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What Is Geofencing?

GEOFENCING is the act of creating and defining virtual geographic areas that trigger a specific action when a GPS fleet tracking device is within, enters, or exits the geographic zone.

What Is a Geofence?

A geofence is a defined area in a virtual setting, which corresponds to a real-world geographic area. Geofences are used in a variety of applications. Primarily, geofences are used to notify people of events happening outside of an allowed area, to say whether an action is allowed or disallowed based on location, or for use in data analytics.
In MyGeotab, we refer to geofences as zones. MyGeotab zones have some pre-set types, but custom types can also be set up. The pre-set zone types are:

  • Customer
  • Home
  • Office

You can set up zones for a wide variety of places. Some common types of zones include: offices, customers, workplaces, airports, petrol stations, or entire provinces. You could also set up a zone to map road/highway networks (to track routes), road toll locations, restaurants, or other places where drivers will frequently stop.
Geofences can represent any type of area you need. For example, service companies, like satellite installers, might create a geofence around the office to determine how frequently the technicians are stopping by the office. Combining MyGeotab zones with exception reporting allows you to analyze and get a clearer picture on the behavior of your fleet. In this article, we’ll define exactly what a geofence is and provide some examples of how it’s used.
To understand geofencing, we need to answer two questions:

  1. What areas can we define?
  2. What actions can we trigger?

Benefits of Geofencing

Geofencing is useful for a number of purposes in fleet management, such as measuring fleet productivity, efficiency, or supporting customer service. Service or transportation companies use geofencing to draw virtual perimeters around a customer’s location so that they know when a driver arrives or how long it took to unload their freight.
Construction companies may use it to determine if a piece of equipment that leaves a job site is being stolen or inappropriately moved.

How to Create a Zone in MyGeotab

Geofences can be created two different ways:

  1. Dynamically-generated, a shape centered on a specific point and sized as desired.
  2. Procedurally-generated, by specifying corners (also known as nodes).

MyGeotab offers capabilities to generate zones both dynamically and procedurally. Our zone import tool will take a center point (lat/long coordinate), and a size, and build a zone for you. For example, maybe you want to know when a driver is 15 kilometers from a warehouse so that a crew can be ready to unload the freight in order to reduce waiting time and demurrage. Simply define the center point as your warehouse, set the size to 15 kilometers, and you now have a defined zone.
A second method is to build zones by hand, by clicking on a map to place the corners of a zone as desired. Maybe you want to know when an employee arrives at a job site and how long they’re there for. You can build a custom geofence that to track that.
For specific instructions, please see the “Creating a New Zone” section in the Geotab Product Guide.

Setting up Rules for Your Zones

Geofences, by themselves, don’t do anything. They are simply digital shapes drawn on a map. Where geofences become powerful is when used in conjunction with conditional logic triggers. In MyGeotab, these triggers are called rules, and they are the real powerhouse behind using geofences.
A very simple example of a rule trigger that references a geofence is:
“If a vehicle [enters/exits] [zone/zone type]”
Zone rules in MyGeotab can reference either a specific zone, or all zones of a specified type. This rule, for example could be used in conjunction with a custom zone type called “Toll Booth” to create a rule that could keep track of anytime that a vehicle entered a toll booth. The logical condition would look something like this:
“If a vehicle enters a toll booth zone, add 1 to the number of times a toll booth zone was entered.”
The more conditions that you have on a rule, the more specific the information that you will capture.
Building on the idea of a toll booth rule, you could then incorporate scheduled work hours, or other conditions, to drill down to more specific events that you want to capture. That logic might look like this:
“If a vehicle enters a toll booth zone after 6 pm, add 1 to the number of times a toll booth zone was entered.”
Another very useful type of rule is an analytical rule — something that provides you with aggregate data for further investigation. A good example of this is vehicle idle time. You may have vehicles which are expected to idle in a couple of locations, but you want to minimize idling outside of those areas.
I would suggest two rules for this scenario:

  • Rule 1 will capture idle time inside of the allowed areas (again, you can select specific zones, or an entire zone type).
  • Rule 2 will capture idle time outside of those same zones.

The conditional formula may look like this:
“If a vehicle is within a customer’s zone, sum the idle time”
“If customer is outside of allowable zones, sum the idle time”

Geofencing Outside of MyGeotab

One incredible example of geofencing using conditional logic is the use of text messages to track elephants in Kenya. Some elephants in Kenya have GPS radio collars with a mobile phone card. When these animals move into a geofence area that follows wildlife preserve borders, rangers get notified of the location, and are able to travel to that site; using noise and spotlights they are able to direct the animal back into the preserve, and away from nearby farmland. In this manner, both animals, people, and vital crops are saved.
Author: Derek Spik, Technical Services Engineer – Geotab Inc
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