How to Make a GPS App and Don't Get Lost in the Process
There have been times when we were afraid to get lost in a strange city or had difficulties looking for a certain place, whether it be a store, restaurant or something else. Today these problems are in the past, and we owe it all to our mobile devices. To be more specific, we should thank the geolocation feature which not only simplifies our lives in many ways but also allows us to strengthen our business. We'll discuss this issue in detail in our article which will tell you how to make a GPS app, and why you need such a geolocation service. And we will share our own experience in the field of GPS application development.
- What is a GPS application?
- GPS apps ideas
- Important points of GPS app development
- GPS tracking application development
- Our expertise
Before figuring out how to build a GPS app, you need to understand its essence and purpose in the first place.
In fact, GPS applications are among geolocation services whose functions are based on user location data.
#1. Apps with notifications in specific locations
Such applications are effective for loyalty programs of various companies. For example, a service of this kind can provide users with the opportunity to earn points when visiting certain locations. Later these points, in turn, can be exchanged for discounts or gift coupons. This is what Shopkick does: it awards users when they visit specific stores.
So if you own a chain of shops, pharmacies, restaurants (whatever) and want to promote one of the outlets (or even a few of them), you should think about GPS tracking app development.
#2. Apps for finding different places and services
Striking examples of such apps are Zomato and Foursquare. These applications allow us to view the offers of the nearest restaurants (menus, photos, and reviews). It is convenient both for owners of places to dine and for perspicacious businessmen who want to create GPS apps for the purpose of earning (through advertising, paid exclusive features, etc).
#3. Apps to find people
This includes not only services for tracking the movement of friends, but also dating apps, the same Tinder, for instance.
#4. Games with geolocation
Well, the games industry could not ignore this feature either. The best example is, of course, Pokémon GO.
Of course, the creation of games, especially those related to the AR/VR effect, is not an easy task (which means it is an expensive one). But if the game turned out to be exciting, there is a chance of making it popular, so it'll be successful and profitable for you. Therefore, the cost of GPS app development can pay off with interest.
Let's discuss how you can use the geolocation feature - it's important if you want to find out how to create a GPS app that'll benefit your business. So…
#1. Transport services
Competition among transport companies is becoming more and more burning day by day. That’s why you should look for new opportunities for business growth and lower costs. One of these opportunities is GPS tracking application development.
Such a GPS monitoring system is especially important for:
- Taxi services. Thanks to the geolocation feature, dispatchers will be able to track the specific location of the driver. The customer ordering a taxi will also have a chance to see how many cars are nearby, and how far away his driver is. So if your business is closely related to a taxi service, be sure to figure out how to make a GPS app (that is, how to supplement your taxi app with the geolocation feature).
- Shipping, courier delivery. With the help of GPS app development, you will be able to effectively monitor cargo transportation, delivery of goods, as well as track the location and speed of vehicles in real time.
#2. Content related to a specific location
In this case, we mean apps whose content is only available in certain places. For example, a SnapChat application offers users the Geofilters feature that allows making snaps supplemented with a specific pattern typical for a particular location. Many brands take advantage of this opportunity to popularize their services - for example, McDonald's has a set of excellent geofilters that SnapChat users can enjoy while dining in its establishments.
You can think about GPS application development either and create an app like SnapChat. In this article, we've written all the details on this matter.
#3. Warning about dangerous situations
You can also create a GPS app in order to send users notifications about possible dangerous situations near them (for example, natural disasters, fires, armed clashes, etc). This service gathers negative news and reports people what is happening in their immediate vicinity.
#4. Automating tasks
People love it when someone else performs boring routine actions (or at least helps to perform them) instead of them since a lot of such actions are associated with a certain location (for example, a man's used to calling home when he is in a particular store). So services with such a feature will be in high demand, and you may think about creating one of them (that is, about GPS tracking app development), for it could certainly be a profitable investment.
Examples of programs of the sort already exist - the Trigger application, for instance, which allows sending notifications when a person leaves the office in the evening. Its interface is user-friendly but so far it only works on the Android platform.
