A comprehensive guide on geolocation app development: All steps and technologies revealed.

How to Build a Geolocation App: Steps, Features, and Key Industry Insights

Today, geolocation apps revolutionize the digital services market. This technology is highly versatile, so there is always something for every scope of activities. Efficient routes for taxi drivers, several click food deliveries, proximity-based dating improve user experience, help companies grow revenue, and brand loyalty.

All of the fuss around COVID-19 made location-based services even higher in demand. No wonder that this market is expected to reach almost $155 billion in 2026 at a CAGR of 23.2%. Even though this niche has its obvious leaders like Uber, Lyft, Tinder, and others, there’s still a huge room for creative ideas. For example, Hoopo, a geolocation-based startup that helps businesses in tracking their assets, gathered over $5 million during the seed round.

However, you can’t just create yet another Uber clone app and expect it to take over the market. What is characteristic of an outstanding app is an innovative idea and flawless implementation. In today’s article, OpenGeeksLab will guide you through each step of geolocation app development and discuss modern trends in this niche. Let’s get started.

Geolocation Apps in a Nutshell

How location-aware mobile apps revolutionize digital services.

To get a clear picture of the subject, you have to understand the concept first.

Geolocation allows your application to access geographical data and acquire users’ whereabouts. The whole magic is tied up to two things — an internet connection and a GPS module.

Geolocation apps help users with:

  • Identifying and sharing location with other users. The goal of this feature is to help other people know the user’s precise location. Messengers, like WhatsApp, allow users to send their location to each other.
  • Finding places of their interest. Apps like Airbnb and Booking display accommodations based on the user’s current location. What’s more, OpenTable finds the nearest restaurants and helps users book a table right in the app.
  • Building optimal routes. Almost everyone uses Google maps to reach someplace. Even if this place is several blocks away. The app builds the shortest routes, bearing in mind traffic jams, accidents, roadworks, and more. Mobile apps like GrubHub and UberEats build routes in a way that clients get food while it’s still hot.

We’ll discuss more use cases later on. Right now, let’s take a closer look at the market situation and discover reasons why companies create geolocation apps.


Location-Based Apps Market Overview

Location-based apps help businesses keep in touch with users at any time.

Geolocation technology provides endless opportunities for increasing your company’s revenue and skyrocketing your business. In view of the ongoing pandemic and growing trend of digitalization, location-based applications occupy the bulk of the digital services market. We’ve gathered some statistical insights that prove our point.

1. Food Delivery Apps

According to recent research by MarketWatch, the COVID-19 crisis has more than doubled the demand for food delivery apps. The total revenue of Doordash, UberEats, Grubhub, and Postmates was estimated at $5.5 billion in 2020, while in 2019 it was only $2.5 billion. Quite a growth for a one-year term.

2. Location-Aware Fitness Apps

During the lockdown, society paid more attention to their physical shape. Some got into working out to stay healthier during hard times, while others were just bored at home. Regardless of the reason, fitness app downloads grew by 46%. Fitness app market share in the U.S. is expected to reach over $2.5 billion by 2025.

3. Online Dating

Social distancing influenced how people fell in love while staying at home. Instead of dating each other personally, online dating promotes building relationships remotely. Tinder claims that 2020 was the app’s busiest year. As reported earlier, Tinder witnessed 11 percent more swipes and 42 percent more matches. Such activity results from a 15% growth in new subscribers.

4. Geolocation in Supply Chain

Recent statistics showed that 1.7 million packages are being stolen in the U.S. every day. This issue also concerns logistic companies with 10% to 40% of supply chain assets being lost or stolen each year. Location-aware apps help companies track their assets, identify the supply chain stage where the damage occurs, and save costs on repair or replacement of their assets.

5. Location-Based Advertising

If you run a business with a physical location, this marketing strategy can fit you perfectly. With location-aware advertising, you can reach your target audience right on time and deliver a meaningful message. Marketers have been using location-based data for quite a while. It helps them boost sales up to 89% and grow the customer base up to 86%.

As you can see, statistics prove that location-based app development gains its momentum. Now, we’ll dive into the analysis of geolocation solutions for various industries backed with some noteworthy examples.


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Applying Geolocation to Solve Industry-Specific Issues

Geolocation apps bring benefits to any industry: from entertainment to industrial IoT.

At a first glance, it’s hard to pull out something new from such a banal concept as geolocation. However, combined with creativity, well-designed software, and modern technologies companies come up with solutions that simplify users’ lives. Let’s take a glance at industries that can benefit from apps that use geolocation.

