Insights

Location based services

February 08, 2019

Reading time 5 minutes

Location Based Services (LBS) technology has enabled companies many ways to use a mobile device’s location to share information and content with their customers via text message or in-app messaging.

Some of the most common LBS applications include providing local news, advertisements, directions, points of interest, directory assistance, fleet management, emergency, asset tracking and location-sensitive buildings. For example:

  • Store locators: Using location-based intelligence, retail customers can quickly find the nearest store location.
  • Proximity-based marketing: Local companies can push ads to individuals within the same geographic location. Location-based mobile apps can deliver push notification messages or SMS (text) message containing unique offers and adverts to potential customers within the vicinity of a store to encourage the recipient to visit the store and make a transaction.
  • Travel information: An LBS can deliver real-time information, such as traffic updates or weather reports, to the smartphone allowing the user can plan accordingly.
  • Roadside assistance: In the event of a breakdown or accident, many roadside assistance companies provide apps that allow them to track the exact location of the mobile user without the need for the user to provide directions to their location.
  • Mobile workforce management: For logistics-dependent companies that employ individuals out in the field or at multiple locations, an LBS allows employees to check in at a location using their mobile device providing many benefits one being a level of security particularly for those working or travelling alone.
  • Fraud prevention: An LBS creates another level of security by matching a customer’s location through the smartphone to a credit card transaction. Tying the smartphone’s location to a credit card allows you to flag transactions made across several geographic locations over a short time which can be used to trigger interventions by fraud teams at banks who can temporarily block the use of the card until they have spoken with their customer to confirm whether the unusual spending behaviour was fraudulent.

LBS services

There are several LBS services that can provide a mobile phone user with information based on their location:

Phone network

One method uses the mobile phone network to determine the user’s location. For example, the current cell ID (mobile device ID) can be used for identifying the base transceiver station (BTS) that the mobile phone is communicating with and pinpoint the location of the BTS local to the user.

GPS

Use of a smartphone's GPS technology to track a user's location, but only if that person has opted-in to allow the service to know their whereabouts. After a smartphone user opts-in, the service can identify his or her location down to a street address without the need for manual data entry. Some smartphones now have built-in GPS receivers which communicate with GPS satellites. This method is much more accurate.

Beacons

Another common method is the use of short-range positioning beacons. Such devices typically employ WiFi or Bluetooth technologies and are ideal for indoor LBS applications such as large shopping complexes or warehouses and distribution centres.

Messaging and information services

UK law states that location-based services must be permission-based. That means that the end user must opt-in to the service in order to receive messages and information. In most cases, this means installing the LBS application and accepting a request to allow the service to know the device's location.

The information services provided via LBS are classified as either a Push or Pull service.

With a Push service, the user will have originally subscribed to receive messages from that service provider most during the installation and registration of the mobile app on their smartphone. The user receives information from the service provider which for example could be based on their proximity to a location such as a restaurant at an airport terminal inviting them to dine with them and receive a free drink.

With a Pull service, the mobile user has to actively request the information they require. For example, the nearest dentist surgery to their location.

LBS technology

Although location-based services have been around since 2000, they have mostly been used in commerce with a subscription-based business model. The release of Apple's 3G iPhone and Google's LBS-enabled Android operating system allowed developers to introduce millions of consumers to LBS.

Software development platforms, particularly those used for creating mobile applications, such as J2ME (a Java programming language) and Android, have specialised APIs that support LBS.

An LBS requires five components:

  • Service provider's software application
  • Mobile network to transmit data and requests for service
  • Content provider to supply the end user with geo-specific information
  • Positioning component (see GPS)
  • End user's mobile device

LBS mobile app market statistics

According to the 2008 fourth-quarter report from Nielsen Mobile, a division of The Nielsen Company, location-based services accounted for 58 percent of the total downloaded application revenue for mobile phones in North America.

Location-based apps such as global gaming heavyweight Niantic’s Pokémon Go earned US$2.2 billion since its launch in 2016 to 2018 according to market intelligence agency Sensor Tower. This revenue model via a location-based game has only been possible since the introduction of LBS technology and is a great example of the opportunities this has opened up for the public and private sector.

You are experts in your field. So are we

If you have a business challenge you need help in solving for your field based workforce or location-based messaging and marketing, then we will be glad to hear from you to discuss any of the location-based features above, and how they may provide you with a solution to your business challenge.

Please contact us via hello@rokk.co.uk or call our London team on 0207 183 4742 or Exeter office 01392 424 300.