In recent years, more smartphone and tablet users have grown familiar and comfortable with the use of geolocation technology in their favorite apps. In fact, geolocation technology has become an integral part of the digital world. Its ability to identify approximate geographic locations of users in real-time via internet-connected devices has created all manner of possibilities for online brands, including marketing, acquisition, and legal purposes.
Geolocation technology works by pairing smartphone and tablet devices with satellites using Global Positioning System (GPS) functionality. Whenever a GPS server is inactive, geolocation technology can also lean on a mobile device’s cell ID, which is determined by the last cell tower a device communicated with. Interestingly, the most accurate way to determine a user’s location within a native mobile app is Wi-Fi, with a connection’s Receive a Signal Strength Indication (RSSI) said to be capable of plotting locations to the nearest two meters.
The benefits of geolocation for brands with native apps
Location-specific user data has become incredibly valuable to digital brands of all shapes and sizes. In fact, some brands have discovered the power of geolocation tech for commercial benefits. Brands that allow users to browse and shop for products via their native apps can use geolocation to get an accurate understanding of the location of their customers. This enables them to promote location-specific offers and the deals that users are most likely to engage with.
Social media platforms like Facebook were some of the first to bring geolocation into the mainstream. Giving Facebook users the ability to “check in” to places using geolocation technology has not only improved the interactivity and engagement between friends on Facebook, it has also enhanced the profile of businesses that can benefit from being “tagged”, particularly if a user is recommending them to their Facebook friends.
Geolocation has also improved the efficiency of on-demand native apps where users require a service nearby. For example, taxi apps like Uber and Lyft have become the perfect example of how geolocation can be done right. This is done by connecting customers to the closest available Uber and Lyft drivers, for the quickest and most convenient journeys. This not only helps passengers to get on their way faster and give drivers a better chance of achieving a five-star passenger rating. It also minimizes the carbon emissions of each trip, ensuring drivers take the most optimal routes.
This technology has also proven particularly beneficial in the US online sports betting industry, where only certain states have legalized it. For instance, FOX Bet’s regulated online sports betting portal is only legal in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Colorado. Its app seeks to utilize users’ geolocation services to report their physical location via GPS, Wi-Fi or IP address. Only users with confirmed locations inside the state borders of NJ, PA and CO can log in and place legal wagers.
It has also yielded practical benefits in terms of native apps reliant on maps, navigation and even weather forecasts. Geolocation has helped apps like Google Maps become incredibly intuitive for motorists on unfamiliar roads, while weather apps like Accuweather and Yahoo Weather can gather the most accurate weather forecasts and data in your area.
Drawbacks of geolocation technology for users
Although the pros of geolocation adoption far outweigh the cons, it’s important to acknowledge the negative factors, if only for the sake of balance. Privacy concerns surrounding geolocation remain the biggest issue for some users that dislike the perceived intrusive nature of businesses using geolocation to improve their own marketing strategies and push relevant content to devices.
It’s true that most native apps requiring the use of geolocation technology ask users’ permission before going ahead, it still makes some users uneasy as to what brands do with their location and data once they’ve ticked that all important “I Agree” box in the terms and conditions.
Encouragingly, more businesses are going to greater lengths to improve user awareness of the confidentiality of the data they provide. In fact, the advent of GDPR makes it a legal obligation for digital brands to ensure they have a compliant framework in place to handle user data. This alone should give users greater confidence in engaging with geolocation to enhance everyday life.