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How to create a location-based app?

Mobile Development

How often do apps on your phone want to know your location? Not only map apps, but even bank customers and Instagram want to see where the user is heading.

For 7+ years of developing projects for mobile devices, geolocation apps have been and remain the most popular. We will tell you all about how to create location-based applications.

How do location-based apps work?

Yandex Navigator, Foursquare, Pokemon Go, and other apps are guided by the knowledge of the user's position. However, another type of application in which the positioning is presented less clearly is the camera in a smartphone. It determines the user’s role and adds a corresponding mark to the photo for later determining the location of the image or displaying it on the map.

In more scientific terms, we can divide applications according to the peculiarities of using geolocation services (Location-based services, LBS for short) into the following types:

  1. Applications that provide information about the nearest objects and the distance to them (points of interest POI)

These applications include 2GIS or Yillio - the most specific category of applications that causes less complexity in development. When working with this type of application, the main thing is developing an algorithm and calculating the distance between two points using the formula: the user's current location and the coordinates of an object from the database.

  1. Apps that display the locations of other users

Swarm or Patrolife, for example. The peculiarity of this category is in the development of algorithms for updating the location of all users of the system on the server. The main difficulty is maintaining a balance between the relevance (frequency) of transferring coordinates to the server and the device’s power consumption. With a high data update rate, the load on the system servers increases dramatically, and the smartphone’s battery life is significantly reduced. One of the solutions can be the use of various filtering algorithms for data received from GPS sensors. In our projects, we use anti-aliasing methods using the Kalman filter. It allows you to reject noise and adjust the amount of anti-aliasing while we reduce the unnecessary load from our servers and increase battery life.

  1. Tour apps and guides

Apps like Azbo or 1000 Guides. One of their features is the ability to work with them without an Internet connection. In most cases, these applications are used in roaming while traveling or entirely without communication means. If we need to work offline, it is essential to correctly choose the format of storing maps in the application. The choice is between raster (graphic files) and vector types of maps. In most cases, vector format is preferable due to its smaller size. Raster maps are preferable for a small area (park, museum) due to drawing realistic objects on such maps. For example, you can display images of things on a map as they were in past centuries.

  1. Geolocation with AR

These are applications like the famous Pokemon GO. Unfortunately, they are among the most difficult to design. In addition to working with GPS devices required to obtain location information involves recognizing graphical objects and processing data from the gyroscope. Apps like this are gaining popularity among educational apps. So, users move between exhibits of an exhibition or museum, point their smartphones' cameras at objects of interest, and see the details of the selected object. To make this possible, developers need to teach the application to recognize the image received from the camera. For this, geolocation can be used as an additional mechanism to increase the accuracy of the recognition process. Also, to simplify this process, the installation of unique markers such as QR codes can be used.

  1. Navigators

This type of application includes Yandex Navigator and Google Maps. In addition to displaying maps, they can build routes. In contrast to the apps above that guide the user through city streets, shopping center routing apps also gain popularity. Here users get directions to the sections of interest in the mall. The main difficulty in developing these systems is to determine the user’s location in the closed premises of the shopping center. Therefore, we use a system of "beacons" by which the application determines where the user is at a given moment. The more "beacons" you use in a shared room, the user's location will be determined more accurately.

Location-based app features

Any geolocation application has its characteristics that should be considered when developing:

Application autonomy

Often there are applications that, during operation, heat the smartphone very much, and it becomes unpleasant to hold it. The reason may lie in suboptimal algorithms for processing data collected from sensors or the absence of caching methods and filtering information.

Difficulties of interface design

A large amount of information is to be displayed on the map at different zoom levels. Finally, the designer and designer go through several iterations of usability testing to create a usable application.

Quality assurance

Limiting ourselves to only emulating the location makes it impossible to find weaknesses and possible errors. Therefore, quality engineers have to run many test scenarios under real-world conditions.

Despite the complexity of developing geolocation applications, they are of great benefit. The process of creating geolocation applications requires a more detailed study of the business logic and interface, as well as the availability of proven solution algorithms.

How to add geolocation to a mobile application?

To develop a mobile application with geolocation, you need location services and maps. They are added using an API, a set of rules for how applications interact with operating systems. Each OS has its own set of APIs. There are several ways to determine a location. Let's talk about the most popular ones.

