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What is Geolocation? How it Works & Why it Matters

what is geolocation - A person using geolocation data on mobile

Do you know how Google can find restaurants or banks near you or how Google maps can tell how far away a place is from your house? It is all possible because of geolocation data. In addition to the general public, geolocation data is also helpful to law enforcement agencies, the government, and the police. Even businesses rely on IP geolocation services to improve customer engagement and conversion rates by providing a personalized user experience. For instance, businesses can use geolocation data to redirect site visitors to pages translated into their language, display product prices in different currencies based on the user’s location, etc. But what is geolocation? What is IP-based geolocation, and how is it useful? Read on to learn everything about geolocation.

What Is Geolocation?

Geolocation refers to the geographic location (latitude and longitude coordinates) of an internet-connected electronic device, such as a cell phone or tablet. While many people believe geolocation means their physical location, it is the location of the device you’re using that is connected to the Internet.

For example, if you accidentally leave your phone at your friend’s house for two hours and go back to your house, the geolocation data (from your phone) for those two hours will show the location of your friend’s house. However, if you’re wearing a smartwatch, your correct geolocation can still be determined using the watch.

How Does Geolocation Work?

Now that you know what geolocation is, let’s discuss how it works. There are several different ways to determine the geolocation of a user.

Collecting Geolocation Data Using Users’ Device

Thanks to technological advancements, it’s possible to determine the location of mobile devices like smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, and laptops. Device-based data collection is based on GPS and cellular networks.


What is geolocation - finding geolocation using GPS

GPS stands for Global Positioning System. Created by the US government in the 1970s, GPS is a satellite-based system for navigating, positioning, and time information services. While there are several Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS), GPS is considered one of the most accurate systems for collecting data related to positioning.

GPS consists of three key elements – user, space, and control segment.

The user segment comprises everyone using the GPS system for positioning, such as an app providing driving directions. The space segment consists of 30+ satellites (controlled by the US government) orbiting in space. These satellites play a crucial role in providing accurate positioning data by sending radio signals to GPS receivers. The control segment is also operated by the US government, and it consists of ground antennas, backup control and master control stations, and a number of monitor stations. The purpose of these stations is to ensure GPS satellites are working correctly.

GPS doesn’t require the internet to operate. However, the strength of the GPS signal depends on whether the device is indoor or outdoor. For instance, you can get more accurate GPS data if the device is in an outdoor environment (in the open sky) compared to indoors or near buildings. This is because tall buildings and roofs can block GPS signals.

Cellular Networks

Another way to collect device-based data is using cellular networks, which include sim-based wifi-based geolocation data. However, this data is more accurate in densely populated places. In other words, the accuracy of geolocation data collected through cellular networks decreases in areas with low populations.

Cellular networks can determine the location of people when they use cellular data on their devices or when they place a call. While geolocation data based on the cellular network isn’t as accurate as GPS, combined data collection can be highly accurate.

IP-Based Geolocation

IP-based geolocation data provided by ipstack

IP address, or internet protocol address, is a unique number given to all electronic devices connected to the internet or a private network. It allows us to identify electronic devices on the internet. An IP address essentially consists of a string of numbers separated by a decimal, such as 192.121.3. There are different kinds of IP addresses, such as public IP address, private IP address, and static IP address.

IP-based geolocation refers to determining the location of an internet-connected device using its IP addresses. This data usually includes country, region, state, city, latitude, and longitude. The best way to get accurate IP geolocation data is by using a reliable IP geolocation API like ipstack.

ipstack is a powerful real-time IP geolocation API that provides the precise location of an internet-connected device. API covers two million+ unique locations in over 200,000 cities worldwide and returns useful location parameters, such as city, country, region, continent latitude, and longitude. It also returns currency information and the time zone associated with the requested IP address. Additionally, ipstack is capable of processing millions of requests efficiently, without compromising performance.

Efficient IP geolocation APIs usually get data from the following sources:

Regional Internet Registries (RIRs)

These are actually the organizations that manage the distribution of Internet number resources, which includes IP addresses from different regions worldwide.

Internet Service Providers (ISPs)

Some ISPs share IP address data that IP geolocation APIs use to improve geolocation data accuracy.

Geolocation Of Browsers And Data Submitted By Users

Sometimes users provide their location data while submitting website forms, and some users also allow access to their location while using the browser. APIs use this data to improve accuracy.

How Is Geolocation Data Helpful?

Geolocation data is useful in a number of ways. It makes our lives easy by helping us find banks, restaurants, events, and services near us. The government and police also use geolocation data for security purposes. Even businesses worldwide collect IP-based geolocation data of website visitors to improve user experience and increase conversion rates. IP geolocation data helps businesses provide a personalized customer experience. For example, if you know the location of your customers, you can show product prices in their currency, translate pages in their language, and more.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is geolocation, and how does it work?

Geolocation means the geographic location (latitude and longitude coordinates) of an internet-connected electronic device. There are multiple ways to determine the geolocation of a user, such as GPS, cellular networks, and IP-based geolocation.

How do you find your geolocation?

You can use GPS to find your location. If you want to collect accurate IP-based geolocation data, you can use a reliable API like ipstack.

What is the purpose of geolocation?

The purpose of geolocation is to find the location of an internet-connected device. Geolocation data is useful to businesses, the general public, the government, and even the police.

Are you looking to collect accurate IP geolocation data? Start using ipstack today!

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