Location based service uses the physical location of the device to control the features. GPS, iBEACON, EDDYSTONE are some of the related technology terms, which are going to be discussed in this article. There are many applications in the market that use the location information . Map applications are a straight example.

Navigational apps, device tracking or vehicle tracking apps are some other. Augmented reality apps typically use location information too. Advertising apps make use of location based information for targetted advertisement. How does app gets physical location info? Some of the common sources are explained below.

Location from GPS

Mobile app has several mechanism of obtaining the physical location. GPS signals are the most important one. Geo-stationary satellites send signals continuously towards earth. Once we turn on the GPS, our phone is capable of receiving these signals from multiple satellites and calculate its latitude and longitude position. When we develop an app, there are library functions to get the current location information from the GPS module of the device. With current technology, very high level of accuracy, in the order of few meters, can be achieved using GPS.

Mobile networks provide location

Signals from mobile networks are good source of approximate locations. Accuracy of these locations depends on your distance to the network base stations. Base stations in the mobile network send out its latitude and longitude information. Mobile devices are capable of calculating current location from these Signals

Location from WIFI signals

Similar to mobile networks, Wifi networks also send out location information. Mobile devices are capable of getting these information which can be used in our apps. Any mobile device that supports GPS and have WIFI and mobile data option will be capable of the above three technologies by default. In other terms when you plan a location based app, you can assume that the above technologies are available and can be readily used. Typically those technologies give you the latitude, longitude of your device.

Beacon Technology

Two other technologies described below needs more sophisticated set up. They are iBEACON for IOS devices and Eddystone for Android devices. Both work on Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) devices. Here is how they work: Beacon devices are placed in a room or hall. They continuously transmits pre-formatted signals. Our custom apps can pick up these signals when the phone comes say within 50 meters of the beacon. Then, our app knows you are there and corresponding screen or message can be displayed to them. These works well indoors and suitable to interact with customers within your vicinity (e.g. a promotional announcement). Beacon devices cost just $30-$50 per piece, and generally easy to deploy.


iBeacon is a protocol developed by Apple for using low energy proximity sensors. IOS devices can receive the bluetooth signals from these Beacon devices and notify an app that is already installed in the device. A typical system works like this: we install a beacon device in a room. when user comes to the room with the app, app knows which room you are in and app can take actions based on that. Another scenario: Beacon devices are installed in front of a shop. When user comes within a range of say 50 meters, the app gives a message like a push notification to the user about a promotion that is going on in the shop. These technologies can be used creatively for business promotions.


Eddystone is another protocol developed by Google with Android users in mind. Eddystone protocol has slightly wider scope than iBeacn, but for the context of location aware apps, both behave the same; one for IOS and the other for Android. Natural question is what do we do if both IOS and Android platforms need to be supported. Beacons that sends out signals in both protocols are available in the market.

What are the differences between NFC and Beacons?

Near Field Communication (NFC) is the technology used in Apple Pay and Android Pay. That technology is different from the Beacons (iBeacon and Eddystone). Beacons work on low energy Bluetooth signals while NFC works on short-range radio waves. Optimum distance for Beacons is 1-70 Meters while NFC has an optimum distance of 1 to 10 centi-meters. Not all phone supports NFC while Bluetooth is available in most phone models.

Next Step

If you have any mobile app concept that the location information can potentially be used, please get in touch with us. Be it for an advertisement based app using Beacon technology or a map based app using GPS, our consultants will be able to advice you on best usage of those technologies. Afterwards, our experienced developers can translate those concepts into realistic apps for you!