Location-based app development: a complete 2022 guide for CEOs
Most of today’s mobile apps rely on real-time location data to function or increase performance. Weather apps, travel, transportation and mobility industries obviously use geolocation features heavily, but they are also becoming increasingly disruptive in retail, proximity-based marketing, healthcare, mobile workforce management, asset tracking, fraud prevention and even public safety.
According to AlliedMarketResearch, the global market size for location based apps is expected to amount to $318.64 billion in 2030. A quick comparison to 2020 data, when that market was worth only $36.35 billion, suggests that entrepreneurs who consider building a new location-based app may just be seizing the right opportunity. In this article, we explain everything you need to know about building location based apps or bringing your existing location tracking technology up to the current standards.
Industries that rely on location-based services
The use-cases for location-based apps seem to be endless. Geolocation apps are used across a number of different industries in increasingly creative ways. Large companies welcome location-aware apps for the numerous benefits they offer, including:
- accurate services: geolocation apps that determine the user's location are the key requirement for delivery of on-demand services and route tracking,
- better search: location-based applications allow users to easily find relevant services or places of interest in their area,
- greater personalization: with location-based apps, businesses can discover new opportunities in personalized marketing,
- real-time offers: when synchronized with internal business systems, location-based apps can be used by companies to connect with customers with meaningful offers, e.g. when they enter a store.
Without a doubt, location based apps are also making consumers' lives more comfortable and efficient in a myriad of ways. They can track their on-demand service delivery or check how far away their Uber driver is from the pickup location. Travelers can easily locate nearby hotels or attractions on Google Maps and other dedicated travel solutions, runners can analyze the speed of training routines in fitness apps, users of social media and dating apps can meet and connect with new people across the entire globe, while gaming apps (such as Pokémon Go) can offer even more immersive experiences.
Here are the top industries that use geolocation services:
- weather apps
- on-demand delivery apps
- navigation solutions
- fitness apps
- travel and hospitality
- social and dating apps
- automotive and fleet management
All of these services are enabled by location based mobile apps with various geolocation technology stack.
Types of geolocation technologies
Location-based services provide Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and spatial data through different outdoor and indoor technologies. The purpose of your new location-based app will largely determine the type of technology you have to select. Let’s take a quick look at the different choices available in geolocation app development.
Outdoor geolocation technologies
There are four mechanisms that can be used to power a location based app in outdoor areas, with varying precision.
Global Positioning System is a network of about 30 satellite transmitters orbiting the Earth. Their radio signals can be intercepted by any device with a GPS tracker to determine the user location and timing from these satellites. It’s the most common geolocation technology that works on every mobile device which by default has a built-in GPS module. It’s a quick way to get accurate location details. On the downside, GPS data transmission quickly drains the receiving device’s battery.
It stands for Assisted GPS, which is a combination of signals received from satellites and cell tower data. It's also a popular geolocation technology thanks to high speed and lower power consumption than traditional GPS technology. However, it may be more expensive than other options as network providers may charge an extra fee for cell tower data access.
Cell ID may come into play when the GPS module is disabled. In such a case, a mobile device will rely on the radio signals of the operator provided by cell towers. The nearest mobile station will capture the device’s coordinates to determine its exact location. However, this technology isn’t as accurate as GPS.
In location-based app development, Wi-Fi geolocation works either by using Received Signal Intensity Indication or online maps. The Wi-Fi network is used to determine location or track objects, although the results will be approximate. As the Wi-Fi network covers a relatively small area, it is not as precise as the methods mentioned above, but generally works more effectively than Cell ID. This technology may be useful for entrepreneurs who want to build a location-based application for an urban area.
Indoor geolocation technologies
The global COVID-19 pandemic brought the momentum for real-time location systems (RTLSs) which provide location services based on indoor positioning technologies. They came in particularly handy for the industries who needed to track their goods or workforce in stores in the age of social distancing and allowed businesses to better manage their supply chains and sell products more effectively. They are also particularly useful in proximity-based marketing that relies on push notifications.
Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technologies are particularly handy when it comes to indicating location inside buildings. They detect the signal from a smartphone and analyze it to determine the user’s current location. Such devices are called beacons. They can be attached to pretty much anything throughout a building.
A geofence is a virtual “border”. With GIS data, geofencing determines the time at which a person enters a specific virtual perimeter. The geofencing service triggers once a smartphone crosses that virtual border. When a user enters the geofenced area, their device will intercept communication via push notifications. This technology is used predominantly in retail and marketing.
How do location-based apps work?
Building a location aware application is a rather complex process, because it involves interconnecting several components, features and players. Location based services are always delivered to users through mobile devices or any device with ability to use their components, as listed below. These include mobile phones, but also tablets, personal navigation devices, desktop computers and others. Also, they always require the user to share their live location with the service provider.
Most location based apps require the following components:
The geolocation feature is required to indicate the geographic position of a mobile device, both outdoor and indoor, so GPS, Cell-ID, Bluetooth, or others.
The wireless network that facilitates the transfer of data between user (through mobile device) and server (service provider). In this day and age, we use wireless internet to achieve this, predominantly through 3G or 4G with 5G reaching 43% in market share in Feb 2022 and 6G undergoing heavy R&D.
The service provider will administer the relevant software (e.g. GIS or the open-source version QGIS) and provide the necessary components to respond to user queries. The service provider models data for geolocation purposes or to indicate the best routes through relevant APIs.
Service providers obtain mapping data from the relevant maintaining authorities or business and industry partners. Popular map API providers include Google Maps or Mapbox. For information on how to choose the right map provider, refer to this article.
Building location-based apps in 2022
The use cases for location based apps will proliferate as the location based services market continues to grow, so building a startup or updating your existing technology is certainly a good direction. However, owners should keep in mind that developing a location based app is a complex process that requires interconnecting different technologies, functionalities and providers.
The choice of technologies and map providers isn’t a simple task either, especially when scalability is one of your requirements. Wrong choices may lead to rising costs – both in terms of data usage and the potential bills incurred for remodelling the solutions. If you aren’t sure what is the right choice for your location based app, contact us directly and we will be happy to discuss your needs and advise on the advise and discuss your needs.