1. Sales & Marketing
  2. Finances
  3. Your Team
  4. Technology
  5. Social Media
  6. Security
We are here for your business - COVID-19 resources >
Product and service reviews are conducted independently by our editorial team, but we sometimes make money when you click on links. Learn more.
Grow Your Business Technology

Location-Based Services: Definition and Examples

image for fizkes / Getty Images
fizkes / Getty Images
  • From displaying weather forecasts to recommending restaurants near you, location-based services provide conveniences to many people every day.
  • There are many features users miss out on by opting out of location-based services.
  • Location-based services are not just about maps and travel; in some cases, they help with security and safety when crime and natural disasters strike.

It's not a coincidence when you see the local weather forecast or ads for the recently built apartment complex down the street when you look at your phone. These are the results of a sophisticated technology called location-based services. Location-based services allow companies to tailor their messages to a particular location. Location-based services are also essential to popular ride-sharing apps, like Uber and Lyft, and navigation apps, like Waze and Google Maps.

Location-based services can be a huge part of security, too, as they allow you to track your lost phone and mark yourself safe in a natural disaster. Location-based services also have been helpful in ensuring personal safety. In the event of a robbery or other unsafe situation, apps like bSafe can send your location to people you trust so they can send help or find you.

Location-based services use real-time geodata from a mobile device or smartphone to provide information, entertainment or security. Some services allow consumers to "check-in" at restaurants, coffee shops, stores, concerts, and other places or events. Often, businesses offer a reward – prizes, coupons or discounts – to people who check in. Google Maps, Foursquare, Yelp and Facebook Places are among the more popular services.

Location-based services use a smartphone's GPS technology to track a person's location if that person has allowed the service to do that. After a smartphone user opts in, the service can identify their location down to a street address without the need for manual data entry.

Location-based services are important for a variety of reasons. For example, they tell an Uber driver your location so they can find you and pick you up. Or, a company with multiple locations can suggest specials at the closest store to you. If a weather app knows your location, it can show you the weather in your area.

Companies have found several ways to use a device's location:

  • Store locators. Using location-based intelligence, retail customers can quickly find the nearest store location.

  • Proximity-based marketing. Local companies can push ads only to individuals within the same geographic location. Location-based mobile marketing delivers ads to potential customers within that city who might actually act on the information.

  • Travel information. A location-based service can deliver real-time information, such as traffic updates and weather reports, to the smartphone so the user can plan accordingly.

  • Roadside assistance. Many roadside assistance companies provide an app that allows them to track your exact location so you don't have to give directions in the event of a blown tire or vehicle accident.

  • Mobile workforce management. For logistics-dependent companies that employ individuals out in the field or at multiple locations, a location-based service allows employees to check in at a location using their mobile device.

  • Fraud prevention. A location-based service creates another level of security by matching a customer's location through a smartphone to a credit card transaction. Tying the smartphone's location to a credit card allows you to flag transactions made across several geographic locations over a short time.

Many app developers lack the resources to develop software to interpret a smartphone's location; instead, they use existing solutions via an API to save time and money. Many companies specialize in liaising with wireless carriers to connect companies with smartphone user locations. These companies provide tools to increase user engagement and connect with the most mobile phone users on the market. Companies well known for their location-based software include AT&T Mobile Marketing Solutions, Voxeo and Esri.

Location-based services use a variety of methods to track your location. They have access to GPS satellites, or nearby Wi-Fi hotspots or cell towers. There is a chip in your device that communicates with those towers, satellites and hotspots.

Because of these connections, advertisements might show a nearby store or restaurant. Sometimes, ads could tell you to buy tickets to a nearby show or give you the local weather. Although most location-based services are turned on by default, you might have to elect to give these apps permission to access your location. For example, if you have an app for an online store where you enjoy shopping, you might have to enable location-based services to see where to view those products in person.