Esri Geotrigger

Geotrigger puts geofencing in Esri mobile apps

Agencies using Esri’s ArcGIS can now create location-aware apps for iPhone and Android. Developers can download a public beta version of Esri’s cloud-based Geotrigger Service to create mobile geofencing applications.

Geofencing − the creation of a virtual perimeter for a real-world geographic area − is among a number of technologies that merge the real-time collection and sharing of location data. Esri’s Geotrigger Service allows developers to build apps based on Esri’s ArcGIS to quickly gather intelligence on where users are when the app is used. Developers can also design apps that send messages to users when they arrive at or leave areas defined by a geofence.

Used for years by public- and private-sector transportation managers to track fleet vehicles, geofencing helps improve safety and minimize theft and inappropriate use. The technology can also protect high-security facilities by alerting managers when people or assets enter or leave authorized areas. State and local governments use geofencing in applications as diverse as ankle bracelets for people under house arrest and the push notifications sent to phones about accidents, missing persons or other emergencies.

As the accuracy of GPS signals improve, the number of geofencing applications is growing. According to Esri, Geotrigger is ideally suited for such purposes as:

  • Protecting private digital data when a user is outside an unauthorized area.
  • Computing users' dwell time at specific locations.
  • Allowing fieldworkers to leave notes and data at places for other fieldworkers to receive upon arrival at that location.
  • Monitoring fieldworkers' location in real time while they are in dangerous areas and alerting them automatically if they get too close to a danger zone.
  • Informing tourists about featured locations as they explore a city or park.
  • Targeting people with geographically and context-aware information.

What makes Geotrigger different than other location-based offerings is that it is a cloud-based service that interacts with individual users instead of any and all users who happen to be within a given fenced location. When the mobile user with a Geotrigger app enters a geofenced area, the Geotrigger cloud service executes a developer-defined action, which may be sending information to the user, tracking the user's time within the geofence or sending notification to another party about the user's presence. If an engineer and a security specialist enter the same location on a military base, for example, each may be provided with a unique set of notes specific to their needs.

The free, downloadable package for developers includes Geotrigger Editor, a client-side Web application for creating and editing Geotrigger rules. Using this tool, developers can draw trigger boundaries on maps, as well as define and edit application triggers.

Geotrigger relies on technology developed by Geoloqi, which Esri purchased in 2012. The Geotrigger service also claims to be relatively undemanding on mobile device battery life, thanks to algorithms that take into account the relative proximity of the user to a geofence. Traffic between the user's device and the cloud service is reduced when the user is farther from a geofence. 

Esri is encouraging developers to try the Geotrigger service API and its iPhone and Android SDKs for free until its expected release in early 2014. The company has not, however, disclosed expected pricing for the released product.

About the Author

Patrick Marshall is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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