Always Be Orientated with the Integration of Geolocation into Your App
Many mobile applications are now developed with a built-in geolocation feature. It is intended to enrich the app's functionality and attract new customers. Some apps cannot exist without the geolocation at all. If you think of developing a geolocation-based app, the information below might be helpful.
Why Should You Integrate Geolocation into an App?
What is geolocation?
The progress does not rest on laurels. It's moving forward so quickly that it may be not always easy to follow it and stay aware of recent innovations from the world of high technology.
In this article, we are going to consider one of such innovations which has become quite common nowadays and is widely used in various mobile applications. The theme to discuss is a geolocation technology integration in a mobile app.
First of all, let's start from the basic definition of the geolocation. It implies the process of the position determination of the electronic device. Also, the determined position itself may be called a geolocation.
Using geolocation in mobile applications
Modern mobile applications make extensive use of geolocation. For some of them, it is the main functionality, for the others subsidiary.
So, which apps cannot survive without built-in geolocation? Of course, these are services used for getting geographical bearings, identifying objects around, plotting a course, etc. The geolocation defines the basis of their functionality.
Apps of such type are developed for different purposes, like remembering the place where you've parked your car (Find My Car Smarter, My Car Locator Free, etc.), choosing the most popular and fashionable place for entertainment around your location (AroundMe, Field Trip, etc.), submitting a request to police or emergency centers if you happened to see a case needed to be reported (SeeClickFix, Elerts App, etc.), and others.
There are many apps which use geolocation integration in order to extend the functionality and attract more customers. Nowadays, we have tons of them in the mobile markets.
A shining example may be social media which offer to indicate when and where a particular publication was done. Also, standard camera application is worth mentioning. With a help of built-in geolocation, it can automatically set the place where the photo was taken. Many communication tools, like Viber and WhatsApp, also have a function of location detection. You can switch it on if you want the person who you chat with to know where you are. The practice of using geolocation in dating apps has become a common one. With a help of them, people may look for the soulmates not far from their place.
Thus, mobile geolocation is widely spread nowadays. It is used in apps of different types. Some applications use it to implement its primary function, some in order to expand their functionality. Further, in this article we are going to find out how geolocation works and what mechanism of its integration in a mobile app is.
How to enable geolocation in a mobile application?
Each app interacts with a mobile OS via the Application Programming Interface (API). It can be considered as a set of rules and mechanisms which should be followed to implement a particular function in the application. In simple words, API provides the mobile app developers with the instructions of what should be implemented in the application to make a one or another feature go. This implies that each mobile platform has a variety of APIs for implementing different functions.
In this article, we are going to pay attention to the APIs used for integration the geolocation in the mobile applications. Before we start going through them in details let's clarify that there are two key points which should be looked into.
The first point is the determining position of the object which is often used together with the second point displaying the determined object on a map. Each point corresponds to a separate API. It means that one API is in charge of identifying the position of the object, another one of showing it on a map. Geolocation in your application may be implemented with a help of one of these points, or both depending on its functionality.
For example, if your app helps to determine best restaurants within a radius of 10 miles from the location of the user, there are few ways to do it:
- User asks the application to find the restaurants around his location without specifying his position data. First of all, the application identifies where the user is actually located the first API is involved. Once geolocation is identified, the user sees the map where the nearest restaurants are marked the second API is involved.
- User asks the application to find the restaurants around a certain location which are manually entered (e.g., particular address provided). In this case, the first API is not involved as there is no need to identify the geolocation information. It is already identified by the user. Thus, the application will interact with a mobile OS only via the second API to get the restaurants displayed on the map.
The above example shows in which cases the app may interact with the OS via two APIs or only via the second one.
It is possible that your app will only use the first point to identify the location without further displaying it on a map. For instance, your app helps users to find out which planes fly over them. Users should simply aim the phone in the direction of the plain and the application will display its data (e.g., flight number, a quantity of people on board, destination, etc.). Thus, the application doesn't need to interact with a mobile OS via the second API as it's not intended to display any data on the map.
Taking into account the above, we are going to pay a closer attention to the geolocations services. What is going to be considered refers to the Location and Maps services / managers. We will go through them in view of the most popular mobile platforms Android and iOS.
Android Location and Maps services
Android provides ample opportunities for developers to get geolocation into the mobile application.
Using Android Location services you can 'teach' your app to do the following:
- Identify the user's location with a help of the list of available location providers.
