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Geotrigger set to help developers hit the mark

5 min read


Mobile phone battery life is a precious commodity. Consumers crave more and more cool applications for their phones, but those apps can drain the battery and cut off a lifeline to the world as they know it.

App developers are well aware of the limitations of mobile phone batteries. For years, the development of incredible apps that offer location-based services has been stunted by one seemingly insurmountable hurdle: battery drain.

Esri has developed a service that could be a game-changer for developers looking to harness the full potential of location-based services. The platform, called the ArcGIS Geotrigger Service, helps manage the built-in location tracking capabilities on a smartphone and optimizes those services. Developers can use the Geotrigger services to allow apps to send and receive location data from a cloud-based streaming server in real time. The app then knows where it is in relation to relevant points of interest or geofences that the developer defines using a web-based application programming interface.

“We’ve made a service that includes SDKs and APIs optimized for smartphones,” said Amber Case, director of the Esri R&D Center in Portland, Ore. “It’s something that really fits within one’s everyday life. Whether consumers, enterprises or organizations are looking for mobile advertising, civic alerts or real-time information for teams, the Geotrigger service can deliver it.

“Anything that you can imagine people getting location-based alerts about; that’s what works with this platform. The platform runs in the cloud and can automatically scale to the needs of millions of users downloading applications created by developers using the service.”

When a person enters a geofenced area with their mobile phone, they automatically initiate a developer-defined Geotrigger event. Case says there are three different kinds of Geotrigger events — Arriving, Dwelling and Leaving — and each event can be utilized to interact with the user in different ways (see image below).

A Geotrigger™ notification can be sent upon a user’s arrival at a geofence, after a predetermined time dwelling within a geofence, or upon departure. Source: Esri

Case, who spoke during numerous sessions at the Esri International Developer Summit this week in Palm Springs, Calif., says early feedback from the developer community about the ArcGIS Geotrigger Service has been positive for one simple reason: It works. “It’s an easy story to say location-based services or location-based messaging, but when you get down into the details it’s obnoxious to build [software development kits] that reduce battery drain. This is because Android and iPhone devices are very different platforms with details specific to each device.”

ArcGIS Geotrigger Editor is coming to ArcGIS online this summer. Case says the tool uses what she describes as a “Mad Libs” kind of interface that is incredibly user-friendly (see image below).

A visual trigger editor allows a nontechnical staffer to modify geofence locations and Geotrigger logic on the fly, without writing any new code. Source: Esri

Case said the “situational awareness” that the ArcGIS Geotrigger service provides translates into endless possibilities for use in the business world. For example, if used with Salesforce Chatter, the tool could alert a sales manager when one of their team members lands at the San Diego airport, enters Lower Manhattan or arrives inside The Loop in Chicago. In-home health care providers can use the tool to track how efficiently their staff members are making their rounds to visit patients in various locations.

All that “situational awareness” is sure to trigger concerns about privacy, a huge hurdle within the developer community. But Case thinks that landscape is set to change. “People need to be taught a bit about making apps. If you’re making an app for a consumer, you need to tell them what part of their location you are using, what you’re going to use it for and what you are going to be giving them in return for their location. It needs to be a very transparent and a very granular thing,” Case explained. “Right now with apps, you basically get ‘This app would like to use your location’ and you say yes or no. That will no longer suffice for application users in the future.”

In addition to the sales and health care uses mentioned above, Case says developers can use the ArcGIS Geotrigger Service to help customers in numerous other ways, including:

  • Targeting customers with geographically and context-aware information
  • Protecting private digital data when a user is outside an unauthorized area
  • Computing users’ dwell time at places that matter to you and your application
  • Optimizing customer service by being aware of when to expect a customer to arrive at a site
  • Allowing field-workers to leave notes and data at places for other field-workers to receive upon arrival at that location
  • Monitoring field-workers’ location in real time while they are in dangerous areas, and alerting them automatically if they get too close to a danger zone
  • Bringing public attractions to life by informing tourists about featured locations as they explore a city