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What is geofencing?

Geofencing has become a popular term and buzzword in recent years that carries with it a variety of applications in many markets. Aside from geofencing being used for marketing purposes and in the business to consumer realm, proper use of geofencing technology can be a prime differentiator for companies looking to provide critical communication services and lifesaving solutions to other organizations.

But let’s back up for a second and define what a geofence actually is…

A geofence is a virtual geographic boundary, defined by GPS or RFID technology, that enables software to trigger a response when a mobile device enters or leaves a particular area.

So essentially a geofence is just a virtual area that detects whether or not you’re in it (well, your mobile device really, but that’s usually with you). And depending on whether or not you’re in a particular geofence, something can happen.

How geofences apply to critical communication services

Geofencing technology is particularly crucial for critical communication products and services. For instance, safety app companies can use geofencing technology to allow colleges, hospitals, businesses and other organizations to ‘wrap’ their campuses within virtual boundaries. The safety app users within these organizations can then get the emergency assistance they need depending on which geofence they’re in, if any at all (if an app user requires emergency assistance, their location can be sent to local dispatchers and others nearby who can help if the signal activation happened inside of a particular geofence).

So in this instance, geofences are created by each organization to define their physical grounds. This is a practical and expected use of geofencing technology when proper communication between two or more parties could be the difference between life or death.

Agile geofencing helps safety forces find you

What if an organization has many locations that need to be geofenced… or what if they need to create temporary / part-time geofences for recurring use?

This is why geofencing technology requires agility and flexibility… particularly when the geofences are not being directly added by the company providing the technology platform relied upon.

Companies that provide safety apps or any critical communication services should allow their clients the ability to create unlimited geofences to accomodate for various campuses, buildings or other segmented areas that can quickly rise in number for larger organizations.

Managing geofence status is another crucial component of agile geofencing. Clients should have the option to set up a geofence that can easily (with the flip of a switch) be toggled ‘Active’ or ‘Inactive’. The benefits of this flexibility can be far reaching, and for Oklahoma State University’s Chief Public Safety Officer, Michael Robinson, agile geofencing is a key component to making college gameday safer:

“We can put a smaller geofence around the stadium… and we operate a command post at the stadium that will allow us to direct calls within that area directly to the command post in the stadium.”

So the ability to set up and manage unlimited geofences is great, but it still has its limitations. The geofencing technology needs to be presented to the client with as much versatility as possible, accomodating for an equally agile community with events of various sizes happening in specific spots during specific times of the year. A large college such as Oklahoma State University illustrates the need for such functionality perfectly.

Emergency calls from inside this newly formed, temporary geofence around the football stadium will go directly to a specified police outpost within the stadium itself. When tempers could be flaring within a highly condensed, loud and heavily populated area, the necessity of agile geofencing seems obvious. Graduation ceremonies and orientation events are just a couple more examples of how valuable and practical agile geofencing can be.

Chief Robinson goes on to say,

“We probably have as many or more people here just for that event as we do at any point in the fall semester…”

So practically the entire campus population at any given time has shifted to a unique, condensed location for less than one day. Need I say more?

Communities of any size are merely a reflection of the individuals that constitute them, and flexibility in how people are protected within these communities is paramount.

Displaying geofencing functionality on a clean, easy-to-use interface for clients should also be a high priority for critical communication providers. It benefits clients greatly to simply create new, edit existing and manage current geofences seamlessly.

Oklahoma State University benefits from using the Orange Shield safety app, to learn more about Orange Shield, how it works and how similar safety app technology can benefit your organization, visit 911cellular.com

To learn more about the basics of geofencing technology, and how it’s more broadly used in commercial initiatives, check out this article from CIO: What is geofencing? Putting location to work

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