What Is Geofencing?

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 locations. Geofence is then paired with a hardware/software application that responds to a limit in certain ways as determined by geofencing program parameters.

While geofence-based hardware and software solutions have been around for decades, the initial system was very limited, especially for those who wanted to invest in expensive hardware for certain use cases. One of the earliest commercial uses of geofencing is in the livestock industry where a handful of cattle in the herd will be equipped with a GPS unit and if the herd moves outside the geofence set by the farmer then the farmer will receive an alert. A similar system was deployed to maintain and monitor the company’s vehicle fleet where if the company’s vehicles leave the zone assigned to managers at the company will be notified.

That’s all very interesting but as someone who doesn’t run a cattle farm or shipping fleet, you might ask yourself “How does this apply to me? Your title says I have to use geofencing! “So how does that apply to you?

The widespread adoption of smartphones has placed GPS / Wi-Fi / Bluetooth radios in the pockets of millions of consumers and ushered in the age of geolocation markers that were so cheap and scattered everywhere that had pushed geofencing from expensive commercial practices into the realm of consumer applications. What used to be a very expensive tool for very specific applications is now free for developers to put in their software because consumers already have the necessary hardware. As a result, geofencing capabilities have sprung up in everything from shopping lists to smart home control packages.

In other words, there is a whole world of geofencing potential around you that is worth touching. Your smartphone is able to remind you to take dry cleaning when you are near dry cleaners, turn off the thermostat when you drive from your home, and all other useful location-based tricks.

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