well-known scenario is also that a retailer surrounds its points of sale with a geofence in order to send mobile alerts to customers who have their app installed on their smartphone. In this case, the data for the geofence is stored in the app and the users can decide whether the app can access location services or not.

End users can also set up geofences by using the corresponding functions in mobile apps. These applications, a well-known example would be iOS Reminders, allow the user to select an address or a location and link it to a specific alert or push notification via IFTTT (If this, then that). Such a link would be something like "Turn on the light when I'm two meters from the front door". You can also ask such a reminder app to send you a notification when you are near a certain location (e.g. post office, library ...).

Geofencing is not only suitable for mobile apps - it is also used to control and track vehicles in the logistics industry or livestock in agriculture. And the term also appears frequently in the ongoing discussion about drones, as almost every drone is preprogrammed to support geofencing. No-fly zones are typically areas around airports, stadiums, and other open-air events.

Geofencing applications

With the increasing popularity of mobile devices, geofencing has become part of the standard repertoire for many companies. The reason: Once you have defined a geographical area, the possibilities of what companies can do with it are almost endless. Geofencing is particularly popular in marketing and social media. Some retail and catering businesses are now even setting up geofences around competitors' shops. When potential customers approach the border, they receive a push notification requesting them to visit the other facility.

Another popular scenario is that the customer receives a voucher on their device when they enter a store. If you have downloaded the app of a supermarket chain onto your smartphone, the chances are high that it will notice when you drive past one of their stores and send a notification of special offers.

Here are some other popular geofencing applications:

Social networking: One of the best-known uses for geofencing can be found in well-known social media apps - above all Snapchat: Location-based filters, stickers and other shared content are all made possible by geofencing. Regardless of whether you use an advertising filter at a concert, use a tailor-made filter for a friend's birthday or upload publicly available, location-based stories (custom stories) - all of this only works thanks to these virtual perimeters.

marketing: In addition to social networking, geofencing is a popular way for businesses to advertise special offers in their stores by notifying nearby customers. In addition, companies can use geofencing to tailor advertising to a specific audience to determine which strategies work best based on the user's location.

Involvement of the audience: Geofencing is used to better address crowds at organized events such as concerts, festivals, trade fairs and the like. For example, a concert hall could use a geofence to get social media news or information about the venue or event.

Smart appliances: More and more household appliances are becoming "smart" and are equipped with Bluetooth. This makes it easier than ever to program the refrigerator, for example, to remind its owner to buy milk when he passes a supermarket. Or, thanks to geofencing, the user can ensure that the apartment is at the right temperature when he comes home from work.

Human Resources: Some companies rely on geofencing to monitor their employees, especially those who work in the field. Geofencing is also an easy way to record working hours, as employees are automatically logged in and out at the entrance.

Telematics: Geofencing can also be helpful with telematics. Companies can define virtual zones around locations, work areas and security areas. If this passes a vehicle or a person, a notification or warning is sent to the operator.

Security: Geofencing may intrude on privacy and there is certainly a risk of overshooting the target - depending on how it is used. The virtual borders can also be used to provide more security. So you can z. For example, you can use a geofence to set your smartphone so that it is unlocked at home or that you receive a notification when someone enters or leaves the house. Well-known examples are also money transporters or rental cars - here, too, geofencing ensures that the vehicles only move in a certain area.

Mobile device management: In the mobile environment, too, it can make sense to draw virtual boundaries. With the help of geofencing features in MDM solutions, the IT department can, among other things, ensure that certain devices do not leave the company premises or areas thereof - if they do, an alarm is triggered and the devices are located, locked remotely or even deleted.

It is also possible to make the use or non-use of certain apps or functions dependent on the position. For example, geofencing can be used to deactivate a smartphone's camera when an employee enters a company's research department, and hospitals can ensure that their staff cannot access patient data outside the building.

Geofencing can also play a role in multifactor authentication, i.e. a user can only register in a network if he is inside a building (and not on the other side of the wall).

The future of geofencing

There are some precautions to keep in mind when geofencing - especially when it comes to protecting privacy in marketing. Just last year, for example, Massachusetts was one of the first US states to pass a consumer protection law that opposed the use of location-based advertising. It was triggered by an advertising campaign by Copley Advertising, which was commissioned by a Christian organization. The company had built geofences around 140 abortion clinics in five US cities, including New York and St. Louis, with the result that every user inside or near such a clinic could see anti-abortion advertisements in their browser or on their smartphone got displayed in certain apps.

Despite these and other opportunities for abuse, it does not seem that geofencing will lose its popularity in the near future. The research company MarketsandMarkets assumes that the market for such solutions will grow to 1.8 billion dollars by 2022, which corresponds to an average annual growth of over 27 percent. The market researchers point to the technical advances in the use of location-based data and the rise in corresponding applications in numerous industrial sectors as the reason.