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Understanding location-based systems and the role of GIS

In recent years, technology has delivered innovations we probably never thought were possible. Time and again, several systems that revolutionize operations in age-old industries are pioneered. One of the sectors that have witnessed this massive advancement is the geospatial industry, with several companies becoming increasingly interested in location information, the powers of geographical technology, and its direct impact on their business performance. Notably, since location information can now be modelled in form of location-based systems to better understand customer targeting, smart cities, and security detailing, it has quickly become the bedrock for any valid development across all levels in business and city management. It is expected to wonder how Location-based systems as technology came into existence and how it works. In this article, we will demystify the term and explore its strengths as a novel technology.

What are Location-based systems (LBS)?

For context, location-based systems are the platforms that ensure location data and spatial information derived through GIS are extended to end-users via the internet or wireless networks.

Location-based systems combine geospatial technologies and real-time location tracking to provide information about an individual or object’s instant position. The technology is efficient in providing targeted information in real-time based on the geographic location of the object of interest. 

A deep dive into the Modus Operandi.

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How does LBS work?

A true LBS application aims to provide personalised services to mobile users whose locations are in change. It delivers information on the current position using a global navigation satellite system (GNSS), geographic information system, and wireless communication technologies. Regarding its data, LBS receives data from various sources such as remote sensors, positioning systems, and transportation data sources. These data are often handled simultaneously and dynamically to give users the right information.

Moreover, the basic questions that LBS users are concerned about include: where am I currently? Where are the nearest locations of interest? How do I get to a location of interest? The questions may arise in different contexts, however, location-based technology attempts to solve them using a comprehensive data system. These questions are why individuals and groups now involve location-based systems in their day-to-day life to better achieve better results. 

The increasing demand for LBS commercially has driven geo-information experts to focus on more accurate positioning solutions. These positioning solutions are modelled to connect users to points of interest and advise them on the current conditions such as traffic and weather conditions, and also provide routing and tracking information using wireless devices.

The technology and users

Location-based systems are perceived to be a closer technology to users. The technology gives users the chance to access real-time information about points of interest. However, LBS remains an impeccable extension of the exciting GIS technology. Although related, both GIS and LBS have different origins with a unique user community.

In functionality, Geographical Information Systems require extensive computing resources and possess the capability to satisfy a wide range of purposes in the spatial context. Whereas LBS was originated recently by the development of mobile devices and it is more favoured among individual users rather than professional organizations.

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The exciting relationship between LBS and GIS

Location-based systems represent a real-world application of the endless potential of GIS. However, LBS is different from other traditional geographic information systems (GIS) and web mapping applications because it is aware of the context within which its users are currently, and can adapt the contents and presentation accordingly.

To make LBS work, several key components are required: a mobile device or internet-enabled device, positioning capabilities, a communication network, and a service provider. The positioning component relies solely on GIS technology, and it determines the current location of the user. GPS is often used and map matching algorithms are deployed to improve poor GPS accuracy in outdoor conditions while Wi-fi networks are employed to achieve increased accuracy in an indoor environment. Notably, visualization is the most integral part of an LBS. The chance to toggle between several layers of spatial data is what GIS technology offers in a Location-based system.

Answering the questions

Overall, a Location-based system, even though has a strong GIS principle, does not capture everything GIS stands to represent. Rather, LBS effectively combines the spatial strength of GIS with communication technology to give several layers of location information. LBS has its origin in GIS and is an intersection of different technologies including GIS, mobile Internet, and telecommunication. So Geographical Information System is an inseparable part of Location-Based Services like Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and location-enabled Wi-Fi.

Today, location-based systems are utilized in several industries that include marketing, emergency, sports, augmented reality and many more. Notably, these industries have always utilized GIS to cater to the geospatial needs of their companies, and it will be of no surprise if several sectors integrate LBS to further boost their organization’s reach.