For either geolocating or positioning, the locating engine often uses radio navigation methods, for example Time Difference Of Arrival (TDOA) for precision. TDOA systems often use mapping displays or other geographic information system. When a GPS signal is unavailable, geolocation applications can use information from cell towers to triangulate the approximate position, a method that is not as accurate as GPS but has greatly improved in recent years. This is in contrast to earlier radiolocation technologies, for example Direction Finding where a Radio fix to a transmitter is achieved as part of the process.
Internet and computer geolocation can be performed by associating a geographic location with the IP address, MAC address, RFID, hardware embedded article/production number, embedded software number (such as UUID, Exif/IPTC/XMP or modern steganography), invoice, Wi-Fi positioning system, device fingerprint, canvas fingerprinting or device GPS coordinates, or other, perhaps self-disclosed information. Geolocation usually works by automatically looking up an IP address on a WHOIS service and retrieving the registrant's physical address.
IP address location data can include information such as country, region, city, postal/zip code, latitude, longitude and time zone. Deeper data sets can determine other parameters such as domain name, connection speed, ISP, language, proxies, company name, US DMA/MSA, NAICS codes, and home/business.
At times geolocation can be more deductive, as with crowdsourcing efforts to determine the position of videos of training camps, combats, and beheadings in Syria by comparing features detected in the video with publicly available map databases such as Google Earth, as practiced by sites such as Bellingcat.
The word geolocation also refers to the latitude and longitude coordinates of a particular location. Term and definition standardized by ISO/IEC 19762-5:2008.
In the field of animal biology and ecology, the word geolocation is also used to refer to the process of inferring the location of a tracked animal based, for instance, on the time history of sunlight brightness or the water temperature and depth measured by an instrument attached to the animal. Such instruments are commonly called archival tags (including microchip implants, Pop-up satellite archival tags, and data storage tags) or .