1. Retail

As we’ve mentioned before, location-based ads may significantly help physical retailers. Potential clients are more engaged to visit your shop when they’re in a range of 100 meters than when they’re at home. If you know your users’ preferences, push notifications with targeted ads draw even more attention.

Additionally, Retail giants like IKEA and Walmart can navigate users to their stores in the app. What’s more, Walmart’s geolocation app indexes all goods inside the store and helps users find desired items faster with indoor navigation.

2. On-Demand Services

Geolocation transformed the on-demand transportation industry. Back in the day, clients had to catch a taxi right on the city streets or call a dispatch service. Both dispatch and client had hard times figuring out departure and destination points.

Today, users can simply mark a destination and share their location with taxi drivers. Taxi-hailing mobile apps like Uber, Bolt, Lyft, and others build optimal routes and ensure the fastest taxi arrival.

Still, taxi services aren’t the only examples in this industry. Let’s take TaskRabbit for example. It’s a P2P app that connects customers with contractors that help them with routine tasks like deliveries, house cleaning, fixing, and moving stuff. TaskRabbit displays top-rated contractors near to users. The hardest job while developing an on-demand service is to find the right problem and come up with an efficient solution.

3. Automotive

Cars stopped being a pile of metal with an engine years ago. Modern cars are all wired with electronic appliances and top-notch software. GPS became an integral part of cars’ multimedia systems.

Nonetheless, the automotive industry has much more to offer than simple navigation. Fleet management systems like Verizon Connect help companies rationalize their fleet operations. With this kind of software, managers can:

  • Track the vehicle’s location in the field
  • Monitor driver behavior like speed, idling, and so on
  • Optimize fleet routes
  • Monitor vehicle condition and optimize maintenance costs

Besides, cars are always at risk of theft. Geolocation tracking apps are useful for monitoring the car’s position and alerting users when their car changes its position.

4. Logistics and Supply Chain

Logistics and supply chain is another industry where geolocation became a valuable tool for businesses. GPS modules make it possible to keep track of every piece of cargo transported by the ground, sea, or sky. Geolocation also provides customers with detailed information about their orders and upcoming packages. GPS tracking apps vendors like Samsara help companies monitor their fleet, cargo, containers and share this information with customers.

5. Hotels and Restaurants

Every hotel and hospitality app today offers a map view with the nearest accommodation options. Furthermore, some hotels offer full-fledged mobile apps that have remote check-in, indoor navigation, and so on. For example, Starwood Hotels & Resort offer a keyless room entry powered by proximity beacons and the hotel’s application.

As well as hotels, restaurants can share their location with users. Besides, apps like OpenTable allow users to reserve a table in nearest restaurants in several clicks.

6. Fitness and Healthcare

Fitness apps utilize location-based technology to help sports enthusiasts monitor their daily activity. Apps like Runtastic, Google Health, and Nike Run Club calculate running or walking distance, jogging pace, cadence, and display daily caloric outtake.

Healthcare solutions become useful when users need to find a doctor. For example, Doctro.App developed by OpenGeeksLab is an efficient telemedicine solution that helps doctors and patients stay connected in the age of COVID-19 outbreak.

7. Social Networks and Messengers

Social networks use geolocation in a variety of ways. A primary use of geolocation is to share it with your friend or mark it in your post or picture like users do on Instagram. Besides, most social networks use geolocation services for targeted ads. When adjusting a Facebook advertisement campaign, you can specify a preferred location where you want your ad to be displayed.

Some messengers also have interesting use-cases with geolocation technology. For example, Telegram allows users to stream their location in real-time in group chats for a period of time.

8. Games

Pokemon GO, once a well-known game, became popular due to the combination of geolocation and augmented reality (AR). The game’s main goal was to search for pokemons on real-world streets and fight for territories with other players’ pokemons. Even though the project’s audience shrank, it still has a fanbase of loyal gamers.

What’s more important is that Pokemon GO’s idea jumpstarted new ambitious games. Projects like Ingress Prime, Minecraft Earth, Geocaching successfully inherited the concept of Pokemon GO and attract new players till now.

9. Internet of Things

In terms of consumer IoT, geolocation serves as a great addition to the automation of routine tasks. Xiaomi smart home appliances allow users to create scenarios for all devices to turn on or off when users enter a specified territory. In plain words, when users reach their housings, light bulbs turn on, the A/C sets up a comfortable temperature, and the robot cleaner stops making noise.

