A Guide To Geofencing

By Natalie Cheng | Apr 13, 2017

This blog post is based on an interview with Kevin Lee, the Manager of Engineering, at ChaiOne.

You may have heard the terms geofence or geofencing, but do you actually know what they mean? What do geofences actually do? Geofencing is a feature in a software program that uses GPS to interact with geographical boundaries. Geofences are virtual perimeters for a real-world geographic area that is defined by the latitude and longitude with the radius area on a map. In simple terms, geofences essentially show you a place on a globe.

Why do geofences matter? Mobile operating systems such as iOS and Android have instruments that will tell your app when you come in and out of geofences. These devices have frameworks that will give you a location. As people move about throughout the world, developers can get interesting insights into areas that they are focused on through mobile apps. With this data, you can see how apps are operating in and out of specific cities. In addition, you can drop circles on the globe and interact with them.

Conserving the power on your mobile device is crucial because you never know when you’ll need it. Geofences allow you to reduce the power consumption in apps because it doesn’t continually monitor locations, which can be a huge battery drain. When power is turned down, geofences have low level systems that will take care of tracking locations by coordinating with cell towers. It helps by offering a power-optimized way to track areas you are in.

Benefits of Geofencing

In such a mobile world, there are many benefits of having location data and using geofences. Various advantages of geofencing include remote servicing, segmenting the market based on geographic locations, and enabling better delivery of services.

1. Remote Servicing

Geofencing can be beneficial to companies that have field operators or a mobile workforce. How? With geofences, companies can take advantage of remote servicing. For example, a lease operator could go to a well site and then find more information about it by just getting near the geofence. Once the lease operator is in the geofence, he or she can look at a mobile app that will automatically load the screens that are relevant to the equipment on the premise. Another example would be a derrickhand that is responsible for maintaining the mud pumps. The derrickhand can narrow down the issue by looking at the service history. If geofences weren’t there, the user would have to dig around for the right information before he is able to fix the mud pump. Geofencing helps make the process more efficient by delivering relevant information and saving the user time.

2. Segmenting the market

Another benefit of geofencing is the ability to segment the market. With this technology, companies can detect when groups of users are near each other. This can be advantageous to sports arenas such as a baseball park. With geofencing, baseball parks can figure out where the largest concentration of fans are so that they can directly market to people in that area. The baseball park can offer specials on food, merchandise, etc. Besides detecting when groups of users are near each other, geofencing allows you to segment the market based on geographic locations.

3. Enabling better delivery of services

Geofencing helps in the overall goal of gathering relevant information to deliver better services to customers. The data collected can be used to build more contextual applications and higher level workflows. Users can take more specific actions with this information.

Problems with Geofencing

With any technology, there are bound to be a few issues. A few problems that users will have to deal with include:

  • A limited number of geofences you can track – Due to power constraints, Apple has set a limit of 20 geofences. This means that developers can only monitor 20 geofences per app.
  • Have to build it yourself – You have to swap geofences all the time in order to meet the tight limit that was mentioned earlier. It will be hard to manage and collect information on usage patterns on a huge campus. You’ll have to spend time to engineer a solution around these limits.

What is ContextHub?

ContextHub is a platform we created that leverages contextual awareness using algorithms. The algorithm figures out which geofences are the most significant. Thus, you’re only monitoring one geofence and then caching the rest of the locations.

In ContextHub, geofences are all hosted in the cloud where you can track them. Furthermore, it only uses 1 (out of 20) of your limited number of Apple fences to track all of your geofences. ContextHub delivers real-time reports that matter.

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