New Opportunities for Location-Based Services

Filed in Uncategorized by on December 1, 2013 0 Comments

A consumer in a boutique in a country 6,000 miles from home decides to buy an expensive handbag. But when she hands her credit card to a sales associate to swipe, the shopper’s bank detects the purchase is outside of her customary geographic purchasing pattern.

In keeping with her opt-in preferences, a request is immediately initiated through her mobile service provider to verify the location of her mobile phone. This information is then shared with the card company’s fraud engine and, when the shopper’s location and that of the boutique are matched, the transaction is processed – all without ever inconveniencing the shopper.


This scenario is just one of many examples of how the seamless convenience of location-based services can transform the end-user experience. What is not as obvious is that this process took place not by GPS transmissions through a smartphone app, but through standard radio signals across a cellular network.

Location-based services have been available for nearly a decade, but their widespread adoption has only recently been realized due to the popularity of GPS-enabled smartphone apps. An alternative means of pinpointing location via cellular networks – called the “network method” – has yet to come into wide use, but industry experts are expecting it to be rapidly adopted, and for good reason.

Expanded reach through the ability to engage with end users on non-smartphone devices is a leading reason brands are gravitating toward the network method. According to Informa data, an increasing number of devices other than smartphones will be used for mobile connectivity, such as tablets, laptops and feature phones, over the next three years. With the exception of tablets, this group of mobile devices does not have GPS capabilities.


  • It requires almost no user engagement to set up and activate, while users must have at least a basic knowledge of how to operate a smartphone or tablet to access GPS location-based services.
  • It offers superior coverage indoors, while GPS has limited penetration inside buildings or any locations where satellite signals may be blocked.
  • It provides a faster location fix than GPS because mobile networks constantly monitor the locations of devices in real time, while even under ideal conditions, it may take tens of seconds to find location via GPS.
  • Since the network and not the application or device is providing the location information, that information can be trusted. A smartphone operating system may be hacked to report incorrect location information to the application, but the network method would be immune to that kind of exploitation.

As a result of these mobile usage trends and technology advantages driving the move to the network method, it’s extremely likely location-based services will expand from retail interactions and credit card holder location verifications to even more use cases that enhance customer relationships. Given the versatility of the network method, enterprises can consider the platform as a valuable new tool in their customer engagement toolboxes, with many possible use cases.

For example, tourists could receive real-time directions and transportation options when they enter certain geographic boundaries. Additionally, sports spectators could receive alerts about scores and in-game events when their devices are detected at stadiums. Many more applications of location awareness will be developed as consumers and businesses gain experience and familiarity with the technology.

With the network method primed to become the predominant platform, location-based services have emerged as one of the most compelling mobile opportunities. An important next step will be marrying this information with real-time intelligence that provides insight into end-user habits and preferences, to provide information, make offers, or apply policies tailored to the specific end user. Through this approach, companies can employ the most modern and effective practices for using the network method to ensure the highest quality and most personalized experience for the end user. 

Soon everything we touch will be smart and mobile-enabled. See what the future looks like.

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About the Author ()

Joe DiFonzo is former Chief Technology Officer at Syniverse.

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