GPS

GPS location is determined using signals from satellites. To understand how geolocation works, imagine: 3 friends call you at the same time asking, “where are you?”. It is how GPS works. A mobile device with geolocation enabled continuously receives a signal from at least 3 satellites simultaneously. The time it took for the call to arrive multiplied by the speed, corrected for inaccuracies, gives the distance to the object.

Cell ID

If no GPS signal is available, the location is determined using cell towers. The cell that the client is using is found in the database. Cell ID is well suited for large cities.

A-GPS

With the help of Assisted GPS, mobile devices receive combined information from a satellite and a server. The transmission takes place over the Internet - via cellular communication or Wi-Fi. As a result, the location is determined faster, and the mobile device’s battery is consumed more economically.

Beacons

Another option for geolocation is location determination using beacons using Bluetooth low energy (BLE) technology. The beacons are battery operated and transmit a signal to the user's device via Bluetooth. For use with the iOS platform, the iBeacon API has been developed for Android - Eddystone and the AltBeacon protocol. This method of geolocation is suitable for closed rooms and applications that work without the Internet. Beacons are used for advertising purposes, as well as to increase customer loyalty. They are installed in shops, museums, airports to notify about discounts, exhibitions, or boarding a flight. The scope of application of lighthouses is expanding every year.

Wi-Fi

To determine the user's position using Wi-Fi, you need to know the location of the networks. Google and Apple use GPS to collect information. GPS and Wi-Fi enabled on the device determine the user's location and active Wi-Fi network. In the future, the included WI-Fi is enough for geolocation. The data is collected anonymously and stored in a particular database. The user himself consents to the collection of data when the GPS is first turned on.

Geofencing

Geofencing is an increasingly popular geolocation technology. In mobile applications, it uses the user's position and determines the moment of entering a given virtual perimeter. For example, a push notification is sent to his mobile phone with a coupon or discount offer when a customer approaches a designated point: geofencing coverage radius - up to 500 meters. To reduce power consumption, it is recommended to set the minimum zone of 100 meters and update the user's position no more than 1 time in 5 minutes. Geofencing is used not only in advertising but also in telecommunications, informatics for monitoring vehicles and maintaining security. For example, if a child leaves the designated area, the geofencing app alerts the parents; the employer can learn about the arrival and departure from employees’ work. Using geofencing, the smart home app will lower the heating temperature of the room if the user is gone.

Basic steps to create a location-based app

The development of an application based on GPS location consists of the following stages:

  1. Study the market and analyze competitors. You can do this work. It's like homework to do before creating your app. These are real problems that require in-depth market analysis, and only with their help can solutions be analyzed. Professional agencies can also assist a company in solving market problems.

  2. Prototyping. It means the logical app structure. This way, you will get an app idea and what the screen will look like. It will make your application more enjoyable. It also collects user feedback and makes the necessary initial changes because the required changes are not yet completed. Low and straightforward fidelity, which is only a rough layout, will only be done on paper.

  3. Incorporating GPS geolocation into your app. Excellent UI/UX design can also make your application easy to use and operate. The design should be clean and maintain the application’s functionality, making it easier to work with. You need good UI/UX design, and this will keep the application running for a long time.

  4. App development. This stage mainly requires the development of various versions such as iOS, Android, and web apps. This stage is designed to provide maximum user functionality.

  5. Testing. At this stage, you need to find out all the hidden errors in the application. Testing is essential because as soon as the user finds difficulties or errors in using it, confidence in the application is lost, and it is easy to restore it. Furthermore, testing will prevent your application from crashing. Therefore, it is necessary to conduct thorough testing not to contain bugs and errors.

  6. Application release. The app is available to users through the App Store, Play Store, and websites.

With the proper marketing, a highly effective, helpful app is in high demand. However, it may not get enough downloads if it is not marketed correctly. Marketing makes the app available so that it can attract the maximum number of customers. In addition, marketing is done during the creation and after the development of the application. It is also necessary to do work with social networks to generate interest from users.

 

Now that you've seen the nuances of location-based app development, you need to move forward in the right direction. First, you can implement guides for your application. To do this, you need a team of experts to help you implement the application securely and secretly. Sannacode has 7 years of experience in mobile app development. You can fill out the form on the website and get a free consultation with our service station.

 

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