Geofencing is the use of position data to trigger messaging to mobile devices at specific locations.

Taken separately – ‘geo’ is position, and ‘fencing’ refers to a virtual barrier that one crosses when entering or leaving that location.

The location can be determined in many ways, but primarily refers to GPS derived positions, although it may include beacon proximity as well.

Beacons are small Bluetooth radios that can be detected by the mobile device and provide a notification to the user that they are nearby. The key difference here is how accurately the position is known and what messaging or other actions are desired based on that position. We can imagine for example not needing centimeter accuracy to find a car in a parking lot, but wouldn’t try to guide a robot in a crowded warehouse without it.

How do I use Geofencing?

There are so many different ways to use geofencing that it defies a simple explanation.

Let’s first review how it works.

Geofencing requires three key elements:

  • a smart phone or other mobile device that has GPS position information.
  • an application on the phone for the location-based messaging
  • the programming to generate a message at a specific location.

For our example, given their ubiquity, we’ll consider an iPhone for the phone, Passbook as the application, since it is native to the iPhone, and a pass stored in Passbook as the location-based message programming.

How is the geofencing done?

The geofencing pass is created by someone – it could be a mall owner, store owner, museum staff, etc. – wanting to display a message to someone at a specific location. When they create the pass, they enter the GPS coordinates, or beacon ID, along with the message to be presented on the user’s lock screen when the phone arrives at that location.

How is this being used?

Here is an example using both GPS position and a beacon for geofencing:

A vendor attends many large trade shows and wants their customers to know where they are located and keep them up to date on various activities throughout the show.

The vendor would make a pass, or modify an existing pass, to include the GPS location of the show so that when the customer arrived a message appears on the device.

The message could simply state “Glad you could make it! We’re in booth #337 in the main hall”, or “Our presentation on the main stage starts at 11:00 o’clock”, and provide a link to the map of the floor layout for the customer’s convenience.

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The vendor also programs the pass for a beacon that will be placed at their booth that triggers a message to the customer as they approach the booth to alert them to their proximity and remind them to stop by and say hello.

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How can I use Geofencing?

This is only one small example of what is possible. The combination of smart devices, mobile messaging applications, GPS and beacons creates a powerful tool for customer engagement using geofencing.

To learn more about how to take advantage of this technology for your customer engagement, remember to sign up for our webinar where we’ll present you with 5 Key Tools to Help You Create Effective Passes