phunware_logo_HDThis sponsored post is part of our Beyond the Smartphone series. Produced in partnership with Phunware, the series explores the many ways a multiscreen approach to mobile is changing the way we live, work and play — from apps to wearables and virtual reality to mobile data and connected devices. See the whole series here.

With our mobile devices constantly connected to location-based tech like GPS, beacons, and Wi-Fi, the opportunities for brands to engage us as we shop and seek out other services are greater than ever. But there are significant technical complexities involved in successfully engaging users with location tech.

As consumers hopscotch between outdoor and indoor connections, the tech has to keep up. It must recognize and respond to the difference between LTE and beacons or Wi-Fi connectivity while powering a seamless user experience. Leveraging browsing history and demographics to target users is obvious, but trying to reconcile them with unstructured data from beacons and other proximity sensors is a beast.

There’s also the issue of something more than 350+ proximity data tech solutions on the market, most of which have their own API, SDK, and data structures — classic technical fragmentation stuff.

Branded apps are a popular marketing and engagement tool. Why not? The brand gets the advantage of gathering fresh, first-person in-app behavioral data to strengthen their algorithms. But there’s no such thing as a “one-size-fits-all” app for location-based engagement — there are just too many use cases. Is the user looking for a deal on shoes or the nearest restroom with a baby changing station? A place to get a beer inside the stadium, or a walking map to their neurologist’s office inside a hospital complex?

Meeting market demand across different verticals requires a platform that’s modular, scalable, and customizable enough to serve all of these use cases. Here are a few examples of how brands are finding ways to engage us with location-based tech in shopping centers, entertainment venues, and even healthcare settings.

Retail and shopping centers

Whether shoppers are in-store or out wandering around the world, you can bet they expect a great mobile-enabled experience. Many shopping centers and retail brands are turning to location-based tech to augment their existing app UX with deeper consumer engagements.

Branded apps can help shoppers find the stores they love and even provide turn-by-turn instructions to get them from parking lot to storefront. Once they’re in-store, location-based tech can automatically adapt the mobile experience based on the user’s online browsing history to keep them informed about relevant in-store events and offers of interest.

Use cases in the shopping center environment are even broader with interactive directories and in-context promotions as the shopper passes the promoted section of the store. Brands can conduct geo-targeted surveys (“What do you think of the design of the cafe you’re sitting in?”), or even ping consumers with shopping center events (“Santa just arrived in front of the Old Navy store! Come on and get a picture taken!”). The possibilities are vast.

Media and entertainment

By leveraging the combined power of demographics, proximity data, and celebrity, major media and entertainment brands are finding some very exciting ways to engage consumers and fans before, during, and after live events. Fans are alerted when an event is coming to their area, can download a guide to the event, and even get directions through venues (i.e. stadiums) and straight to their seat. Some mobile solutions take it further by letting fans watch replays or clips and buy food, drinks, and souvenirs from their seats. Some of these apps are even smart enough to alert nearby fans when their favorite superstars are signing autographs.

With apps like these, fans stay connected  to their favorite brand before, during, and after live events with second-screen content, archived matches, interviews, and more. This ensures longevity in fan engagement and extends the monetization opportunities well beyond the in-stadium event.


More and more healthcare facilities are using mobile apps and location-based tech to improve patient satisfaction and achieve greater operational efficiencies.

Healthcare facility apps now provide walking maps of hospitals (who hasn’t gotten lost in a hospital?), interactive department and physician directories, reminders for appointments, and important notices (“The flu clinic has moved to the 6th floor in B Wing”), and even value-added content such as articles on proper diet and healthy living.

The benefits of a location-enabled app for patients are obvious, but there are excellent business opportunities for healthcare providers as well. Behind the scenes, hospitals are tracking the movements of staff and equipment to design more efficient hospital layouts. Waiting room traffic flow is monitored to assess service times related to staff allocation. Location-based tech is even used to help physicians track the activity levels of patients recovering from surgery or participating in outpatient physical therapy. All this on top of the data from EMRs, accelerometers, and biosensors means it’s a brave new mobile world in healthcare.


As more industries turn to mobile devices and apps as a means of engaging users, new ways to leverage location-based data and technologies will continue to emerge and data from the world’s 350+ proximity techs will be aggregated into a common warehouse and structure.

Commercially-focused applications, including those for retail shopping and entertainment, will continue to garner a lot of attention, but we’ll also see a big push in some non-traditional verticals, including healthcare, education, and public transit.

The possibilities are much greater than simply pointing us in the right direction — location-based tech will play a large role in the connected future where all forms of navigation, engagement, and commerce are increasingly contextual and personalized.

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