Location-based apps are conquering the world. Is your product ready to join them?

Location apps strive to make our life easier, more comfortable and more fun. Let's review the main problems geolocation services solve. Besides, we take a closer look at how geolocation works

May 18, 2018·9 min read
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You wake up in the morning, check your Facebook feed and see a post from your friend made somewhere on the Spanish coast. You are envious and open the weather forecast app. It already knows your location and disappoints you with a rain alert for the day. You decide to take an Uber to work, and the car arrives exactly at your front door, even though you didn’t even enter your address. You decide to go out for lunch, and Yelp recommends several restaurants within a 5-minute walk of your office. That evening, you decide to order some Chinese food. And, yet again, the carrier delivers it right to your front door.

No, you are not being spied on. And it’s not magic either. Your smartphone is simply sending your geotag to your favorite applications and making your life easier.

Try turning geolocation off on your phone – you will instantly notice how much repetitive manual work this feature saves you. If you want to order a cab, you’ll have to manually enter your current address. And if you are in a new place or in a foreign city, you will have to figure out the address before you can do anything. In your weather application, you will have to manually enter the name of your current city. And if you’re traveling and changing cities every day, this might get annoying. This same frustration may recur on dozens of applications you use every day.

The world won’t collapse without geolocation, but it will definitely be less convenient.

If you want your mobile application to deliver the first-class service, you must consider adding geolocation services. This article will empower you with a few fresh ideas and relevant knowledge about this technology. Let’s begin our journey into the fascinating world of location apps!

What major problems do geolocation services solve?

Location services continue to solve more and more sophisticated tasks. This is why 90% of smartphone users in the U.S. keep location services turned on. This fact alone should convince you to include this feature in your application. Take a look at how major companies solve everyday user problem with geolocation!

  • Bad knowledge of the area
    You’ve definitely experienced this problem at least once. You’re in a country, city or even on a street you’ve never been before. You need to find your hotel, some place of interest or the nearest bus stop. Asking for directions can get complicated due to language barriers, but your smartphone always speaks the same language as you!

    Maps.me is one of the most popular mapping and navigation services worldwide. Travelers prefer this app because it even works offline. Using GPS coordinates, the app locates you on the map and provides users with step-by-step navigation to any other location. You can enter the address, the name of a venue, or just pick a point on the map to receive exact directions.

  • Need to manually input your current address
    If you’re like most of us, there are probably a handful of places you spend most of your time at – your home, office or the airport. Without location services, you’d have to manually enter your current address every time you need a taxi, and you might even need to do that several times a day. Annoying, isn’t it? We also often look for services in our current area we. Before geolocation, we had to manually enter the address we were interested in. But do you really always know the exact address? Let’s face it, whether we’re visiting friends, hanging out in a club, or staying in a hotel in a foreign city, we often have no idea where exactly we are. Yes, we could ask for the address, but the address itself might take an unfamiliar form due to complicated architecture, district layout or other issues. Fortunately, the era of geolocation services has created a much more convenient solution.Uber has inspired a revolution in taxi services, enabling anyone with a car to earn money by giving others a lift. But Uber’s customers also appreciate one improvement over traditional cab services – the Uber application сan automatically calculate where you currently are and send your driver to your exact location. The resulting savings in time and frustration are what have made Uber so popular among users worldwide.Yelp is an app that helps users identify service providers and stores nearby. It also gathers reviews from real customers so you can choose the cafe, barber shop or furniture store you’ll like the most. Like with Uber, there’s no manual input required – all you need to do is enable geolocation services and enjoy easy access to all the services in your area.
  • Recording routes and tracking activity
    People who are fond of sports like to record their activities and track their current results and progress. Location tracking is the perfect solution for this need. With geolocation, apps can record your route and time as you jog or cycle and even help you socialize with others in your neighborhood who like the same activities.Strava, a service most popular in North America and Europe, is used by thousands of sports lovers every day. In a recent report, Strava claimed that over a billion activities had been logged in the application in the last year. To prove this, the company shared a heat map that revealed all the routes logged over the last year. In the end, the published map caused a scandal (more attentive users were able to identify the location of US military bases in the Middle East) and demonstrated the caution necessary when using and sharing location app data. To use geolocation data responsible, you must understand which user information is sensitive and which outcomes sharing this data will have.
  • Irrelevant advertising
    Have you ever been ambushed with entirely irrelevant ads? Perhaps you were sent coupons for a free burger at McDonald's even though you’d rather have KFC. Perhaps you got a personal discount for a purchase at a New York fashion outlet even though you’re currently in Manchester. That’s not just painful, it’s scandalous. Why the hell do you need to receive all that trash?Hundreds of services offer coupons and discounts, and many have adopted geomarketing to target customers with personalized offers based on their location and habits. GeoCouponsAlert, for example, reminds users about active coupons for nearby locations. Geolocation can even track in which stores or restaurants customers spend more time in and send them even more offers corresponding with their preferences.

    Location-based advertising can also be empowered by augmented reality. SpotAR, for example, doesn’t just display the relevant offers on a map of your neighborhood, it uses AR technology to overlay a picture of your area with additional information about current special offers. The benefit is obvious: the user doesn’t have to follow a schematic map. Instead, he can immediately see at which building he can use his discount at right on his phone.
  • Monotonous marketing campaigns
    The world of marketing was dull before social media introduced geotagging. But since then, users have willingly posted photos and texts with their location, checked-in at restaurants and pubs, and left reviews for hotels and tattoo shops. The ability to add geotags to any Instagram or Facebook post benefits everyone. Businesses earn extra advertising increased brand awareness, while customers are given the chance to share their favorite places with friends and show their active lifestyle (even if it isn’t so).Some businesses even hold marketing campaigns and give discounts or gifts to those who check-in at their restaurant or shop. This is great for users, especially if the experience is worth sharing with the world. The most popular service offering something special in exchange for a check-in is Foursquare.
  • Lack of entertaining location apps
    How do you entertain yourself when you have free time? Most likely, you play games on your smartphone that are typically monotonous and soon get boring.

