Blog skyhook logo What is Geofencing and How to Use It

Jan 23, 2020 9:30:00 AM

What is Geofencing and How to Use It

Posted by Isolde Decker-Lucke

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Geofences help marketers, advertisers and enterprises gain insights and take action to interact with, issue alerts, or collect data concerning the millions of mobile devices in today’s increasingly mobile society. According to reports, the average American is expected to spend 3.7 hours on their phone each day, creating a valuable avenue for communication and data gathering.

What is geofencing and are you positioned to maximize its potential? Read on to learn more.


What is Geofencing?

Geofencing, by definition is a virtual boundary “drawn” around a real physical location in a software-based geographical information system (GIS). Once a location is “fenced”, one can monitor the fence to determine which specific devices or how many “things” crossed it, and then take corresponding action.

Geofences have many potential uses including:

  • Location-based marketing -Device ID 123456 opted-in to your service and they just entered your store.  Send them a coupon.
  • Location data-gathering -X% of the people within this postal code use the IoS operating system.”
  • App personalization - "Username ABC is in Boston.  Move local search results to the top of the list"
  • Worker, child or pet safety - Michael arrived at school” "Fido is loose!"
  • Smart city applications - “X” devices travel on “Y” route everyday.  Consider adding buses.
  • Supply chain applications - “Item XYZ left the warehouse

How Can Geofencing be Used in Location-Based Marketing?

With location-based marketing, marketers or advertisers can leverage users' location for a few main purposes including:

Targeting users based on their current or past whereabouts

Knowing the past or present physical location of a group of mobile devices is very valuable to marketers.  If a marketer knows that a certain mobile device passes-by their store every day, or that a certain number of devices visit a competitor’s store in a specific area, they can use that information to design ad campaigns with a far greater probability of success. This can increase engagement and customer loyalty. 

Delivering location-relevant content

Once advertisers have designed a campaign, they can use geofences to deliver personalized offers or other content to devices that are in the best position to act upon them. By leveraging location data and analysis, companies can identify and target common behaviors for mobile devices seen at store locations such as restaurants. The offer for a discounted burger at your Boston Burger King is wasted if the recipient is in New York. Human resources departments and recruiters have begun to utilize geofencing as a recruiting tool to effectively capture job prospects’ attention for various open positions.

Collecting data that can be analyzed in the future

“Attribution” is an advertising industry buzzword that has garnered lots of attention recently.  Attribution enables advertisers to correlate actions with ad-campaign exposure at a bulk level.  Wouldn’t it be nice to know that X% of the devices who likely saw (or at least were exposed to) your gas pump-top advertisement visited your brick-and-mortar location within a certain time period?

Where Does the Location Come From?

Geofencing has two location components - the location of the venue (points of interest) or area that is fenced, and the location of the device that interacts with the fence. The location of the fence is generally created in a GIS system. The finer the resolution and precision of the fence itself, the more accurate and useful the data. 

[Read More: Building Your Own Geofences: Geofencing Yourself vs. Using a Third Party]

Device location comes from the mobile device itself.  Mobile phones can typically calculate their own location using some combination of GPS, Wi-Fi, Beacon or Cell location.  Skyhook’s Precision Location system is used to calculate location by many applications, along with other positioning systems.

Accuracy is important for both the GIS platform and the device.

What Industries Can Benefit from Geofencing?

Geofencing isn’t just for mobile marketing. Geofencing use-cases can apply to many other industries.

  • Data gathering and analysis.  Geofences can help companies in any industry collect anonymous data concerning bulk movement of devices.  This data can be useful in applications such as urban planning, real estate, and demographics among others. 
  • Worker safety. Industrial, health care, or security companies with remote workers can use geofences to issue alerts when workers enter dangerous areas, or when they are late arriving at a designated zone. 
  • Departure/Arrival zones.  Businesses with that transport supplies or equipment between sites can set up geofences to issue alerts or record times when assets depart or arrive at designated locations.

How can Geofencing Help Improve App Engagement?

App engagement is all about personalization.  Geofencing helps personalize apps to the location of the device, enabling it to receive content, sort results, or set display preferences that are relevant to its current location.  Understanding device location, movements and surroundings is key to providing contextually relevant information that will enhance the user experience.


Geofencing has multiple applications in multiple industries. From mobile marketing to enabling IoT use-cases to enhancing worker safety, geofencing provides context to device location, helping improve the user experience.

Contact Skyhook today or visit our Context SDK page for more information.