The Growth of Geofence Tools within the Mapping Technology Sphere

Written by Michael Grosinger and Chris Hackett

google marketMapping technology has experienced some of the most rapid evolvements within the emerging technology era. The widespread adaptation and utilization of Global Positioning System (GPS) technology has paved the way for many technologies to be built surrounding location data. Geofencing tools are a significant element within this space, as they have revolutionized the way that we view, understand, and segment location data across a variety of businesses. However, Geofencing faced much skepticism in its earlier age. Prior to the technology developments that we have seen first-hand across a variety of industries, the technology development process behind Geofencing was deemed as very cumbersome and costly to deploy. Recently, it has evolved into a complex and revolutionary location-centric application, serving a plethora of business sectors. The amalgamation of real-time data, and geographic information, allows businesses to gain insight from data that can be used towards company strategy and decision making. The Geofencing technology market as a whole is projected to reach $300 million by 2017. 1

The mobile workforce environment is a business sector that has been benefiting greatly from the use of Geofence technology. To put it in layman’s terms, imagine a map with a circle around a specific location. That circle portrays a targeted location that will track the entrance and exit from that defined geographic area, or “fence.” A Geofence could be dynamically generated—as in a radius around a store or point location. Or a Geofence can be a predefined set of boundaries, like school attendance zones or neighborhood boundaries. Every organization operates in its own unique manner, and as a result, they require extensive customization abilities from the technologies that they utilize. Geofence technologies offer those abilities. Custom-digitized Geofences have been in use since 2004 for multiple online mapping applications since their development by Dr. Vinay Rawlani at the University of Missouri-Columbia.2

When the location-aware device of alocation-based service(LBS) user enters or exits a geo-fence, the device receives a generated notification. This notification contains information about the location of the device. The Geofence notice can be delivered to a centralized command center where a fleet of vehicles can be tracked simultaneously. This information can also be sent directly to a mobile device. This idea is highly applicable to subjects relating to timesheet verification, and client billing matters. A Geofence can be created to display when an employee has arrived or departed from a customer site.  For example, a company in the Waste Industry can create Geofences at various customer locations to track what time the vehicle arrived for a pick-up to enhance customer satisfaction.  This technology can also be married with GPS location to work on route optimization and thereby reduce overall operational costs and increase business efficiencies.

The technology goes a step further, as it can be highly valuable for a company’s asset and equipment management. Its use would allow a business to track their equipment if it ‘breaks’ a Geofence. This can relate to a case of missing, or stolen equipment. Using the Geofence, combined with GPS technology will allow for faster recovery of the stolen property.

Additionally, many cities have implemented no-drive zones. These are restricted areas where certain vehicles cannot enter during specific hours of the day. The use of a Geofence would allow a business to geographically define these areas and alert drivers when they are approaching one of those restricted zones. The use of this technology can eliminate the potential of any penalties associated with driving in a restricted area.

computer map

In some organizations, Geofencing is used by the Human Resource department to monitor employees working in special locations, especially within the field service industry. With the use of a Geofence tool, an employee is allowed to log his attendance using a GPS-enabled device upon reaching a designated perimeter.

When companies maintain control over the daily activities and position of employees, it will allow businesses to better track that their employees are physically where they are supposed to be in real-time. This allows a business owner to ensure that someone is closest to a client location when needed as opposed to having them located in an unassigned area in which they are working. This eliminates any questions around the specific location the employee was in at any given time during the day. Furthermore, if there are areas where employees should not be frequenting, these can be placed into the Geofence system to confirm that employees are not putting company assets at risk (nor themselves) by entering areas that are deemed unsafe or unproductive by the employer. According to Amber Case, the Director of Esri’s Research & Development department, the proper implementation of Geofencing will open our eyes to new ways that we can make use of location applications in non-intrusive and innovative manners.3

Geofencing also represents a critical element within telematics hardware and software. It allows system users to draw zones around places of work, customer sites and secure areas. The ability to mark secure areas with these tools helps us understand the tremendous dividends that the technology could pay within any security environment as well. These Geofences when crossed by an equipped vehicle or person can trigger a warning to the user or operator via SMS or Email.

Geofence, in a security strategy model, provides security to wireless local area networks. This is completed by using predefined boundaries, e.g., an office space with borders established by positioning technology attached to a specially programmed server. The office space becomes an authorized location for designated users and wireless mobile devices.

computer map2

As the usage of this technology continues to skyrocket, it is clear that the role of geofence technology within the digital era will continue to become more prevalent. To move the concept beyond the mobile workforce, another primary focus for Geofence technology is around the support of applications that will offer consumers an enhanced shopping experience. With the mobile advertising boom in full swing, Geofence tools have been launched to distribute location specific advertisements to customers on their smartphones.4

The level of focus in this area combined with the economic opportunities that it presents will drive the continued application development in this arena. Additionally, there will be other business sectors that will derive benefit from the applications developed and deployed to support these consumer focused solutions. The incredible benefits of geofencing are vivid, and the number of business sectors that continue to launch this technology is well on the rise.

Works Cited

(1) Albright, Brian. “How Geofencing Can Expand The Benefits Of Your Mobile Solution.” Field Technologies Online. 24 May 2013. Web. 5 Dec. 2014. <http://www.fieldtechnologiesonline.com/doc/how-geofencing-can-expand-the-benefits-of-your-mobile-solution-0001?immediate=true&user=2376565>.

(2) Lamarca, Anthony, and Eyal De Lara. “Location Systems: An Introduction to the Technology Behind Location Awareness.” Synthesis Lectures on Mobile and Pervasive Computing (2008): 1-122. Print. (3) Berg, Tom. “Geofencing: More Than ‘Big Brother'” TruckingInfo. 1 Aug. 2009. Web. 5 Dec. 2014. <http://www.truckinginfo.com/channel/fleet-management/article/story/2009/08/geofencing-more-than-big-brother.aspx>.

(3) Berg, Tom. “Geofencing: More Than ‘Big Brother'” TruckingInfo. 1 Aug. 2009. Web. 5 Dec. 2014. <http://www.truckinginfo.com/channel/fleet-management/article/story/2009/08/geofencing-more-than-big-brother.aspx>.

(4) Moltz, Barry. “Geofencing: The Latest Tool To Attract Mobile Customers.” OPEN Forum. American Express, 8 Oct. 2013. Web. 5 Dec. 2014. <https://www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/openforum/articles/geofencing-the-latest-tool-to-attract-mobile-customers/>.