Help > Glossary > What Is Geolocation?

What Is Geolocation?

Geolocation refers to the generation and use of geographical data. Global positioning satellite chips locate most current devices and are used by applications to provide proximity-based information or navigation services. There are many possible applications of geolocation, from generating and using location-based data to keeping geographical records. Business leaders and decision makers should be aware of common methods, practical applications, general security factors and the broad benefits of geolocation.

Geolocation Generates Geographical Data

Devices used for geolocation typically contain GPS chips. Cellular devices on networks can also provide a less precise method of geolocation than GPS coordinates. It is also possible to combine cell tower and GPS data for more accurate locating capabilities when satellite signal conditions are poor. GPS chips in smart devices generate and provide location data. One of the most common examples of a GPS chip is a smartphone with applications that can recommend food, shopping or destinations based on proximity and provide directions to almost any location.

The Most Common Geolocation Methods

GPS is the most precise geolocation technology, but it is only one of several methods that can currently be used to locate devices or users. Here are the methods of geolocation that are used most frequently:

  • GPS: Satellite geolocation systems are very precise. This method requires a GPS chip in a powered device and a sufficiently strong satellite signal.
  • Cell towers: Cellular devices such as phones and tablets with service plans can be located based on cell tower connections. This method is less precise than GPS geolocation.
  • Combined GPS and Cellular: Combining GPS and cell tower geolocation can be beneficial if the satellite signal is weak. This method requires a powered device with a GPS chip that is also connected to cellular networks.
  • Internet Protocol addresses: Internet-connected computers and devices are assigned IP addresses. These numerical labels are useful for geolocation.

GPS chips in electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets, smart watches and other wearable technology are the most common geolocation hardware. These chips feature radio receivers and require power to receive satellite signals and process information to determine accurate coordinates. GPS chips may run on either internal or external power sources. Many devices that contain GPS chips also connect to cellular networks. These devices can be geolocated through GPS, cell tower or combined GPS and cell tower locating methods. Devices that access the internet via wireless or wired networks are also assigned an IP address. Applications that provide proximity-based or navigation services may gather location data in any of these ways, based on the modes of connectivity of a device.

Why Geolocation Matters in Field Services

Field services companies were among the earliest adopters of geolocation technology. The ability to clearly locate drills or turbines and indicate which assets require maintenance or repairs makes location technology essential. Professionals often rely on geolocation in the field. Businesses operating in remote regions are likely to use satellite geolocation technology. When field workers go out of the range of cell towers and wireless or wired internet networks, these individuals and their employers can rely on GPS geolocation and satellite connectivity. The trend toward remote work has also made geolocation important for a growing number of office-based businesses. While employees may be able to work from anywhere, many goods and services-based enterprises offer location-based delivery or pickup. Geolocation is also a primary area of focus for targeting proximity-based advertisements.

Geolocation Use Cases in Architecture, Engineering and Construction

Geolocation is also essential for building and design. In architecture, coordinates are used to identify precise locations and can be generated for the purpose of demarcating the boundaries of a site. Tools and supplies may also be equipped with geolocators to make it possible to track shipments and reduce loss. Engineers across disciplines rely on the precise geographical information that GPS systems provide. The coordinates reported by these systems are more reliable than other methods of geolocation. In addition to keeping track of coordinates for projects or tracking the location of equipment, the applications of geolocation in the AEC industry depend on the workflows of an enterprise and whether there are any location-based reporting requirements. Applications may use geolocation data to monitor asset performance or track inspections and service.

How To Incorporate Geolocation Into Workflows

The stakeholders of an enterprise should be aware of any location-specific aspects of operations. Tasks or processes that must be completed at specific places can benefit from the use of devices capable of locating users and providing geographic data to applications or systems that coordinate, digitize and automate workflows. Geolocation generally takes place behind the scenes. Recent updates have given Apple iOS users and some others more control over their location settings and privacy. Users may now be presented with the following location access options:

  • Allow access while using an application: Location data is available to an app during use. This setting enables location-based features of apps to function while otherwise limiting access to geolocation data.
  • Allow one-time location access: This provisional allowance lets an app use location data on one occasion. A user will have to manually select this setting again to allow an app location access in the future.
  • Allow background location access: This setting allows apps that rely on location data to always access this data. Weather is a common iOS app that needs this level of access to display current notifications.
  • Don’t allow location access: This setting prevents an app from accessing the location of a user. Location-based results and “near me” functions are not available with this setting.

Based on the needs of an enterprise, management may want to set a policy for work application and device location settings. Applications used to coordinate tasks and processes may require location data during use or at other times.

Geolocation Data and Security Concerns

Any amount of geolocation data can be revealing for private users. In general, national, state, regional and even local geolocation data is relatively anonymous. More specific location data, such as areas, neighborhoods or physical street addresses, can be sensitive information. It is important that companies that rely on geolocation have good network security practices to protect employees and sensitive information about assets. Enterprises that utilize user location data should clearly communicate data usage policies and provide users with the opportunity to opt out of location-based services.

The Benefits of Geolocation for Any Enterprise

The ability to generate precise location data has many applications and advantages. Decision makers at enterprises may be able to identify one or more useful ways to implement geolocation in digitized workflows. Many field services companies and providers of location-based services already benefit from geolocation technology.

                
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