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By providers, we mean GPS, cellular base stations, and WiFi access points. They are put in a query. Each successive provider is activated if the preceding one does not work. GPS is a priority provider. If it's turned off on the phone, geolocation is going to be identified using the base stations signals. If there are some problems with the mobile connection, the application will try to do it basing on the directions of WiFi access points.
- Subscribe / unsubscribe for periodic updates from the providers as for changing the user's location.
You can set the app so that it periodically checks the information as for user's location. If location is changed within the predefined parameters (e.g., user's driven off by more than 5 miles away from the previous location), the app will announce it.
- Announce / do not announce when a specific object is within a certain distance.
Even if the app is turned off on a device, you can develop it so that it gets activated when the user passes by a particular object. For example, you may code it so that the music starts playing when the user is 1 mile from the fast food.
The logic of interaction between your app and Android Location services is the following:
Location services are reached via the classes of android.location package. Using APIs provided by LocationManager, you can determine the location of the device. LocationManager is a system service. To instantiate it, you should call getSystemService. Several instances will be returned in response to this method. Once the LocationManager is instantiated, you will be able to implement the functions mentioned above in your app.
Using Maps services you can display certain data on the maps provided by Google. The maps will be integrated with your application. The process of the interaction between your app and Google Maps is built so that the app 'tells' which data should be shown and the Maps services use their own mechanisms to implement it. Thus, your application is not engaged in the creation of maps, drawing objects, a lining of a route, or geolocations determining. It uses a third-party service to do so.
To make Android Google Maps work for you, you should use MapView class. It serves for displaying data taken from the Google Maps service on a map. When a certain point is granted to the MapView (it is focused on a defined point on a map), it follows user's touch and swipe gestures, key presses to move or zoom in /out the map according to the user's preferences. You don't need to worry about setting up the User Interface (UI) components to manage a map. The MapView will generously grant you with their own. The MapView class also provides with the opportunity to implement the programmatic way of controlling the map along with drawing extra overlays.
Android platform does not support Google Maps APIs by default. But they are included to Google Play Services. Simply, launch the installation of Google Play services libraries on your device. Once it is finished, you can use Google Maps for integration with your app.
Thus, Android OS makes the process of geolocation apps development fast and handy thanks to the wide functionality of different APIs.
iOS Location and Maps services
Geolocation can be easily integrated into your iOS application with a help of Location and Maps services provided by Apple.
Using iOS Location service, you can develop your app so that it will be able to do the following things:
- Identify present user's position.
At this stage, you have a choice which way your app will execute the identification. iOS geolocation API offers two ways to perform it, whereby, you get two types of results.
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The main difference between them is that the first type provides the most accurate data concerning the device's location, whereas, the second one has limited options as for position tracking but greatly saves battery power. Taking into account the specifics of the app you are free to choose the most suitable type.
- Detect user's moving from one region into another.
Your app can identify when the user crosses the boundary and announce it. Also, it can inform the user in case he passes next to the specific object (e.g., a library where it is a high time for him to get the book back).
- Calculate the distance to the objects where the iBeacon technology is supported.
Using the Bluetooth LE, you can set your app to automatically identify the approximate distance to the objects with the iBeacon technology. As the beacons change their location, the app informs users about it.
The starting point for the development of the functions mentioned above is CLLocationManager Class. Instances of this class are to be used to configure your geolocational app announce a user when a certain event takes place.
The iOS Maps services provide you with the opportunity to integrate the map into your app, use standard, street, 3D views, programmatically pan, zoom in /out, pitch the map, use touch and swipe gestures to manage the map manually. As well as Android applications, iOS applications take advantage of maps to implement a variety of features. Applications developers do not create the functionality mentioned above. They develop the apps so that they can successfully interact with the geolocation maps services and use their features.
Map Kit framework is in charge for the functionality mentioned above. To be able to use it, switch on the capability of Maps in the project developed with the help of xCode. You can find more about the process of development here.
Thus, iOS platform offers a variety of methods and directions to integrate the geolocation into your app. Choose appropriate services to implement the features you want in your application.
In such a manner, we have considered the concept of geolocation and the ways of its integration in an app.
The main peculiarity of the integration is that the application itself is not engaged in a location determining. This is done by the specific services created by the developers of the mobile operating systems. The application communicates with these services and uses their data. The interaction occurs through the APIs. Each OS has their own APIs responsible for certain functions.
Having looked through Android and iOS APIs, we can make a conclusion that both platforms have similar mechanisms as for the implementation of geolocation. It is impossible to identify the best geolocation service or choose the most convenient API. You should make a choice depending on the specifics of your app.