    But games based on your real environment are engaging, fascinating and force you to move a lot, which is even more positive. Remember the tremendous successes of Pokemon GO and its ancestor, Ingress? This new type of entertainment only became possible due to geolocation services. Millions of people were suddenly enthralled with a game set in the streets of their hometown.

Besides such obvious uses, location services can also play a crucial role in business-oriented software. Here are a few ways companies benefit from location-powered corporate software:

  • Route planning
    Location-based applications allow companies to construct optimized routes to destination points that consider current traffic, allowing delivery service providers to arrive in the shortest time and with the lowest fuel expenses.
  • Improved fleet management
    With the help of geolocation, companies can take fleet management to the next level by improving efficiency and reducing risks associated with transportation. Geolocation software can track the entire delivery process, including unplanned stops on the route that can indicate driver unreliability.
  • Safe working conditions for drivers
    Geolocation can also help transportation companies maintain safe working conditions. While rules vary between countries, drivers must generally follow strict work schedules that mandate they take breaks after driving certain distances or prevent them from driving late at night. Some drivers are incentivized to deliver goods faster and may not want to take required breaks, but geolocation can track all truck movement and notify the company if a driver breaks their schedule. Compulsory rest positively affects driver health, improves driver attention, and results in safer driving and fewer accidents on the road.
  • Polygon inclusion
    Some companies charge different rates to delivery to different zones. Location apps allow companies to more easily calculate the costs of transporting goods with polygon inclusion. The system can calculate which zone includes the destination point and provide a delivery rate based on other zones the delivery vehicle must pass through to reach its destination.

As you can see, geolocation is able to solve a wealth of problems for users. These range from essential tasks like finding directions home to acting as a personal assistant and executing crucial business tasks. But how do the geolocation services actually work? Again, there’s no magic in it.

How does geolocation work?

There are several ways for an app to enable a smartphone to share its exact location:

  • GPS, or Global Positioning System
    GPS is a global system consisting of satellites and small receivers built into every modern smartphone or tablet. The system can accurately calculate the location of a receiver/smartphone by measuring signals from multiple earth-orbit satellites to determine a more or less accurate location. GPS doesn’t require any connection to a mobile network or the internet, and it can be used to find a device’s location even if someone is far beyond the reach of cell towers.
  • Cell ID
    This approach to determining a device’s location requires connection to a mobile network. Using signals from several nearby cell towers, a device can, depending on the quality of the signal, calculate the distance to each tower and determine a user’s approximate location. This process is commonly called triangulation since the signals of the three nearest towers allow a device to estimate its most exact location.
  • Wi-Fi
    Wi-Fi can also be helpful in determining a device’s location, especially when cellular service is turned off (when traveling abroad, for example, some users opt to turn off their mobile connections to avoid extremely expensive roaming). Using the Wi-Fi point the phone is currently connected to, the device can locate itself and its owner.

GPS is considered the most exact and reliable method for gathering user geolocation information because it works even when no data connection is available. But there is one catch – some users turn off GPS on their smartphones because this feature drains the battery. However, more and more users are coming to appreciate the benefits of geolocation and are ready to sacrifice a few minutes of battery life to enjoy first class service. You can remind your users to turn on GPS when using your app, and if your service is providing real value, you should be able to engage users who typically avoid geolocation services. In addition, most modern approaches only need to access the feature once to receive a device’s current location – they don’t need to constantly consume battery power by working in the background.

Advantages of using geolocation services in your application

Even though geolocation likely won’t be the central feature of your application, including it can elicit multiple benefits.

  • Increasing customer loyalty
    When you think of Uber, you probably don’t consider it an initially location app, just as geotagging isn’t the feature Facebook is most proud of. Yet neither app would prove as impressive or effective without location services. Even slight improvements in usability can make your customers happier and thankful. And when users appreciate what you do, they tell their friends and share their opinions on social media. The right implementation of location services will definitely contribute to customer loyalty.
  • Spending your marketing budget right
    With geolocation, it’s easier than ever to track customer habits. You can find out which shops they prefer and where and when they walk? By recognizing these patterns in behavior, you can target users with personalized offers. This allows you not to waste your marketing reaching on those who aren’t interested in your product.
  • Increasing revenue
    Smart targeting is always accompanied by increased revenue. When you catch your customers with personalized and timely offers, discounts and news, they are more likely to engage with and buy your product.

Conclusion

Geolocation is not a magic pill that will double your sales or provide you with thousands of new customers. But when used effectively, geolocation services can improve user experience and customer loyalty.

Check the applications you use every day. You will be surprised by how many employ your current location without you even noticing. In exchange, you’re given improved usability, which you definitely appreciate.

Want your customers to appreciate the location-based services offered by your applications? We have another article dedicated to technical requirements of implementing this feature that you will definitely find interesting.

Still don’t see how your application can benefit from geolocation? We can help with ideas! Describe your business context to us, and together we can figure out a great way for you to implement location services in your product.

Thanks for reading!

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