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geo-fencing (geofencing)

Geo-fencing (geofencing) is a feature in a software program that uses the global positioning system (GPS) or radio frequency identification (RFID) to define geographical boundaries.

Geo-fencing allow an administrator to set up triggers so when a device enters (or exits) the boundaries defined by the administrator, an alert is issued. Many geo-fencing applications incorporate Google Earth, allowing administrators to define boundaries on top of a satellite view of a specific geographical area.  Other applications define boundaries by longitude and latitude or through user-created and Web-based maps.

Geofence virtual barriers can be active or passive. Active geofences require an end user to opt-in to location services and a mobile app to be open. Passive geofences are always on; they rely on Wi-Fi and cellular data instead of GPS or RFID and work in the background.  

The technology has many practical uses, including:

Use Example
Drone management A sporting event can use geo-fencing to create a temporary no-fly zone that prevents drones from crossing a defined perimeter.
Fleet management Geo-fencing can alert a dispatcher when a truck driver breaks from his route.
Human resource management An employee's smart card will send an alert to security if the employee attempts to enter an unauthorized, geo-fenced area.
Compliance management Network logs can record geo-fence crossings to document the proper use of devices and their compliance with established policies.
Marketing A small business can text an opt-in customer a coupon code when the customer's smartphone enters a defined geographical area.
Asset management A network administrator can set up alerts so when a hospital-owned iPad leaves the hospital grounds, the administrator can monitor the device's location and lock it down to prevent it from being used.
Law enforcement An ankle bracelet can alert authorities if an individual under house arrest leaves the premises.
Home automation When the home owner's smartphone leaves the home's geo-fenced perimeter, the thermostat lowers itself to a pre-defined temperature.

 

See also: geolocation, geotargeting, telemetry

This was last updated in December 2016

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There is also a big distinction between point-radius geofences that lack any context for a given area, and geofences that a company like Maponics provides, where it's possible to have insights about a given location to help inform actions you'll be taking.
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Geofencing can really give your mobile app an edge over competition. But there are dos and don’ts that you need to be careful about. Read them here: http://mlabs.boston-technology.com/blog/geofencing-a-usp-or-a-drag-for-your-mobile-app
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Here is a pretty good explanation of geofencing that uses capture the flag as an example app: https://thebhwgroup.com/blog/2013/11/geofencing-mobile-applications
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