#5. Recreation and entertainment
Think about how to build a GPS app if you want to provide people with a service that will help them to have a more effective rest. Such an application will tell users what restaurants they should visit nearby, which stores around them are offering discounts right now, where there is a sale, etc. This is a very promising area, believe us.
By taking advantage of the geolocation feature, you can offer your customers a lot of possibilities: weather forecasts, discount coupons, news about sports events or concerts that they would be interested in (given their location).
As you can see, there are plenty of GPS apps ideas. In fact, any application can greatly benefit from this feature.
If you want to create a GPS app, you need to remember that there are a number of points that require special attention:
- Optimum application performance. There are applications that can greatly heat the smartphone while operating. The reason is sometimes hidden in non-optimal algorithms for processing data collected from sensors or the lack of methods for caching and filtering information. That's why it's so important to hire development experts who really know how to create a GPS app at a high professional level.
- Interface design. The geolocation app of any format will display a large amount of information at different zoom levels. The designers should conduct several iterations of Usability testing in order to make sure that the GPS application development leads to the desired result.
- Quality assurance. Emulation of the location is not always able to find weaknesses and possible errors in mobile services. Therefore, QA engineers have to conduct many test scenarios in real operating conditions.
Despite these difficulties, geolocation services are of great benefit to both users and owners. Just remember that the GPS app development process requires a more detailed elaboration of the business logic and interface.
To determine the location of the user, one can take advantage of such technologies as GPS, Wi-Fi or IP-address (and a number of other options). The specific choice depends on two main factors:
- Required level of accuracy.
- Availability of location data. After all, not all devices are equipped with a GPS sensor. In addition, at the time of requesting location information, a network or Wi-Fi connections may not be available.
What should you choose to create a GPS app? Let's see…
When requesting location information, your application must specify the accuracy required to get the data as quickly as possible within the shown range.
It provides the greatest accuracy, about 10 meters. However, when the GPS sensor is being turned on after a long period of inactivity, it needs to receive data from the satellite and then triangulate it. Therefore, getting location data can take one or two minutes. After establishing a connection with satellites, GPS sensors are able to get data about the new location much faster. This should be taken into account if you are thinking about how to make a GPS app.
This technology for obtaining location data provides an accuracy level of about 300 to 500 meters. If the connection has already been activated, the location information can be gotten faster than the GPS system will establish a connection with satellites.
The level of accuracy when using an IP address can have an error of up to 1 kilometer.
Alas, modern GPS receivers for mobile phones have a number of limitations, such as:
- Long definition of initial coordinates at GPS start;
- The need to manually set the frequency of position updates and choose a provider;
- The high power consumption of the GPS receiver (with frequent updates).
However, this does not mean that GPS tracking app development is ineffective. Simply, all of these shortcomings need to be compensated by the complex logic of software that works with GPS. In addition, it should be remembered that each application needs its own set of GPS settings, such as a provider (GPS, AGPS, Wireless networks), update period, application logic (for example, whether there is a need to react to changing coordinates or it's just enough to get the current location).
To create a GPS app of a high quality, developers often have to write additional classes responsible for GPS. At the same time, taking into account the wishes of customers, almost unique packages of work with GPS are being made for each application, and it is impossible to re-use them.
We are not going to describe all the details of GPS tracking application development within the compass of this article, but we will mention some important points.
There are several basic tools for working with a map and geocoding:
The choice of the necessary tool for creating a geolocation app depends on the specific task. Let's start in order.
MapKit is suitable for GPS application development for Europe and America. As for other countries, this system also works there if you just need to display a pin on the map. In the case of building a route, it's better to use GoogleMaps, as it is more accurate, and routes are being updated more often.
With geocoding, the situation is similar. Apple also provides effective tools to work with this technology. In this case, GPS app development begins with the need to connect the Core Location framework to determine the coordinates and further work with them, and the class CLGeocoder is responsible for geocoding. However, it should be remembered that exact addresses are only available in large cities.
Unlike CLGeocoder, Google Maps Geocoding works more accurately and supports many more locations. But if you compare Google Maps Geocoding with Yandex Geocoding, mark that the second option provides the better geocoding work in the CIS countries. Therefore, your choice of the right technology depends on the market which the product is aimed at. So before you figure out how to make a GPS app, decide on your target audience.
