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 Mobile GIS & LBS

Archive for 2011

Mobiles & Field Data Collection

Friday, September 9th, 2011

Recently we’ve had considerable interest in mobile application development based around check-in and mobile data collection. Facility management companies, surveyors, multi-level marketing, insurance claims, pipeline companies, water utilities; all have field workers who would benefit from mobile applications. Not only checking in to work sites, but keeping a record of the work done; notes, pictures, video, even voice records. To help with our discussions with these potential clients, we put together a demo which pulls together much of this proposed functionality. We have included in this article both screen shots of the key functionality in the demo, plus a video of the actual application.

A key challenge of building the demo was finding a suitable mobile application tool set. Initially we discussed using a combination of SimpleGeo with a mapping API. But MapQuest came to the rescue with their new Flash mobile tool set. Not only do they provide routing and traffic data, but local search, and a range of other functionality all easily integrated with the map.

Mobile Worker Data Collection Application – Opening Screen

The opening screen in the application shows the base functionality. Each view or tool is listed as a selectable image. At any point a user can open the map to see their current location. This changes as the user moves. As we will discuss, the map is also utilised by other tools in the application.

SmartPhone MapQuest Data Collection Application

Figure 1 – SmartPhone MapQuest Data Collection Application

Mobile Worker Data Collection Application – Directions Screen

Let’s imagine a potential scenario. A field worker starts each day by opening a mobile application such as the one we are describing here. They want to start by seeing the days calls and an optimised route to these calls, mapped out for them. In Figure 2 we show a single source and destination mapped. MapQuest also allow for multiple source-destinations to be entered and displayed. At any point in the day the user can open this tool and see on the map the location of their next call.

SmartPhone MapQuest Directions View

Figure 2 – SmartPhone MapQuest Directions View

Mobile Worker Data Collection Application – Check-In Screen

Next, the worker arrives at the first call and wishes to check-in. Figure 3 shows the check-in screen. There are two options shown. First a check-in by venue; so a field technician about to fix the air conditioning in a specific 7-11, for example. In the demo the user would type in the address, this could just as easily be a selection from a list of venues nearby. The second option is a check-in by current location or lat/long. Maybe a surveyor wishing to record, or check-in at a particular point. The check-in process would send name, id, location and time to the company server. A check-out would similarly record similar data centrally.

SmartPhone MapQuest Check-In View

Figure 3 – SmartPhone MapQuest Check-In View

Mobile Worker Data Collection Application – Local Search Screen

At any point in the day a field worker might wish to do a local search. A search for venues, points of interest, maybe people within a certain distance of a location. The MapQuest api offers many possibilities for these types of searches. In Figure 4 and Figure 8, we show a simple venue search within a certain radius of either current location or from a specific address.

SmartPhone MapQuest Search View

Figure 4 – SmartPhone MapQuest Search View

Mobile Worker Data Collection Application – GeoCoder Screen

A geocoder is a useful tool. In Figure 5 we show how users can type in an address, and use MapQuest to add a marker to the map of that location.

SmartPhone MapQuest GeoCoder View

Figure 5 – SmartPhone MapQuest GeoCoder View

Mobile Worker Data Collection Application – Data Screen

Data collection is often an important part of a field workers job. Surveyors, service technicians, pipeline inspectors are all recording data while in the field. Mobile applications are perfect both for recording and storing location based data – notes, pictures, voice records, video. They are also ideal for reviewing historic data. Let’s imagine a pipeline inspectors who on August 1, 2011 inspected a section of pipeline. He records what he sees using this mobile application. A field engineer, using the same application, views this data and makes appropriate repairs. A second inspection done on September 1, 2011 again using the mobile application, to view images and notes made a month before and by the field engineer, shows the work was completed successfully. This is a very real work flow.

Figure 6 shows the applications data screen. The search option makes a request to the company server for past data records. The search could be done by date, location or any number of other criteria.

