Practical Applications of Geofencing

What is “geofencing” and what are its applications? On the first day of the Location Business Summit USA 2010 Tasso Roumeliotis, the CEO of Location Labs, presented a talk that provided the answers. Tasso wanted to explain that location-based services could be built around very practical applications like safety, security, and compliance. He gave a number of examples. Let me briefly describe three (3) examples from his talk.

Example 1: Verifying that a credit card purchase is taking place at the same location as the mobile device of the credit card user.

Example 2: Notifying a parent when a child’s mobile device has left the school grounds.

Example 3: Confirming that a user is within the State of Nevada before he is allowed to place a bet on his mobile device using a gambling application.

These examples help us understand the basic concept between “geofencing”. You set up a “fence” or boundary around a geographic area, and then make decisions (send user a notification or do not allow this action) based on the users location in relation to that fence. Another interesting point Tasso made in his talk was about the ability and importance of locating “dumb” phones, or phones without a GPS chip. He said this would include approximately 75% of the phones on the market in the United States. Sprint currently has an API that can be used to locate over 180 million phones without the need for a GPS chip. When I asked, Tasso explained that Sprint provides error information through its API when providing the API of a mobile device.

One thing I enjoyed about Tasso’s talk was the way he showed the practical application of location-based technologies. His company should be commended for finding ways to put this tech to work. Again, my concerns about spatial data accuracy were aroused. What happens when a user is in a town that straddles the California/Nevada border and wants to place a bet on his mobile phone? How is the geofencing application determining where the state border is? What was the source of their data? How accurate is the users current location as determined by the mobile device? Despite these concerns, this was a good talk.

The Sunburned Surveyor

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  1. All of those things are already being done! Did he add anything new to geofencing discussion? Frankly, I think the marketing plan for Location Labs is to own the term geofence.

    • Anonymous,
      Yes, you are right all those things are being done – by Location Labs. We enabled the first mobile bet last week and are powering fraud detection (still in Beta) – but its all still new. The main example of geofencing use was an auto-checkin and checkout application using our technology – product called Mayor Maker. Feel free to checkout the API
      or also DM me @tassor

  2. I found this very basic, but cool web app that allows you to geofence your own life using Google Latitude: Footprint Feed.


  3. Utilising the Geofence technology and a situation where you have a large mine site with multiple areas which require operators to change radio channels when they cross these boundaries. Can geofencing inter-act with the communication equipment once an operator has crossed that virtual boundary and change radio channels automatically. may sound mundane but overcomes the human element.