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Overview of GPS-based Apps: Types, Features, Technologies

June 14, 2021
12 min
gps-based app

At one time, the GPS technology embedded in mobile apps was used only for navigation. Today this technology is being used much more widely. Location-based services have entered spheres such as retail, eCommerce, healthcare, food, and entertainment. All of this has taken the user experience in many fields to a completely new level. What’s even more interesting to observe today is how IoT (Internet of Things) and geolocation technologies can interact within a single product. 

GPS in IoT makes it possible to create unique real-time trackers that analyze the movements of people, animals, objects, and vehicles. IoT devices paired with GPS-powered software help to collect and record huge volumes of data related to speed, time, direction, and location, which can be used in a variety of ways for personal or business purposes.

The IoT industry is actively expanding, which has led to increasing demand for IoT development services. The growth rates are really impressive. It is expected that by 2025 the number of IoT-connected devices will hit 16.44 billion — more than twice as many as the 7.74 billion present in 2019. By 2030, that number could increase to 25.44 billion.

Number of Internet of Things (IoT) connected devicesThis means the market is wide open for new innovators. Read this article and, who knows, maybe you’ll also be inspired to create a new GPS-powered app for IoT devices!

What are the most popular types of GPS apps?

Today a wide range of mobile applications are enriched with geolocation features. While for some apps these features are a core functionality (such as navigation GPS app solutions), in other cases geolocation data helps to ensure a better, more highly personalized user experience.

What are some purposes of geolocation features?

  • Providing users with the most relevant information
  • Providing directions
  • Defining the precise location of an object
  • Calculating speed, analyzing performance and activity
  • Geofencing
  • Adding a social interaction component
  • Ensuring innovative augmented reality

If you ask the average person to name a location-based solution, they’ll probably think of navigation or weather apps. But geolocation technologies are used much more widely than that. Among other purposes, they are used for creating:

  • Apps for pet tracking
  • Fitness apps
  • Taxi-hailing services
  • Place recommendations
  • Hotel booking solutions
  • Food delivery apps
  • Doctor-on-demand apps
  • Dating apps
  • eCommerce apps
  • AR games

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular types of GPS-powered applications.

Fitness apps

Fitness apps are IoT solutions enriched with GPS features. Apps such as Mi Fit or Galaxy Fit work with multiple smart devices, can track users’ activity, analyze sleep, and evaluate workouts. Such apps can measure the speed of running, walking and cycling, and record stats with a wide range of parameters that help users make their workouts more effective.

eCommerce apps

Based on information drawn from a user’s location, eCommerce applications can display the closest delivery office or shipping center and offer the best options for shipments. Groupon, eBay, Amazon, and AliExpess are typical examples of a location-based eCommerce app.

Taxi-hailing apps

GPS technology in mobile app development is widely used by on-demand taxi services. The apps get the location of a user and of available cars, then estimate the time needed to get to a pick-up point and to a destination. The most famous taxi-hailing apps, popular in many countries, are Uber, Lyft and Curb.

Dating apps

Location-based dating apps work by matching pairs in accordance with the location of users’ devices. When an app (like Tinder or OkCupid, for example) gets a location from one smartphone, it starts looking for potential matches within the specified search radius. 

AR Games

Applications of this type obtain geolocation data to be able to offer users relevant gaming content; for example, to cache some virtual objects in the real world or somehow interact with them. Pokémon Go and Neyon Clash are among the most well-known location-based AR games.

Of course, those are only a few examples of apps with GPS functionality. We’re quite sure that if you take your smartphone and look carefully at all the apps you have, you’ll find other products of this type.

GPS app guide: stages of development

If you want to build your own GPS product, you should know that the process of app development involves multiple stages.

stages of development

Stage 1. Everything starts with a kickoff meeting at which you’ll discuss project goals, requirements and expected results.

Stage 2. The team deeply studies the requirements and chooses the basic tech stack as well as specific technologies and tools for geolocation feature integration (including Maps API, Routing API, Search API, and Traffic API, if needed).

Stage 3. The project starts. The entire process is divided into sprints. All team members are assigned their own tasks, with the work being coordinated by a project manager. At Cogniteq, we always prepare a detailed data report on each task at the end of each month. These reports help our clients stay updated as to progress on the project.

