Geofencing, smart cities shaping citizen involvement

Location-based, context-aware notification systems enabled by geofencing offer a new way to connect citizens with proximate opportunities for engaging in collaborative policymaking. Thore Fechner, Dominik Schlarmann, and Christian Kray explore the potential of location-based technology for motivating citizen engagement.

Fechner, Schlarmann, and Kray published ‘Facilitating Citizen Engagement in Situ: Assessing the Impact of Pro-Active Geofenced Notifications’ as part of the Proceedings of MobileHCI’16, the 18th International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction with Mobile Devices and Services. Acknowledging the role of Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) in the enablement of Open Government and Smart City programs, the research identifies of communication enabled by location-based technology.

The research understands that spatial vicinity is a major factor in shaping citizen involvement with processes and policy. Fechner, Schlarmann, and Kray leverage geofencing and proactive notifications on mobile devices to connect citizens with engagement opportunities in their locational vicinity, also drawing on the existing uses of location based services in e-commerce, tourism, and situated storytelling in local heritage awareness initiatives.

The study reports the development of a notification app for smartphones that offers information on engagement opportunities located near the user. The app enables virtual spatial barriers, or geofences, which allows citizens to be notified of the opportunity in their spatial context, for example, a meeting or a contested area. The notification service can also be customized to cater to specific categories such as culture or sustainability, as well as spatial specifications so that users may choose to receive notifications in select areas of their city. Reporting on field and lab based studies, the research offers insights into the applicability, motivational aspects, usage patterns, and pragmatic qualities of the app – and reflects on the outcomes and limitations highlighted by the evaluation.

Photo: US Fleet Tracking/Vimeo/cc

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