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.

Mona Lisa theft? It is better to set a geographic reminder.

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.

smart home control

The smart home is an area where geofencing really shines. After all, what says «The future is now!» More than approaching your house and turning on the lights as you walk to the door?

RELATED: HTG reviews Philips Hue Lux: Frustration-free smart bulbs for the modern home

It’s not even a parody, as off-the-shelf products, like the previously reviewed Philips Hue system, have smartphone-based geofencing built in. You can tell Hue to turn the lights on and off as you come and go, and/or even have them apply custom scenes to different areas of your home.

You can enjoy similar home/away detection with heating and cooling thanks to the user-friendly Skylark iOS app that pairs with Nest and Honeywell smart thermostats. Android users can use IFTTT scripts or the Nest component in the Life360 app to do the same.


There are many smart geofencing apps out there when it comes to mobile and computer security. For example, Android 5.0 has a handy feature that allows you to turn off the device lock if you are in range of your «home» Wi-Fi node: no longer need to constantly unlock your phone when you just sit on the couch and play with it. during commercial breaks.

You can also set up a miniature geofence around your computer that automatically locks your computer when your phone (and associated Bluetooth radio) moves away from the computer. We detail how to set up this smart little hack here.

Family Tracking

If you have a busy family that you want to keep an eye on (for example, get alerts when your child returns from school and forgets to call you), there are handy geo-fencing solutions, such as the aforementioned Life360 app, available for both iOS and iOS. iOS. Android, which makes it easy to create zones with appropriate notifications.

The Apple Find My Friends app for iOS 8.0+ shown above offers similar functionality with the ability to check locations and set location-based alerts.

Reveal yourself with IFTTT

IFTTT (IF that’s what) is a recipe system that allows you to create recipes such as «If I leave my office, turn on the air conditioner at home» or «If I’m in the house after 9 am on a weekday, send me a message» . boss i’m stuck in traffic» or any other recipe you can make.

IFTTT supports native location tracking for Android and iOS through the official IFTTT app. To see examples of recipes that use location tracking, check out the iOS Location Channel and the Android Location Channel.

While using IFTTT is certainly more complex than, say, using simple geofencing built right into the Hue smart bulb system, it offers a huge degree of flexibility, as almost any of the tens of thousands of IFTTT recipes can be adapted to work with the location app. on your phone.

The future of the geofence

While not yet known to many, geofencing is a natural extension of our desire for our devices to do more (and do more automatically) and reduce the friction they have to interact with their environment.

As devices become more sophisticated and more elements of our homes, vehicles, and workplaces become more stable, «objects of things» expect geofencing to be applied to more and more devices and environments.

This heightened integration can lead to all sorts of novelties, such as workstations that turn off when their owners leave the building, coffee pots that turn on in the morning when the first coffee drinkers arrive, loft fans that circle above life to suck on the cool evening air. You’re driving home, garage doors that open automatically when you turn a corner, and all sorts of little changes that make computers worry about the little things while we focus on things more interesting than wondering if we’ve locked it right. back door.

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