One of the drawbacks of all these services is the queries limit. However, the purchase of a paid license may increase this limit - but only if we’re talking about Google or Yandex because, alas, Apple does not provide such an opportunity. Though, if your application uses geocoding no more than once per minute, CLGeocoder will be suitable for your purposes (i.e., for GPS tracking app development).
Google Places API for iOS is of special interest too. It allows displaying in your application comprehensive information about a certain place including the street name, address, geographical location, type of institution (for example, a nightclub, pet shop, museum). Perhaps, you need this very tool to create a GPS app, for it's so crazy effective. Yandex and Apple don't offer such a set of great possibilities (at least, for now).
We should also mention one more drawback to the services of Google and Yandex, namely, the fact that their policy prohibits the use of all third-party services except their own ones. For example, if you use Google Map as the map and the geodatabase from Yandex, then there will be a chance that you will be blocked.
We think the example of iOS platform has shown all the complexity of creating a geolocation feature. As for Android applications, the situation is hardly easier.
Without going into details again, we’d like to briefly outline what needs to be taken into account in the GPS app development process in this case.
We suggest to consider two options for getting location data:
#1. Android Location API
To get information about the location, this technology resorts to the help of providers such as LocationManager.NETWORK_PROVIDER and LocationManager.GPS_PROVIDER. The first one depends on the WiFi connection and the presence of mobile communication towers, and the second provider receives data via satellites. In addition, there is a LocationManager.PASSIVE_PROVIDER that works indirectly and passively. This provider takes advantage of data gotten by other programs of the mobile device, so to speak, it does not bother itself with additional requests.
As you can see, each of these providers has its strengths and weaknesses, and each one is good for GPS tracking application development in its own way.
#2. Google Play Services Location APIs
Google recommends using this way to create a GPS app since this method is very efficient and depletes the battery in a lesser degree. Moreover, it independently decides how to get the location data at one time or another (depending on the goals).
This technology is included in the Google Play Services APK and has a customizable feature package.
Application development is our specialization, so we know how to create a GPS app, this task is quite familiar to us. And we want to share a piece of our experience on this issue.
One of the applications we've developed is the SharkTaxi service that also uses the geolocation feature for its work. Among other things, we had an interesting task - to make a smooth motion of the driver's pin on the client's map.
So, the driver sends the current coordinates to the server (using web sockets) every n-seconds (for example, 10). The server, in turn, sends them to the client that moves the pin to the new coordinates. Google uses as a pin the GMSMarker object that has CLLocationCoordinate2D as a position property. The animation is being performed through the CATransaction class.
This instance of GPS application development seems to be rather clear but there are a few difficulties that we had faced:
- the uncertainty of the speed with which one should animate the movement of the pin on the map;
- the inaccuracy of sending coordinates, since the load of the driver's application leads to the fact that updating data does not happen every 10 seconds, but varies within 1-15 seconds.
However, we coped with this GPS app development task perfectly. For starters, we set the default value for the maximum animation time for the pin from one point to another, for example, the same 10 seconds. In addition, all driver coordinates that come from the server are being stored in the array, since the next portion of the location data can arrive before the previous pin animation ends.
In the process of GPS tracking app development, we used Realm as the database which we need to store:
- the current order status. When a user opens the application, the data is being pulled out from the database, and all UI elements and maps are being drawn depending on the status of the order. This avoids the initial wait for the request to be completed on the server;
- all available order settings (a kind of cache analog);
- localized strings.
Summarizing, let's say: GPS application development significantly improves the interaction with customers. Thanks to the geolocation feature, information comes to the user in the right place at the right time.
It does not matter what your mobile application is oriented to (whether it provides a list of local radio stations, news about discounts in stores, weather forecast, etc), in any case, the ability to customize this data according to location can make your service even more useful. So, you, as the app owner, can hope for the growth of your profits.
And we are happy to help you create a GPS app at the highest professional level. Contact us, if you are ready for mutually beneficial cooperation.