Geofencing (also geo-fencing):“A technology that defines a virtual boundary around a real-world geographical area.” (Source: Techopedia.) In practice, this often translates to “drawing a ‘fence’ around the area you are passing through so a merchant can locate you and make you an offer,” as Francine Hardaway writes in her Fast Company review of Age of Context: Mobile, Sensors, Data and the Future of Privacy, a new book by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel.
At a social media breakfast in Oakland last week, Scoble and Israel described how VinTank, a consulting firm to wineries and restaurants in California’s Napa Valley, “is building a fence around wine country,” as Israel put it in an article for Forbes:
If you are willing to pay north of $100 for a premium cabernet, VinTank has kept your name. If you once tweeted that you were guzzling Two-Buck Chuck on a street corner, your secret will remain safe because they extracted it.
VinTank also listens and watches what you have posted on photo and location-based social sites. Almost every time a visitor posts an Instagram shot at a winery or checks in on Foursquare or reports heavy traffic on Highway 121, the aorta of wine country, VinTank captures the data on where you were and what you did. …
In March 2013, VinTank started building a geo-fence around 25 winery clients and 25 of its most upscale restaurants. They plan to steadily expand until they have geo-fenced the entire county.
When a potential customer crosses the invisible boundary, VinTank notifies the appropriate client—say, the high-end winery—which promptly sends a text message to the customer with a special offer or invitation to visit while he or she is in the area. Israel calls this “a great example of what contextual marketers call precision marketing.” He predicts that geofencing will allow marketers to improve their direct-response rates from the traditional 2 percent to as high as 75 percent.
Israel quotes Marc Andreesen, a prominent Silicon Valley entrepreneur and investor: “Today, this may feel a little bizarre, but 20 years from now it will be bizarre if you walk into a store and the store doesn’t know who you are.”
Other uses for geofencing include keeping tabs on workers via a chip in their mobile phones and, for parents, getting alerts when a child leaves or arrives at a destination. The American band Matchbox Twenty used geofencing during a tour earlier this year. The band’s manager, Nick Lippman, told Billboard:
We can talk to fans as they come in and out of the venue, welcome them to the show, give them a hashtag to participate. It’s a great way to get information to people without being uber-intrusive but also remind people what they can do to be an interactive part of the show. We’ve had killer fan engagement.
Geofencing first appeared in print in 1997, according to the reliable word-history site Word Spy. That early reference used the example of a car rented in Canada that “can be located or shut off if it goes into a hot zone by crossing the border into the U.S. or moving into a loading area at a port where it might be shipped out of the country.”
You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.