Stage 4. When the product is built, it’s time for regression tests and bug fixing. For GPS solutions, special attention is paid to the accuracy of geolocation data.

Stage 5. After the end of the development team’s work, the solution is provided to a focus group of end-users for testing or for specialists for review. Based on the received feedback, some alterations and updates can be introduced.

Stage 6. When the client is fully satisfied, the solution is deployed in the client’s environment and published on the app marketplaces.

Also, when building a GPS solution, it is crucial to pay attention to the following points:

  • Speed of performance
  • User-friendly UI/UX
  • Easy navigation
  • Privacy and data protection issues
  • Suitability of a location-tracking technology and maps used by your app. (To choose the right maps API for your project, read one of our previously published blog posts, in which we shared our recommendations)

Have an idea for a GPS-powered app?

Our seasoned experts will carefully study your requirements and needs to offer the most appropriate and feasible solution.

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Geolocation technologies

Based on our experience, we can define several technologies that are widely used for building geolocation apps.

They include:

  • GPS (Global Positioning System) module. This is a satellite navigation technology. All modern smartphones have in-built chips that ensure connection to this system. The accuracy of geolocation data offered by modern GPS tech is about 20 meters.
  • Cell-ID. This technology allows devices to collect data from the nearest cell towers. Actually, the nature of this technology explains its low popularity. The quality and speed of receiving geolocation data from mobile operators depends on the cell signal coverage in the area (which in rural areas can be really poor) and the number of mobile devices using the network in the area. However, this technology is often used as a supplement, as it makes it possible to get at least the approximate location of a device even when there is no live data from it.
  • A-GPS (Assisted GPS). This option represents a combination of the first two technologies on this list. Working together, they can ensure significantly higher accuracy of the provided data than in cases where they operate separately.
  • Geofencing. This GPS-based technology is able to determine the distance between a user and a specified location. This tech is widely used in the advertising sector to ensure a personalized experience for users based on their location.
  • iBeacon (by Apple) and Eddystone (by Google). These are both Bluetooth-based technologies applied to indoor navigation, as they demonstrate the highest accuracy of indoor geolocation data.
  • WiFi. The working principle of this technology resembles that of Cell-ID but demonstrates a higher level of accuracy. It allows devices to obtain geolocation data from nearby WiFi hotspots.

It’s also important to mention that to integrate geolocation technology today, developers do not need to write the entire code from scratch. It’s possible to reduce costs and time needed for development by using third-party services for calculating coordinates based on Cell-ID or WiFi hotspot data. For these aims, our developers usually rely on tools such as Google geolocation API and LocationAPI

GPS-based Apps by Cogniteq

The Cogniteq team’s portfolio already includes a number of successfully launched IoT projects with GPS functionality.

One was an application built to be paired with Dog Tracker Nano smart GPS collars. When the client came to us, they actually already had a basic version of the app, but it had to be completely redesigned and enriched with new features. The much-improved application, available for iOS and Android devices, now has several modules powered by integrated street and satellite maps with worldwide coverage. For example, users can see the location of their pets and all their motions on the map in real time. It is also possible to restrict the movements of a dog outside the permitted area by creating a virtual fence. When the pet leaves the specified zone, the user is notified. The application also tracks walks and activities of pets, helping owners take care of their wellbeing and health. For more information about this project, you can follow the link.

dog tracker development

Another project our team worked on was developing mobile apps for TeamZWATT, a company manufacturing bike power meters, and its partners. Power meters measure the power output of the rider and help to monitor and evaluate race performance. Our task was to build software for collecting and interpreting sensor data. The app tracks power, cadence, pedal smoothness, and torque effectiveness. Thanks to its use of GPS data as well as data from WiFi and cell towers, the application can determine the precise location of users for monitoring cyclists’ performance.  You can read more about this here.



GPS technology helps companies significantly expand their offerings for clients across many industries. And the IoT sphere seems to be one of the most promising for discovering the capacities of geolocation tools.

If you are interested in the development of a geolocation app, our team will be happy to help you.  We will turn your idea into a real product that will add value to your business and provide users with an enhanced experience. Don’t hesitate to contact us!