15 May Geofencing: A Home Automation Trend
By Art Sesnovich. March 10 2016. For electronichouse.com
Technology enables smart home devices to operate automatically based on your location outside of the home.
You may have heard the term “geofencing” lately. It does not refer to a sword fight between a person and a rock. A geofence is an invisible boundary, generated by a combination of hardware (usually the GPS chip embedded in your smartphone) and software (the phone’s mobile operating system along with a downloaded application). Simply put, a geofence can be accurately described as a “virtual perimeter for a real-world geographic area.”
This technology is now being applied to the automation of intelligent spaces, where it will take the best decisions about what to do based on the location of users.
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Programs that incorporate geofencing offer the administrator the capability of establishing action “triggers,” so that when a device (most often a smartphone) enters or leaves the pre-defined boundaries, the administrator will receive a text message or email alert. A great example would be an electronic notification sent to mom’s or dad’s cellphone when their child arrives home from school, triggered by the child’s cell phone.
Conversely, you can also establish a “safety” zone outside of which your child is not allowed to venture. In this case, the trigger would be the child leaving the designated area. In fact, tracking their children’s whereabouts is perhaps the primary reason that parents are employing geofencing apps at such a rapid pace.
A number of geofencing applications incorporate Google Earth, allowing administrators to define boundaries on top of a satellite view of a specific geographical area. Other applications define boundaries by longitude and latitude or through user-created and Web-based maps. The geofences themselves can be highly customized, such as a specific radius around a home or other location; or established via a predefined set of boundaries, like schools, neighborhood centers, or the grocery store (perhaps sending you an alert to pick up bread when you enter the store’s geo-area).
Geofences can even be used to watch over Rover when you’re not at home. Through the use of a smart dog collar, you can use your geofencing app to know exactly when your four-legged friend has left his designated backyard area to chase the mailman.
Knowing the whereabouts of your children, family members and pets is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The real beauty of the technology the geofence and your smart home are working in concert; that’s when you’ll see the functionality of the geofence exponentially multiplied. Your smart home’s various devices–thermostat, lights, appliances, and security system–can be easily synced with your geofence, and pre-set according to your family’s schedule and preferences.
Here’s a typical scenario: When all family members and their phones have traveled out of the designated geofence area (which might simply be your home), the geofence can set the alarm, adjust the thermostat, turn off all lights and unnecessary appliances, even lower the shades. When any family member (or all) return to the area, the reverse can happen: lights on, heat or A/C back to the comfort setting, outside lights illuminated. Thus, while your family comes and goes at will, geofencing capabilities work can activate smart functionalities automatically as family members enter or exit specific boundaries.
Where do you get geofencing? The good news is that there are a wide selection of downloadable programs, many of them free or available for mere pennies. The downside? The selection is frankly a bit overwhelming. You’ll want to do some browsing on the Internet to find the one that meets your family’s unique needs.
Here’s a way to save some legwork: check out Appcrawlr. This site will help you sort through the maze of geofencing app based on various criteria, including price, audience, and specifically what you want the program to do. Offerings like IF by IFTTT, and EmergenSee are highly rated, but spend some time and find the one that makes the most sense.
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