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How Does Home Security Geofencing Work? Security Automation Explained

A geofence is a virtual perimeter, or boundary, around a specific, real-world location. A geofence can be used in conjunction with a smart security system for automation tasks, such as unlocking the front door when you are within 100 feet of your home. It can also be used in a business setting, helping to track things like trucks and other company property. 

As security technology manufacturers continue to innovate, it becomes increasingly clear that security automation, home security and business security go hand in hand. Here is what you should know about geofencing, and how it automates your security.  

Geofencing is a location-based service in which an app triggers a pre-programmed action when a mobile device enters or exits a virtual boundary.

If you are looking for ways to automate your home, then you should seriously consider geofence-enabled technology. Here is an example using a smart thermostat to illustrate how to set up geofence automation:

First, you have to decide which device you want to trigger the automation. Most people go with their phone, since they have it with them when leaving and returning to their home. Once you download the app for your device—in this case, for a smart thermostat—select the option to allow the app access to your location. While some are quick to decline this permission, accepting it is the only way geofencing will work.  

The next thing you will do is configure the automation settings. Depending on the app, you may have a few ways you can set the boundaries that trigger an action. Think about how you use the thermostat. During the summer, you might want to turn on the air conditioner 20 minutes before you get home. So, you will select the option to “Turn On A/C,” then set a boundary which, when crossed, will trigger the action.

You might be prompted to set a radius around your home, so that when you come within a distance of your home that’s about 20 minute away, the air conditioner is turned on. Or, you might be given the option to pinpoint a specific location (such as a restaurant which you pass on the way home everyday), so that when you pass through that location, the A/C is triggered. 

Once you’ve set this up, when you cross the pre-defined boundary, the A/C will automatically turn on. You won’t have to do anything! It’s that easy.

A geofence connects to your smart security system through Z-Wave, a home automation protocol.

Z-Wave is a home automation protocol, or “language,” through which smart security devices communicate. Most Z-Wave devices are wireless, and you can control them remotely through a smartphone or tablet. Z-Wave is like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth in that it connects devices throughout your home. However, there are some key differences which set Z-Wave apart from the competition.

Z-Wave devices operate on a frequency of 0.9 Gigahertz (GHz). This frequency is substantially lower than a typical Wi-Fi or Bluetooth device, which both operate at 2.4 GHz or above. Think about device frequency like traffic on a freeway. During rush hour, with too many cars on the road and not enough lanes, 15-minute commutes turn into 45-minute commutes. The same thing happens when you have too many wireless devices transmitting too much information on the same frequency. The result: transmission speeds, or your Wi-Fi’s upload and download speeds, slow down.

In general, all Wi-Fi connected devices transmit at 2.4 GHz, with some more modern devices transmitting at 5 GHz. This includes things like Wi-Fi routers, smartphones, tablets, computers and laptops, and game consoles. Your home may have dozens of these devices all transmitting at the same time, which could lead to slower speeds.

Z-Wave devices do not experience the same issues. All Z-Wave devices operate on a 0.9 GHz frequency. Transmissions from Z-Wave devices do not travel on the same “road” as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth devices, so transmissions speeds are not slowed down by traffic. And because they transmit simple information—instructions like “Turn On Device” or “Turn Off Device”, not more complex, data-rich information like video streaming or PDF downloads—even hundreds of Z-Wave devices all operating at 0.9 GHz shouldn’t experience frequency congestion.  

If you want to incorporate geofencing into your smart security, you can’t go wrong with Z-Wave-enabled devices. Be sure to research which Z-Wave devices have geofencing, since some do not include this feature. Want to learn more about Z-Wave? Read our in-depth Z-Wave guide!

Geofencing is not restricted to your home or its smart appliances. Geofencing can also be set up in businesses! 

If you’re a business owner or manager, security is probably top of mind. Geofencing can help secure your property, and it may also give you insights into how your business and employees operate on a daily basis. Using geofence technology in the workplace is a little different than using it at home, so read on to learn more. 

Geofence for security: A system admin might configure a geofencing system such that it sends a notification when an employee crosses a pre-defined boundary. This is something that might be most applicable in a high-security environment, like a government office. Someone who owns or manages a small business probably has no need for this level of sophistication. If you’re looking for something similar in function, consider access control

Geofence to improve employee safety, work efficiency, and general accountability: Imagine you run a pest control company and own 10 work trucks. You can set up geofencing so that it tracks a truck’s location and triggers a notification if the truck leaves a pre-defined area. This can help you ensure employee safety and compliance. And with enough data, you can figure out how quickly, on average, employees dispatch to work sites. This can help you make changes to get the most productivity out of your team.

Is implementing geofence technology at work ethical?

This is an important question to ask. As a business owner or manager, you might be concerned that it goes a bit too far in tracking employees. It’s one reason geofencing is rather niche when it comes to commercial use—though researchers expect the geofence market to grow considerably over the next few years. 

If the decision to implement geofencing is based on preconceived notions—and you think it best to forget about it lest you ruffle some feathers with employees—then you will probably decide against it.

However, a 2019 survey gauging the level of trust with on-the-job tracking seems to suggest that employees are OK with it. Of nearly 2,000 respondents, 48% said they are “Very Comfortable” with tracking at work. An additional 30% said they are “Comfortable” with it. Just 7% stated they were either “Uncomfortable” or “Very Uncomfortable” with it.

If you want to implement geofence technology at the workplace, it’s best to be open about exactly why, how and when location tracking will be used. Before you can actually answer those questions, you should do your research (like you are right now!). Going too far and doing things like tracking employees who are off the clock is a step in the wrong direction. Develop a solid plan then bring it to your team. There is a line between work productivity and individual privacy, but it seems—at least based on the survey cited above—that employees may be receptive to it.

Geofencing is a useful home and business automation tool. When used to its fullest potential, it can make daily tasks more convenient and productive. If you have questions about home automation or Z-Wave technology, or just want to speak to a professional about upgrading the security of your home or business, contact Bay Alarm today!