Geofencing is a technology that defines boundaries around a particular area.

In the real world, fences are physical barriers that mark the extent of someone’s private property, or that keep people and animals out. The fences referred to here are virtual boundaries established by Global Positioning Systems (GPS), electronic sensors, and the Internet.

Today the main use of geofencing is for companies to target customers with marketing promotions based on where they are located at the moment.

Other interesting terms…

Read More about Geofencing

Geofencing was invented in the early 1990s and patented in 1995 by American inventor Michael Dimino. The technology has significantly evolved since then. Learn more about geofencing here.

How Does Geofencing Work?

As a virtual boundary around real-world locations, geofencing works by specifying the latitude and longitude coordinates or exact addresses of specific areas. This geofence can then be read by mobile devices with a geofencing app or related settings configured.

When a mobile device enters or exits a geofence, it triggers an alert that gets sent to the device or a server. You can see some actual examples of geofencing in this video.

What Are the Different Geofencing Types?

Geofencing can be active or passive.

Active geofencing requires user consent and is typically used for marketing. Users receive notifications when they enter or exit active geofences. Marketers can use the alerts to send coupons, offer free services, or even remind them of certain brands.

Passive geofencing does not require user consent and is typically used for security or tracking purposes. Events get logged when a device enters or exits passive geofences. This information can track a device’s location or trigger an alarm if it enters a restricted area.

Active geofencing versus passive geofencing

A geofence can also be classified into these types.

  • Rectangular geofence: A rectangular geofence is the most common type of geofence. It is a simple shape defined by its latitude and longitude coordinates.
  • Circular geofence: A circular geofence is defined by a central point and a radius, typically used to track a person’s or asset’s location.
  • Polygon geofence: A polygon geofence is defined by a series of points to track the locations of complex areas, such as parks or campuses.
  • Radius geofence: This type of geofence has a central point and a radius and is often used to track people’s or assets’ locations.
  • Wi-Fi geofence: A Wi-Fi geofence is defined by a Wi-Fi network. It is often used to track the locations of devices connected to a specific Wi-Fi network.

What Are the Uses of Geofencing?

Geofencing traces its origin from serving as a means to track the locations of mobile phones. For example, Nokia added a geofencing feature to its mobile phones in 2001, calling it “Place Finder.” Today, geofencing is used in a wide variety of processes, including:

  • Market research: Geofencing can show how frequently customers visit a store, how long they stay there, and in what sections they stay the longest. Companies can use these insights to create targeted marketing strategies.
  • Cybersecurity: Security companies use geofencing to track the locations of devices and assets to help keep unauthorized people out of corporate networks and systems.
  • Law enforcement: In many countries, law enforcement agencies use geofencing to track the locations of suspects in real time. They can also identify crime witnesses by setting up geofences around crime scenes and identifying whose devices were in the area at the time the crime was committed.
  • Mining: Geofencing can help create virtual blast zones around mining operations. That helps ensure that personnel and equipment remain safe during blasting operations.
  • Vehicle speed and movement tracking: Several industries utilize geofencing to monitor vehicle movements. For example, taxi operators can create geofences around their coverage areas, while bus operators can monitor vehicles’ speed using geofencing. 

These are just a few examples of the real-world geofencing applications. There are more specific use cases across various industries, such as education, finance, healthcare, and telecommunications.

Is Geofencing Ethical?

Some people have privacy concerns about geofencing since the technology can track the locations of mobile devices without their users’ knowledge or consent. While the answer may depend on various factors, there are some ways to protect your privacy while using geofencing, such as:

  • Only allow geofencing apps from trusted sources.
  • Read the privacy policy of any geofencing app before using it.
  • Turn off geofencing when you don’t need it.

Geofencing is a powerful technology for various purposes. However, it is crucial to be aware of the privacy concerns associated with it and take the necessary steps to protect your privacy.