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What is a Geofence?

written by: Kristina Dems•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 6/21/2010

A geofence sets up a virtual perimeter around a target location. This can be used to alert authorities of illegal activities like vehicle theft and trespassing. It can also be used to track movement of children and corporate employees. Learn more about geofences here.

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    What is a Geofence?

    geofence A geofence is a virtual representation of the perimeter around a geographic area in the real world. A geofence sends a notification of a location-based service device if they are entering or leaving a particular geofence. The notification can be received by a range of location-based service device like a laptop or a mobile phone. This notification usually contains information about the area surrounded by a geofence and the current location of the location-based service device.

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    Geofence Applications

    There are many uses for geofences. These applications include child locations services, vehicle tracking systems and law enforcement security devices. Geofences are also used to mark the perimeter of commercial areas, residential areas, business sites and security-sensitive locations. Sometimes, immobilization equipment are attached to geofencing devices to secure equipment, doors, windows, vehicles and even people. Geofence notifications are important components of some security systems, sending notifications to alert security officials, business owners or individuals in the event of trespassing or theft of vehicles or equipment.

    Tracking certain vehicles or people are also integral in the importance of geofencing technology. Vehicle routes can be established, with notifications being sent to authorized individuals or groups when these routes are not followed. Locations of children and security-sensitive people can easily be determined with this technology. Once they go outside a designated area, the proper authority figures like law enforcement officials and parents will be alerted. This kind of tracking technology is often debated as unethical and inhumane. There are more advantages than disadvantages for geofencing, though, and that is why more and more organizations are starting to use it.

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    Most Common Use of Geofences

    There are several applications of the geofence technology, but the most common use for it is for corporations to track their mobile employees. Companies use geofencing to determine whether their mobile employees are staying on task when they are moving around. If employees make stops in areas that are not on the official itinerary, their employers will know. This kind of tracking is not very popular for employees, but it is an invaluable tool for employers if they want their people to stay on track and doing what they are supposed to do when they are on the clock.

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    The Issue of Invasion of Privacy

    As previously stated, geofencing is not very popular among employees of companies that implement the technology. Some people see this as unethical and harsh. It can easily be viewed as offensive by employees with all their movement being tracked and assessed by people behind monitors in a dark room. For the employees, this is a sign that their employers do not trust them, but for employers, this could easily just be a means to save company money and resources.

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    Limitations of Geofencing

    Usually, location-based service devices trigger the geofence notification when they have already crossed it. Notifications are usually not in real time so alerts that offer information about a trespassing incident or vehicle theft may not be the most reliable tracking individuals or vehicles.

    Setting a small area to be surrounded by a geofence is not a good idea because fluctuating global positioning signals may cause false alarms. It is recommended that a geofence be set up around the largest area possible around the target location to get more precise notifications.

    Photo Courtesy of Sentry GPS ID: http://sentrygpsid.com/