When I first heard the term, “geofencing,” I couldn’t help but imagine a new artificial intelligence-driven Olympic sport with GPS-enabled epees. Yes, my imagination runs wild.
According to CIO magazine, “Geofencing is a location-based service in which an app or other software uses GPS, RFID, Wi-Fi, or cellular data to trigger a pre-programmed action when a mobile device or RFID tag enters or exits a virtual boundary set up around a geographical location, known as a geofence.”
I have explored and written about location-based services before, but never came across the term, geofencing. The term itself implies boundaries, which got me thinking more about where these technologies are being used, and what types of fences are popping up in the learning and development (L&D) landscape.
Think about what fences are meant to do. Set boundaries? Keep things or people apart? Bring things or people together?
Mostly used in marketing and retail scenarios, geofencing is designed to target audiences based on physical location and activities—where people are, where they are going, and what they are doing. The technology enables us to designate specific spaces as zones, target specific users within those zones, and deliver specific content to their devices when they are within that zone. I see a perfect solution for just-in-time training!
Geofence boundaries typically are set within the code of a mobile app. When we enable location services within that app and step within the boundaries of a target zone, we trigger the app to do something. Again, an aha moment! I am using geofence technology on my phone via the iOS Reminders app I have set to trigger an alert every time I pull into my driveway.
Geofencing is being used in the workplace now in place of antiquated time card systems. It’s being used to establish secure boundaries on worksites and alert supervisors when people meander to where they may not be permitted. Even curb-side pickup taps into this tech. And most drones are programmed with geofencing technology, enabling the FAA to establish barriers around off-limit areas, and send messages to drone operators (or disable the drone).
So how might we leverage this technology in our learning experiences? It is as simple as establishing certain zones within our workplaces (or out in the world), associating those locations with alerts and actions, and sending content to our learners’ mobile devices.
We can enable our learners to be immersed in situated learning experiences (on the manufacturing line, in the cockpit, at the front desk, etc.) and have learning content delivered to their devices. We can send videos, tip sheets, and checklists. We can provide access to remote experts who can instantly diagnose problems. And we can guide the progress of our learners through coaching and reinforcement when they return to their workplaces after training.
The leading technology players in this space target consumer marketing, with a few focusing on attendance tracking. With many players in the market, the only company that I found specifically targeted to learning is PinPoint Workforce, with a tagline of “a Learning Experience Platform for Field Workers.”
One of the company’s partners explains, “PinPoint is leveraging geofencing—and other smartphone-based technologies—to deliver location-based learning. We believe many of the ideas that you see in consumer apps can be applied back to the enterprise. With geofences, a company can trigger training when a device enters a set location. Geofences within the PinPoint mobile app are an excellent example of bridging learning experiences with the physical world.”
Even if you are not ready to integrate geofencing into your L&D strategy, the PinPoint Website (https://www.pinpointworkforce.com/) is worth exploring to gain a better understanding of what is possible in this space. I highly recommend reviewing the assets and case studies located under the Insights tab.
I am looking forward to more tech companies realizing the potential of geofencing in the L&D space, and more designers coming up with innovative ways to serve content to our fenced-in learners in all of their moments of learning need.