Safe and found: how geolocation is helping protect our young, our elderly and our valuables

Geolocation is at the heart of many new Internet of Things (IoT) applications. Example use cases include monitoring the location of shipping containers, keeping track of travelers’ luggage and more. But geolocation is not just all about commercial applications – it has a direct consumer impact too, which people are already benefiting from.

Imagine an elderly relative living in their own accommodation. They can sometimes be at risk of wandering off alone or getting lost outside their home. Geolocation-powered tagging devices can now help you know if they have left their designated safe area inside a geofence. You can similarly protect your beloved pets, and have a signal sent to your smartphone or computer if your dog has managed to get out of the house or garden for example. Geolocation is helping improve lives.

New ICT technologies are there to support the proper development of these solutions, and to ensure the right transmission of the most sensitive information from the device towards its users, and classic cellular networks and new low-power networks promise to help drive the geolocation market to further heights.

Combining global positioning systems (GPS), sensors and network connectivity has created a massive demand for geolocation solutions. In the consumer market, geolocation can help people keep vulnerable relatives safe.

In addition to the previously mentioned consumer-oriented examples, geolocation has many business use cases in various commercial sectors. Shipping companies can keep track of containers on board freighters, while in the travel industry individuals and travel companies or airlines can also leverage the power of GPS. According to airline technology specialist SITA, 24.1 million bags go missing per year, a potentially huge loss of money and time for the bag owners. Geolocation can help individual travelers or airlines to keep track of lost luggage and get it back to its rightful owner.

Choosing the right connectivity for your needs

The tracking/location device is typically expected to be moving constantly, which is why service availability is key for geolocation usage. Quality of network then also becomes a must to be addressed.

For many years, the coverage provided by cellular connectivity has made it the primary mechanism for connecting up GPS and enabling geolocation services, multi-network access is today a key success factor in that sense. For low usage use-cases like location-sharing, roaming between cellular networks secures service excellence by enabling access to different available networks per country.

As IoT and M2M technologies mature however, and as more IoT-based low bandwidth applications and use cases come to the fore, traditional cellular network connectivity can become costly due to roaming charges incurred, and power consuming because of complex protocols.

Consequently, a range of Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) solutions, such as LoRa technology, are being developed to provide viable options for these low bandwidth cases. IoT networks are often vast with devices spread out geographically and can be isolated for long periods of time, in certain applications. Think of monitoring devices in mines or the geolocation of the isolated worker in very particular situations. They have low data rates and long battery lives and so don’t need the same level of connectivity as other type of constant tracking use-cases, which are mostly consumer-oriented.

Research reports have shown that LPWA networks are likely to make a major impact on the M2M and IoT space, racking up an estimated $23 billion in revenues by 2020.

When talking about costs and data consumption related needs, it is important to think through the relevance of the type of information being transmitted. Not all information is relevant for the use case itself and as such should not be transmitted over the network. Algorithms on the device allow the selection of relevant information triggered by pre-defined criteria, enabling better network performance with a better management of the available bandwidth, and for cost optimization. To achieve this, choosing the right protocol and accuracy level is key.

A rapidly-growing market

As connectivity and coverage continue increase all over the world and IoT goes on growing, geolocation use cases become more and more common, with research reports predicting the market for GPS tracking devices will reach over $3.5 billion in 2019. “We project fifteen billion connected devices by 2020,” said Emil Berthelsen, Principal Analyst at Machina Research. “Of those billions of devices, over half will include geodata and about one-third will critically depend on it.”

High quality, dedicated types of connectivity will continue to make geolocation more efficient and effective than ever. Orange understands the need for world class networks and connectivity to power that growth today and in future.

To read more about how Orange is helping organizations of all sizes leverage the power of Internet of Things and geolocation technologies, please visit:

Laura Ros Vinent
Laura has been in charge of IoT Business Development for the Consumer Electronics vertical at Orange since 2014. In that time Laura has engaged with all kinds of companies in the IoT consumer space from large OEMs to start-ups, developing connected objects for the marketplace through an innovative service offering enabled by Orange IoT connectivity. 
Prior to that, Laura headed up lead generation & operational marketing activities for the international activity of IoT at the group. Laura has a degree in international business from ESCI-UPF business school Barcelona, and specialized in Innovation & Technology at French university La Sorbonne.