Geo-fencing has gained a solid hold in mobile marketing as an effective way to drive traffic to store locations to take advantage of the special deals and offers pushed out to consumers who enter the digital perimeter. But there are emerging uses of this location-based technology that could have big implications for the world of mobile apps. Among early adopters of geo-fencing within mobile apps are news content providers. As we review what’s happening with news content delivery and geo-fencing, be thinking about how you might apply the same concepts to your company’s mobile apps.
Incorporating geo-fencing capability within a mobile app means that the mobile device can be set up to do or perform certain functions when the device (and its user) enters or leaves a specifically defined geographical area or geo-fence. Basically, the app wakes up and does something that the user would want done without the user having to do anything.
News.me has an app for delivering news to mobile devices, but in 2012 it added in the Paperboy feature. Using iOS 5’s built-in geo-fencing capabilities, the app will automatically download the freshest news so it’s available when the app is launched, whether you have a signal or not. Note that this takes place in the background, without the user needing to do anything.
You may be wondering what the big deal is. Consider this: If you set up a geo-fence around your house, when you step out the door to leave for your morning commute, the latest news will be there ready and waiting for you when you open the app, even if you’re underground in a subway train with no connectivity. The iOS geo-fencing is triggered through cell towers rather than GPS, so it doesn’t use much battery life at all, but it’s also a little less precise for that reason.
Instapaper is the second news content delivery app to add in a similar feature, which it (rather uncreatively) calls Background Update Locations. With it, in addition to your home, you can also set up your workplace as an additional geo-fence so that your news is refreshed as you leave the office for the commute home. In fact, Instapaper allows up to ten different geo-fences to be established, so you’re covered for home, office, classroom, gym, favorite restaurant and other locations.
Be aware, however, that Apple isn’t allowing blanket automatic background new content downloads. It currently has a limit of allowing apps to do that only once each day, but the geo-fencing feature is an effective workaround.