Location data is a vital part of creating a dynamic user experience for mobile app users and is a driving feature in some of today’s most widely used applications.
Take out your phone and look at some of the apps you use often. Chances are these applications are using your location in one way or another to add context to the user’s experience. For example:
- Google Maps — get directions to go where you want to go by foot, public transit, or car
- Uber — Have your driver pick you up exactly where you are…without having to figure out what address you are at
- Instagram — Find pictures that have been taken at different locations or share yours
- Starbucks — Find the coffee that is closest to you
- Tinder — match with other singles near you
Whether your phone is navigating you to your favorite restaurant, or connecting you with singles nearby, your mobile device is using some sort of location-based service. Most of which were built by the app developers using a location platform.
So what is a location platform?
In short, location platforms allow you to create location-centric interactions for your app users in an easy to use format. By offloading the process of creating these experiences, you should be able to quickly launch (and terminate) location-based features.
We’ve broken down location platforms into 3 main components that work together in order to provide app users with location-based experiences.
- Accurate positioning technology
- Secure SDK/API
- Easy to use dashboard
Accurate positioning technology
GPS, we’ve all heard of it. But how does it work? We won’t harp too much on the history but here’s the gist.
“The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a network of about 30 satellites orbiting the Earth at an altitude of 20,000 km. The system was originally developed by the US government for military navigation but now anyone with a GPS device, be it a SatNav, mobile phone or handheld GPS unit, can receive the radio signals that the satellites broadcast.”
Each one of these 30 satellites is constantly emitting radio signals in all directions that can be read by a GPS enabled device (in this case, a mobile phone) If the device can read the radio frequencies of at least 3 satellites it can use those signals -> convert them to distance to approximate the phone’s latitude and longitude relative to those three satellites. This is called triangulation.
The majority of mobile phones are now equipped with GPS chips that are capable of reading these radio signals. A good location platform should be able to take advantage of these “location-based services” in order to provide the right interaction at the right place and time.
Next you need a way to connect these location-based services to your mobile app in a simple and secure way (we are dealing with the location of people’s phones after all).
Here’s three questions that you should ask yourself when connecting a platform’s SDK or calling out to their API.
How easy is it to connect to?
Your time is valuable, so connecting to a location platform’s SDK or calling out to its API shouldn’t be a laborious process. How long is it taking for you to utilize their service? We’ll leave it up to you to decide how long is too long for you to connect to a platform’s SDK, but be weary if it’s taking up too much of your time.
Does the platform have easy to read documentation?
What does the service’s documentation look like? Does it make sense? Documentation should be clear and understandable, and if you have an issue, you should easily be able to look up and troubleshoot problems.
How secure is this platform?
Security should be a big factor in whether or not to use a service. Is the developer of the platform trustworthy? Location platforms can often times be vulnerable to exploitations that can put your users in a risky situation. Knowing that your platform provider has taken the necessary steps in securing the platform is essential.
It’s also important to think about security when choosing whether to use a platform’s SDK or API and weighing the advantages of each. Priyesh Jain describes the differences well in his blog post when he says, “One of the largely overseen advantages of SDKs is the ability to have deep integration with a native platform such as Android or iOS to provide end to end integration of services for a more secure overall solution, which can be easy to miss when using APIs.” This isn’t to say that you should use the SDK every time, APIs also have their advantages! Just make sure you’re taking the proper steps to secure your data.
Easy to use dashboard
Most location platforms stop at the previous step, leaving location based experiences to be a tedious task of hardcoding new features into your app. It also doesn’t allow you to see how your users may or may not be liking the experience you’ve made for them.
That’s why we think it is important for a location platform to provide developers with a way to visually build location features into their application (usually with a place to create geo-fences and a way to see how location-based features are performing).
This allows you to more easily understand your users and get a feel for what’s around them when creating a geo-fence. Literally giving you a bird’s eye view. You want to build new experiences into your app that help make your user’s lives better. Being able to clearly see that you’re doing that is key.
Leveraging a user’s location isn’t just for “big apps”
The use of your user’s location can be used in exciting ways to create proximity aware experiences that add a new level of convenience to your app user’s life. It allows you to go beyond just screens to build out new features for your users and become more in tune with their lives. Just because the technology has a lot of moving parts doesn’t mean you have to be a large company with tons of resources to build a more modern app. It should be simple to experiment with this technology.
Want to start building better experiences for your app users? Get started with Spotsense for free today.