GeoFencing Technology’s Virtual ‘Circle of Trust’

Deepak Halan is associate professor at School of Management Sciences, Apeejay Stya University

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Geofencing, as the name suggests, is a location-based technology that creates a virtual boundary or fence. It is a feature in a software program that uses the global positioning system (GPS) or radio frequency identification (RFID) to define a virtual geographical boundary, establishing a radius of interest that can trigger an action in a geo-enabled phone or any other portable electronic device. It is a very useful technology to define a virtual boundary around a real-world geographical area, to generate alerts based on the defined coordinates of a geographic area.

Geolocation-based marketing methods
Fig. 1: Geolocation-based marketing methods (Source: www.appboy.com)

Geo-location technology allows mobile apps to do incredible things, and geofencing is the next step in this ground-breaking innovation. One of the first users of geofence were farmers who would equip a herd of cattle with GPS units. When the herd of cattle moved out of the geofence set by the farmer, the farmer would receive an alert.

A geofencing-based cattle finder application
Fig. 2: A geofencing-based cattle finder application (Source: www.cattle-watch.com)

Today, geofencing has moved from its expensive commercial use to the realm of consumer application and is widely being incorporated by developers and innovators into their hardware (smartphones, tablets, etc). There are a large number of applications that offer the benefits of geofencing to people like you and me.

As per a recent report from ABI Research, the market for geofencing tools currently stands at about $300 million. With low-cost developer tools becoming accessible, geofencing is coming to the forefront and moving beyond conventional location-based applications to form the backbone of a host of new applications and services.

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In the past, geofencing tools have been tough to develop, costly to licence and known to have limited application areas. With location features now being present in almost all handset types and a host of geofencing tools available from a number of major players, geofencing is expected to soon become an integral part of our daily lives.

How it works

Geofencing allows us to set up automatic alert triggers when a device enters or exits the boundaries defined by the administrator. For example, if the geofence is a geographic virtual boundary surrounding a user’s house, an e-mail or text message is automatically triggered and sent to the user by a geofence-enabled app on the phone when his child with the cell phone enters this area.

It is possible to establish a geofence area around a neighbourhood and have alerts sent out on specified days. For example, alerts could be sent out by a collection company on days fixed for garbage collection as per the schedule entered in geofence-enabled app.

By incorporating Google Earth, administrators can define boundaries superimposed on top of a satellite view of a specific geographical area. Or, they can do this by longitude and latitude, or through user-created and web-based maps.

A virtual boundary superimposed on Google Earth map
Fig. 3: A virtual boundary superimposed on Google Earth map (Source: www.aisc.aero)

Geofence virtual barriers can be either active or passive. Active geofences require the end user to turn on location services and open a mobile app. Passive geofences are ‘always on,’ rely on Wi-Fi and cellular data instead of GPS or RFID, and quietly work in the background.

Geofencing software

A good geofencing software is one that provides a host of information such as the exact location of the object, the time when it entered or exited the geofence, the time it spent at a particular position, and average time spent in travelling from and to a set position. It allows the user to set up a geographical limit as well as a time limit and a call for alert in case of any violation of rules. The zones and times applied can be varied for different objects and different days of the week, if required. The alert type can also be customised.

Geofencing software can be used by different people in a multitude of ways. For example, for a housing maintenance manager, it is important to know if all his vehicles are available on call inside boundaries of the city. Hence he can specify the boundary of the city as a mandatory zone between certain hours from Monday to Friday, or as required.

For insurance purposes, a transport manager needs to be sure that his trucks are parked in the depot overnight, not outside drivers’ homes. Therefore he can specify the location on the map and make it a mandatory zone for a specific time period. Breach of this zone would trigger an alert to the concerned official, preventing misuse of time and fuel.

Geofencing in marketing

Geofencing helps to create a communicative interaction between a brand and its customers. It is useful for businesses to promote their brands, products or offers to enlarge the market size.

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