The term appears more often in news articles, appears in product manuals, and stands out as a feature in tons of mobile apps, but what exactly is geofencing? Read on to explain what it is, why it’s showing up in more products and apps, and how you can benefit from it.
What is a geofence?
Geofencing is the use of a Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite network and/or local radio frequency identifiers (such as Wi-Fi nodes or Bluetooth beacons) to create virtual boundaries around a location. The geofence is then connected to a hardware/software application that somehow reacts to the boundary according to the program parameters.
While geofence-based hardware and software solutions have been around for decades, early systems were limited mainly to those who wanted to invest in expensive custom hardware for specific use cases. One of the early commercial applications of geofencing was in the livestock industry, where a handful of cattle in a herd would be equipped with GPS devices, and if the herd went beyond the geographical boundaries (geofence) set by the ranch, the rancher would receive alerts. Similar systems have been deployed to protect and monitor company fleets, in which if a company vehicle left an area, it was assigned to company managers.
This is all very interesting, but as someone who doesn’t run a cattle farm or a delivery park, you’re probably asking yourself, «How does this apply to me? Your title said I should use geofencing! «. How does this apply to you?
The widespread use of smartphones has placed GPS/Wi-Fi/Bluetooth radios in the pockets of millions of consumers and ushered in an era of incredibly cheap and ubiquitous geolocation markers that have propelled the geoprobe from an expensive commercial practice to a consumer application. , What used to be a very costly tool for very specific applications can now be included free of charge by developers in their software, since the consumer already has the necessary hardware. As a result, geofencing capabilities are popping up in everything from shopping lists to smart home management packages.
In other words, there is a whole potential of geofencing around you that is worth using. Your smartphone is capable of reminding you to pick up a dry cleaner when you’re near a dry cleaner, turn off the thermostat when you leave the house, and all other location-based handy tricks.
Now that we have a clearer idea of what geofencing is, let’s take a look at real world applications that you can start using today.
Geofences in the application
Over the past few years, geofencing has taken on a wide range of applications and improved everything from to-do lists to household management. The following examples show that the examples are taken from the wide range of applications available, intended to highlight the different ways in which application developers use geofencing. If you have a favorite app that we haven’t mentioned here, by all means go to the comments below and share the app.
One of the most frustrating things about productivity and job completion is remembering that you have to do something when you’re not in the right place to do it. If the dry cleaner is on her way home from work, it’s helpful for the process of leaving work to trigger a reminder to dry clean. If you need files from a specific computer at work, it’s helpful to have a reminder when you arrive at work the next day. Did you forget to buy this adapter in the store? Set a location-based reminder so that the next time you’re in the store, you don’t leave without it.
These location-based triggers and reminders are built into many popular productivity apps. The cross-platform Todoist task list app supports location-based reminders on iOS and Android. The popular cross-platform service RememberTheMilk also supports location-based reminders. iPhone users who just want simple reminders without a complicated task management system can also simply pin a location to any item in the Reminders app.