When it comes to industrial IoT it makes sense to keep an eye on expensive equipment. In case of an accident workers can locate drones via GPS and bring them back manually.

10. Indoor Navigation

Indoor geolocation applications help users find navigate inside large facilities. The magic behind this technology lies in small transmitters called beacons. They communicate with end user devices via Bluetooth and precisely detect their position relative to surrounding beacons.

Geolocation apps are suitable for any industry. However, to create a solution that brings profit you have to find a problem that your mobile app will solve. In the next section, we’ll dive into technologies used in geolocation app development.

Technologies That Stand Behind Geolocation Applications

Geolocation app development requires you to carefully choose the technology.

To build a location-based solution you have to combine geo detecting technologies and maps. Today, we have two geo detecting types:

  • Outdoor navigation
  • Indoor navigation

Let’s figure out how they work and what’s the difference between them.

Outdoor Navigation

Outdoor geolocation apps show users their location, build optimal routes, and assist in reaching destinations as fast as possible. To detect user position apps use GPS signals or Cell ID coordinates. Let’s examine each technology in detail.

1. GPS

GPS is the first technology that comes to mind when we’re talking about navigation. Based on signals received from satellites, the device detects its position with very high accuracy (the bias lies in between 16-0.98 ft / 5m – 0.3m). Besides, GPS doesn’t require an internet connection to function. However, the biggest drawback of this technology is its power consumption.

2. Cell ID

Cellular identification determines location based on signals from surrounding cellular towers. It may be useful when the GPS signal is weak or unavailable. However, the accuracy of this technology highly depends on transceivers’ proximity. It can be a good option in large cities filled with cell sites, but it won’t help a lot in the middle of nowhere.

3. Assisted GPS

A-GPS utilizes Cell ID in improving the GPS signal quality. With A-GPS data, devices can predict satellite positions. Thus, the geolocation app knows where to search for satellites and operates better under signal interference and difficult weather conditions.

2. Indoor Navigation

We’ve already addressed indoor navigation in previous sections. Basically, it’s a technology that detects user position inside buildings and navigates them through different facilities. Here’s what the indoor navigation tech market can offer:

1. iBeacon and Eddystone

Beacons are pillars of indoor navigation. iBeacon was developed by Apple, and Eddystone is Google’s product. These technologies use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) for communication with user devices. Based on the device’s location relative to beacons the app displays the position on the facility’s map very accurately (the error doesn’t exceed 3m / 10ft).

2. Geofencing

Geofencing is a location-based service that uses GPS, WI-Fi, or cellular data to trigger an action on user devices when they enter some area. When a device enters or exits this area boundaries, the app can send push notifications, targeted ads, text messages, and so on.

3. Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi hotspots are also used for indoor navigation. Even though this approach is less accurate than Bluetooth beacons (the accuracy is 5 – 15 m / 16 – 49 ft), it’s more cost-efficient. You don’t have to buy additional navigation beacons.


Must-Have Features for a Geolocation App

Locating devices, mapping, navigation, and other features are essential for any geolocation app.

Due to the diversity of industries that use geolocation in their software products, a one-stop list of features for every app doesn’t exist. Still, we can name core features that every geolocation app should have. Let’s run through this list together.

1. Locating Devices

The first and foremost challenge in location-based mobile app development is locating users on the map. This is a starting point for all the following features of your app.

Most likely that software development specialists from your team will use special APIs to find users. Here are APIs for each platform:

These APIs process GPS, cell ID, and Wi-Fi data to locate users.

2. Mapping

The easiest way to integrate maps into your solution is by applying special software development kits (SDK). Currently, there are two top-tier SDKs to choose from:

Basically, they are pretty similar but still have some differences between them.

  • Mapping quality. Google is a leading map services provider. Google maps show buildings even in far-distant rural areas. Even a former Apple cartographer claims that Google has more data to offer, even though Apple is working hard on closing this gap.
  • Routing. Google calculates ETA more precisely than Apple due to its cooperation with Waze.
  • Offline maps. Unlike Google, Apple MapKit doesn’t allow using maps without an internet connection.

As you can see, Apple MapKit has some limitations compared to Google Maps Platform. Still, if you’re building a location-based application for the Chinese market it’s important to remember that Google Maps doesn’t work in China.

3. Places of Interest

Depending on your app’s purpose, your software development team can add places of interest. For instance, if you’re working on a restaurant reservation system, put restaurants and cafes on the map. Besides, provide a description of each place and add user reviews.

