If you've read any of our camera reviews, you know that we often spout off features that we consider to be awesome or important. One feature we highlight often is a feature called geofencing.
What is Geofencing?
Geofencing or geo-fencing can mean a lot of things. There are applications for retailers, law enforcement, etc. Of course, we are focusing on geofencing when used specifically for home security purposes.
When used in home security, geofencing is a virtual fence that that helps identify when people enter or exit a defined physical location. The virtual fence is drawn as a a circle with a defined diameter around a physical location. For example, you might draw a circle around your house, your child's school, or your office. In order for a geofence to work, you must have a presence sensor which might be an actual presence senor or your GPS enabled smart phone. Most home security cameras use the latter.
Why a Geofence?
A geofence can perform several functions. Usually cameras that offer geofencing are using the feature to arm and disarm the camera. For example, let's say you draw a geofence around your house. When you leave, cell phone in pocket, your camera will automatically arm and monitor for motion. When your cell phone re-enters your defined perimeter, your camera will disarm.
When combined with other sensors through home automation, geofencing can perform an even more important role. It can act as a trigger for multiple events. For example, when I arrive home turn on the hall lights or open the garage door.
Are Geofence Services Reliable?
Yes and no. Some are and some are not. The reliability of a geofence is questionable and depends on several factors. You can improve accuracy by:
1. Turning on your phone's WiFi
2. Making sure GPS or location services are turned on
3. Testing your geofence size to find the best fit.
4. Keep the app running in the background
Turning on your WiFi and location based services should be pretty common sense tips. However, you will find different opinions on number three. Some people will suggest making the geofence diameter as small as possible but I've found that increasing the size of your geofence can actually help improve accuracy. I suggest testing different sizes and finding the best fit for you.
Finally, I know that running a GPS based app constantly will drain your phone's battery faster but it is required to improve geofence accuracy. Even when you run a geofence app constantly you might find that there are times that it gets jacked up. The best way to fix it is to update the app. A quick tip by Life360...
When the app is running in the background on a device, it can lose accuracy which can make it appear that a user is somewhere they are not. The solution for this is for the person viewing your location to run a manual update, which will bring the location back to the most accurate we can get, based on signal quality.
While I personally wouldn't entrust geofence technology to monitor something as important as a child, it's a decent way to arm and disarm a camera or a home security system. Problems include inaccuracy, failure, and also exclusion. Keep in mind that geofence technology excludes family members who do not have a phone or a presence sensor.
I do believe that as geofence technology improves, the technology will become more relevant. Until then, there are better ways to automate cameras like creating a time-based schedule or adding sensors as a trigger. If you are hellbent on owning a camera with geofence technology, your best bet is to checkout cameras that support IFTTT. IFTTT has a channel that can connect cameras to Life360. Cameras like Homeboy have existing IFTTT channels with more cameras coming down the IFTTT pipe soon.