How location data can make a difference to everyday objects

Philip Barker
Kettering 52° 23' 55.752" N, -0° 43' 32.988" E

It's easy to understand how location data matters when it comes to satellite navigation or autonomous vehicles, but we're living in a world where location data is making an increasing difference to everyday objects as well. From your computer knowing your whereabouts, to your keyring being aware of objects around it, read on to see how location can make a big difference when it comes to everyday life.

Your home computer

GPS may be the technology you think of when it comes to location, but your gadgets can also work out what's around them using a host of other technology, including Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Computers are good examples of devices that don't need GPS to know where they are, with operating systems like Windows 10 offering location-sensing functionality based on your internet connection, and there are plenty of applications that take advantage of knowing where you are.

That may sound a little sinister, but plenty of people choose to share their location via social networking, and even if you're staying in the house, location tech can speed up the process when you're planning trips, helping your computer to pinpoint your location on the map. The same features can also be found in tablets, although plenty of these also pack in GPS tech as well, giving you the ability to use them as satellite navigation devices.

Location-aware keyrings

There are plenty of key fobs out there, such as the Tile Mate, that clip onto your keys and use Bluetooth to signal their location when you can't find them. Tile Mate has a range of up to 68ft, and you'll be able to make it ring using your phone when you need to track it down. The Tile app also remembers the last time and place it saw your Tile, so even if you lose your keys when you're out of range, you'll still be in with a good chance of finding them again.

Bluetooth beacons

It's not just your keys that could be a lot easier to find with location-aware tech, with the ability to pack similar technology into pretty much any device. The Pixie Point is a smart tag that uses Bluetooth LE to great effect, working alongside a smartphone app to help you locate exactly where the tag is.

At just 3mm thick, you can stick the tiny devices to almost anything, and they can also communicate with each other, meaning the next time you lose something with a Point attached, your smartphone can tell you exactly what direction to head in, how far away it is and even what other tags it's near to. If you struggle to remember where you've left things – whether it's the TV remote, your bag or anything else around the house – the Pixie Point highlights just how useful location-aware technology can be.

RFID tags

The biggest use for location-based tags is actually outside the home, however, making a massive difference to millions of businesses around the world on a daily basis. RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) technology uses electromagnetic fields to automatically identify and track tags that can also store other data.

As such, RFID tags are ideal for use in warehouses and factories, making it easy for companies to track the location of products, and they're also ideal for keeping tabs on items progressing along an assembly line. Companies attach RFID tags to everything from clothing to pharmaceuticals, and they can even be embedded in animals.

Fitness trackers

The past five years has seen an explosion when it comes to the fitness tracking market, with hundreds of smart wearables popping up. Plenty of smartwatches, like the Samsung Gear S3, go the whole hog, packing in GPS and navigation capabilities, while other options, like the original Apple Watch, hooked up to your phone to piggy-back off its GPS chip.

Fitness trackers like the Garmin Vivosmart offer similar location-finding capabilities to the Tile Mate, with the ability to make an alarm sound using your mobile phone and Bluetooth, while also using an integrated pedometer to keep track of the steps you've walked and the distance you've travelled. Sure, fitness trackers that only keep tabs on distances or steps taken may not be as smart as other location-aware devices, but if you're trying to get fit it's still an incredibly handy feature.

image credit: Ahmet Misirligul

Topics: Big Data, Features, Location Trends, Weekend reads