Companies provide APIs that allow developers to access their databases of places. Google Places API or Foursquare Places API might be an excellent choice for this functionality. Here you can find more alternatives to popular APIs. A reliable software development partner will help you choose a proper one during the planning phase.

4. Navigation

Now it’s time to take care of routing in your geolocation app. To make your app stand out, build several routes to the final destination that minimize the trip time. What’s more, you can provide users with information about traffic jams, roadblocks, and roadworks.

Some powerful tools for this feature are Google Directions API and Google Distance Matrix API. Besides, you can use Waze SDK to add real-time traffic data to your geolocation application.

5. Calculating ETA

Estimated time of arrival lets your users know when they will reach a destination point or how long they have to wait for their food delivery. Accurately estimated ETA allows clients to handle their business while waiting for a taxi driver and leave their apartment right when the taxi arrives.

6. User Ratings

Finally, add user reviews about places or services that your app displays. For example, if you’re building an on-demand services app, leave a place for your users to rate a taxi driver or a contractor. Thus, other users will know who to hire and who to avoid.


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Steps to Develop a Location-Based Mobile App

Steps to build a geolocation app: start with planning, research the market, and find a trusted software development partner.

As we’re clear with MVP features of geolocation applications, we can proceed to the software development process. Our next section is a step-by-step guide for those who are ready to transform their business with a geolocation app.

1. Analyze the Market and Industry Trends

Before starting the actual development process you have to realize your project’s viability and potential. During your research, it may become evident that this niche is already filled with competitors and flawless solutions. Plus, don’t ignore industry trends. Thorough research of your niche may bring new ideas to your mind that will later turn into killer features of your app. Finally, with competitor analysis, it’ll be much easier to understand how you can overcome your opponents and gather a loyal user base around your product.

2. Decide on a Tech Stack

The choice of technologies influences the success of the whole geolocation app development process. Depending on your industry and type of navigation developers will use different technologies.

It’s impossible to identify a tech stack for your geolocation app without product requirements. That’s why you have to make a sketch of your future product with a list of possible features. After you contact a software development company, business analysts together with developers draw up a detailed feature list and help you decide on tools that will be used to craft your dream app.

3. Take Care of UI/UX Design

UI/UX design is what makes your product attractive and easy to use for end users. Don’t neglect it, as poor design may scare users off as well as software bugs and vulnerabilities.

Designers create wireframes that demonstrate the layout of elements and overall sketch of your future software. Later on, they create a prototype that demonstrates how users interact with the end product.

4. Data Safety

When it comes to sensitive data you have to take it into serious consideration. User data is a subject of dozens of protocols, and if it gets to third-party hands it may result in fines and even criminal liability. Experienced software development companies always handle such issues beforehand, so that clients can sleep soundly.

5. Testing

Quality assurance engineers’ task is to find and eliminate any bugs and critical vulnerabilities overlooked by developers. Software testing is crucial because bugs may lead to program malfunctions and data leaks. Our QA specialists are working during the whole software development cycle to eliminate all errors and hand over polished solutions to our clients.

6. Development

When all issues are settled and prototypes are ready software engineers step in. Their task is to create a spotless product according to the client’s vision and desire. During each sprint (a short time frame set by the client) developers report back to the client and present the result of their work. Together they discuss the progress and what can be changed or improved during the following sprints.

As a product owner, your role is to find a reliable team that has expertise in your niche. Even if you are a tech-savvy person, the development process takes too much time when working on your own. While you’re working, someone else may hire engineers that will turn your idea into life. So, hire a team, set clear goals, deliver straightforward feedback, and be ready for cooperation. Specialists handle everything else.

7. Launch an MVP

MVP, or minimum viable product, is a piece of software that includes only essential features that solve users’ problems. Product owners launch MVP to test their ideas and get reviews from customers. This strategy allows companies to save funds on designing costly features which may appear useless for customers. Eventually, if the app doesn’t draw any public attention it may be better to shut down an unprofitable project to avoid potential losses.

You Name the Idea, We Bring It to Life

As you can see, geolocation apps are growing rapidly. This niche is opened to bright ideas and ready to reward those who have creative solutions to users’ problems. However, to build a noteworthy product you need more than just an idea. We at OpenGeeksLab know how to put geolocation to work. So, don’t hesitate to drop us a line. We have deep expertise in this field. For example, we’ve recently worked on Shift, a multifunctional on-demand delivery service app for diverse loads in the UK. Still having second thoughts? Then schedule an online consultation. It’s free of charge.

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