What is geofencing? Putting location to work

CIO | Mar 1, 2018

Geofencing is a service that triggers an action when a device enters a set location. From coupons and notifications, to engagement features and security alerts — businesses are finding creative ways to use these virtual boundaries.

What is geofencing? Putting location to work
Geofencing is a service that triggers an action when a device enters a set location. Coupons, notifications, engagement features, security alerts - businesses are finding creative ways to make use of these virtual boundaries.
Geofencing is a location-based service that uses GPS, RFID, Wi-Fi or cellular data to prompt an alert, action or feature on another device. These alerts or prompts are triggered by a mobile device or RFID tag entering or leaving a pre-established virtual boundary.
You're probably most familiar with geofencing in advertising. For example, if you download the app for your favorite grocery store, restaurant or retail chain, and you enable location services, the next time you drive by that location you might get a coupon, promotional ad or a simple reminder to drop in.
Or, you might head into a restaurant, only to receive a prompt from it's competitor across the street. In that case, the geofence is set up around the competition so they can draw customers away.
In both instances, pre-established coordinates dictate a virtual barrier that can be used to engage with customers. However, for this to work, end-users need to opt into the app's location services.
Geofencing is also popular with social networking - most notably in apps like Snapchat, where you can find geo-specific filters that only work within a geo-fence.
You'll also see geofencing used to create audience engagement. For example, a concert venue might use geofences to crowdsource social media posts or to send out information about the venue or event.
Geofencing is also increasingly used with smart appliances - if you have a smart fridge, it can send you a reminder that you're out of milk the next time you drive by a grocery store.
Drones have grown in popularity over recent years, and geofencing is a one way to establish restricted areas for security or privacy. When a drone enters a restricted geofence, it might disable the device or simply send an alert to the user.
There are also applications for geofencing in human resources, telematics and security. It can be used to keep track of a business' vehicle fleet, to see when employees enter or exit the building, or to ensure only verified employees can access secure areas.
While there are plenty of useful applications for geofencing, as with any new technology, it also comes with some cautions. There are valid questions about security and privacy - especially when it comes to targeted advertising. It's likely we'll see more regulation and laws around geofencing. Just last year, Massachusetts became one of the first states to enact a consumer protection law that objects the use of location-based advertising.
Despite potential security and privacy flaws, geofencing technology isn't going anywhere - in fact, it's expected to grow over twenty seven percent by 2022, according to Markets and Markets.