If you break down the terminology, you get Geo which refers to Geographical and Fencing which means boundary or perimeter. Putting those two words together as a single term give you geographical perimeter; a phrase that sounds like something the military will use when they want to keep the enemies away. One thing that’s missing from that literal interpretation is the word virtual, because it forgets to mention that it exists only in virtual world thanks to GPS and cellular or Internet network, just like online dating.
Let us consider an analogy to deal with that issue.
"A friend of yours is curiously listening to your story about your girlfriend. You tell that particular friend a description of her beauty, brilliance, devotion, veneration - or simply perfection. Your friend believes the story and asks you to take her for dinner in a double-date; that way they will meet face to face and know each other better. While your description of the girlfriend is unmistakable, you forget to mention one thing: virtual. The difference between girlfriend and virtual girlfriend is beyond measure. The former actually exists, while the other is basically a combination of pixels, Internet connection, graphics card, and more importantly your unbound imagination."
The geographical perimeter in geofencing does not actually exist; while the geographical area is real, the fencing is just a virtual set of boundaries created by using location-based service (for example GPS) and location-aware devices such as smartphone or any stand-alone GPS-enabled transmitter and receiver. The boundary is set around real-world geographical area and its radius is possibly configured to reach several hundred meters or more, although smaller distance generally means better reliability. Geofencing depends almost entirely on network coverage or Internet connection to work, so it is almost exactly similar to the virtual girlfriend mentioned earlier. In Geofencing case, however, the coverage is used for accessing/processing GPS signals and triggering an alert anytime the boundary is breached rather than bringing up pretty faces on your laptop screen.
How It Works
Virtual boundary must be set around a central location by an administrator of the Geofencing system. In most cases, the system is integrated to digital maps for easier configuration purpose. The administrator can be anybody, because the technology is commercially available for public use. A mother who wants to know whether her child is inside a school building can be an administrator; prison warden can set geofencing to know if all prisoners are in the yard digging ditches; business owners may also configure geofencing to annoyingly send advertising email to people inside the virtual perimeter; a cowboy is probably interested in doing the same thing to see if all the cows are inside the ranch, and so on.
|Watchtower is an early form of Geofencing. Radius is as far as the eyes can see and it is always active except when the guard is asleep. Trespassing triggers flying arrows instead of alarm.|
Remember that the system can only work if the objects being monitored also carry GPS-enabled or RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) devices. When the virtual boundary is breached (both in and out), the system sends alerts to the administrator’s control panel. The administrator, depending on the sophistication of the system in use, has the options to specify various settings including but not limited to exclusion, automated response, and radius.
Common Applications of Geofencing
As previously discussed, Geofencing is available for civilian use. The cost to require the necessary hardware and system is not particularly expensive either. Some ready-made system is available as subscription-based service, so users have access as long as they pay for the fee on regular basis. Some of the most common Geofencing applications are as follows:
- Security: a geofencing system can be configured to trigger alert only when an unauthorized device enters the virtual perimeter or when authorized device exits the same boundary. The system can be applied not only to devices used/carried by people but also GPS-equipped vehicles or motion objects.
- Home Automation: based on the location of your GPS-enabled smartphone, geofencing system can trigger a sequence of automated actions anytime the device enters the perimeter for examples turning on the thermostat, switching on the lamps or TV, and unlocking the door. It is a good example of IFTTT (If This, Then That) concept. Assuming you carry your phone all the time, this is somewhat a convenient idea of how technology makes you lazy.
- Marketing: business owners can use geofencing technology to create a perimeter surrounding their offices or business locations to send advertising campaign to anybody within that perimeter. When the virtual boundary is breached-in, the system typically triggers automated push-email or text message sent to the person entering the geofencing radius.
- Crowd Engagement: in certain cases that involve outdoor events, geofencing is useful to inform attendants about specific issues regarding the event. For example, concert attendants can receive information on their phones about the venue, crowd size, rest rooms locations, and scheduling as long as they stay within the perimeter set by organizer.
- Telematics: companies can set virtual perimeter around work site to monitor workers.