By Allan Sutherland
It’s 7:00 in the evening and your building’s carbon monoxide alarm has sounded. Many of the occupants have gone home for the night; however, with so many people in and out of your doors each day, how can the facility management team be certain that the building is empty? Nevertheless, first responders are on their way, and you need to get a message out quickly and efficiently to everyone in the building. In situations like this where every second counts, it is crucial to have effective emergency communication tools in place.
Enter geofencing technology.
Geofencing is a feature in a software program that uses the global positioning system (GPS) or radio frequency identification (RFID) to define geographical boundaries. By setting a virtual boundary, administrators can set up triggers when a mobile device enters (or exits) a specified area. These virtual boundaries are an effective and efficient way to communicate with guests, tenants, and employees.
Geofencing Business Facilities
- With employees on different schedules, like hospitals, using geo-fencing technologies can tell you when employees arrive and leave work. They can also be used to track staff as they move through the property.
- Boundaries can also be created around restricted areas so facility managers are notified when there is an intruder.
- There is also the ability to “tag” assets such as equipment. In the case they are moved outside of a geo-fence, facility managers can receive an immediate alert.
Geofencing Multi-family Facilities
- Residents in the property can be alerted to a temporary power outage or service issue without bothering residents who are outside the property at the time.
- Messages can be sent to residents on a certain floor or part of the building when they arrive on the floor to alert them of an issue of which they should be aware.
- Messages can be sent to residents in a building alerting them of a “pop-up” social event.
In all types of facilities, visitor management procedures can also benefit from this technology. Authorized facility employees can receive a notification within seconds when someone unknown to the system is on the property by crossing or entered your geofence. The technology also provides the capability to include visitors in informational messages without needing their information like cell number, or e-mail address.
Active And Passive Geofences
There are two types of geofences: active and passive. Active geo-fences require users to download an application on their mobile devices and to “opt-in” to location services. Passive geo-fences rely on Wi-Fi and cellular data. Active geofencing can let you track individual occupants by latitude and longitude through GPS by contacting a satellite, but it consumes so much power that it devastates the user’s battery. This kind of GPS-based geofencing also only works while the app is open, which isn’t really compatible with busy customers bustling by your store.
By contrast, passive geofencing works in the background and consumes very little power, but it provides less data about the customer and offers fewer opportunities to reach out to customers, gather data, and transmit the kinds of messages mentioned in the previous section.
Apps are being created that use the best of both types of geofences (i.e., low power consumption, but robust data gather/alerting capability). The use of geofencing technology is growing rapidly throughout the country and could become the global standard by the end of 2023. As such, it’s critical to be aware of and understand the benefits of geofencing technology as we enter a new and very different era of facility management.
No matter what industry or building is managed, geofencing technology helps to create a community and sense of belonging amongst individuals. Having the capability to send out alerts to everyone in a specific location can save lives and keep people better informed. Don’t get caught in an emergency situation wishing you knew who was in or around your buildings. Geofencing and the applications that utilize them can provide you and your team certainty and peace of mind.
Sutherland is founder, CEO, and president of In-telligent, a telecommunications company and creator of the In-telligent platform, a mass notification system and accompanying mobile application that revolutionizes the way communities communicate with their members.