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Integrating location data into enterprise applications

By David Allen, CTO, Locaid Technologies, special to Network World
October 01, 2012 11:06 AM ET

Network World - This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter's approach.

Today, enterprise app developers can tap into a host of location-based apps, mobile location-based services and hyper-local-marketing tools to deliver highly relevant features and content based on where employees or potential customers are. But how do they know which type of location is best for their specific needs?

Depending on your industry and use case, requirements for latency, accuracy, authentication and privacy can dictate the suitability of various location sources.

There are two ways to access location technologies, and each one offers distinctive advantages that enterprise app developers should understand to help them achieve their business goals:

• Network-based technologies -- where equipment installed in a wireless carrier's network calculates and accesses the location of the phone.

• Handset-based technologies -- where the location information is generated and accessed by a GPS chip installed in the phone.

TREND: Location, location, location fuels mobile apps

Many smartphones have a GPS receiver to help them determine location. Handset-based location has the advantage of being easy to deploy. For users, it has the distinct disadvantage of strenuous processing and battery power drain. For developers trying to reach broad audiences, GPS is limited to smart (app-capable) devices with onboard GPS capabilities. This means that handset-based location is available for approximately 100 million devices in the United States. Second, to access handset-based location, the device must have an app installed or preloaded that will obtain a GPS fix using the device's onboard hardware. This limits the reach of applications using this location method.

Because app-based location relies on GPS, it requires a reasonably unobstructed view of the sky to work. Even in ideal conditions, handset-based location can take several minutes to achieve a location fix.

Network-based location can locate both smartphones and feature phones without draining the battery. This is important because -- if a device's battery drains regularly through constant location pings -- the person's experience with the app or service will suffer. In addition, if a device's battery runs out, that device naturally cannot be located.

Network-based location works with or without cellular data connectivity, an app download or onboard GPS.

MORE: Location and tracking technologies: Understanding the technology

Among the different use cases where network location is preferred for its reliability, three primary applications stand out as especially critical:

* Authentication/fraud prevention: According to Javelin Research's "Identity Fraud Survey Report," 11 million people experience fraud, with identity theft up 12% this year. In general, fraud costs enterprises and customers about 21 hours to resolve a claim.

Using a customer's location to determine whether a transaction is fraudulent creates fewer false positives that can cost a financial institution time, money and customer good will by using a customer's cellphone location to determine if the card is where the customer is.

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