SmartPhone MapQuest Data View

Figure 6 – SmartPhone MapQuest Data View 1

Figure 7 shows the summary data input view. So this is a summary of the data recorded by the field worker prior to storage. The camera on a mobile device can be used to attach photos or video to the work order. Mobile devices also have voice recorders. Notes can also be included in the data stored. The data itself can be attached to a check-out, or stored locally on the mobile device, maybe for later upload to a central company server.

SmartPhone MapQuest Data View

Figure 7 – SmartPhone MapQuest Data View 2

Mobile Worker Data Collection Application Video

See the application being demo’d in this video.


MapQuest have an excellent new set of mobile tools. The application discussed in this article is based on input from potential client. Those who have seen the application have been excited by the possibilities. When clients can see live demos of mobile solutions it often elicits new thinking and ideas. As mobile application developers the ideas which come from these discussions and demos are why we love what we do.

WebMapSolutions are a Utah mobile application development company. Specializing in locations based services (LBS), GIS and mapping applications. For more information contact

ArcGIS on IPad, Android and BlackBerry PlayBook

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

We’ve discussed in other posts some of the the challenges of building mobile application. The biggest client requirement for all apps is that they run across multiple platform; so IPad/IPhone, Android, BlackBerry etc. Historically this required either a Web based solution written in HTML5/Javascript or multiple code bases for installed apps; Objective C for Apple, Java .. the list goes on.

New developer tools releases by Adobe have made building cross platform solutions considerably easier, and potentially cheaper. Now it is possible to build one application which can be installed and run on many platforms. Just to prove the point, we built an ArcGIS application and installed it on multiple devices. The following link shows videos of the same AIR app running on the IPad, Android and BlackBerry PlayBook. So one code base running on multiple platforms:

ArcGIS running on IPad, Android and BlackBerry PlayBook

These are exciting developments. The appeal of mobile devices is considerable. Now we can more easily build cross-platform mobile applications, we can start launching new location based tools, available to all mobile users. And built at a reasonable cost.

Video: ArcGIS 2.4 on an Android SmartPhone

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

We continue to work with the new ESRI Flex 2.4 release in conjunction with Flash Builder 4.5.1 to build mobile apps. The attraction of Mobile Air is that one code base can be installed on multiple mobile platforms. That is potentially a big cost saving. To prove a point, we built an ArcGIS IPad app, first in Flex then ported it to mobile AIR. We have now taken that code base and installed it on an Android device, in this case the Samsung Infuse. Here is a video of the application:

Video of ArcGIS 2.4 running on an Android SmartPhone

The application is now available as a free install on any Android device in the Android Store see also this link:

If you do try it, we would be interested in your feedback. Contact

Video: ArcGIS 2.4 Running on IPad2

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

The release of both Flash Builder 4.5.1 and the Flex 2.4 version of ArcGIS are major milestones for geospatial developers looking to build mobile apps. The video below shows an AIR app running on an IPad2 using ArcGIS 2.4:

Video of ArcGIS 2.4 Running on IPad2

ArcGIS on the IPhone

Saturday, July 2nd, 2011

IPhone Application Development & Location Based Services
The IPhone and IPad remain intriguing platforms for spatial applications. Both popular and easy to use for consumers. They have remained a frustration for some mobile programmers. Notably those writing AIR and Flex applications for mobile. With the release of Flash Builder 4.5.1 life just became easier. Now a single application can be developed and installed on a range of different mobile platforms. That includes AIR apps running on Apples IOS.

IPhone Check-In App
The video in the link below shows an IPhone check-in app. Its written in Adobe AIR and is running on an IPhone 3. When the ‘Load Venues’ button is selected, the mobile app passes the GPS location of the phone to the SimpleGeo api. This then returns a list of venues within a given distance of the location. Which the application then lists.

ArcGIS on the IPhone
An interactive map has been added to the application. This uses the ArcGIS Flex API. The device location is added to the ArcGIS map.  This we will likely develop further and add some true mobile GIS functionality to compliment the geolocation portion of the application.

ArcGIS on the IPad
For mapping and GIS development the IPad remains the mobile platform with the most current potential. Its large screen size and user friendly design, makes it the most popular of the tablets. The BlackBerry Playbook has been a nice addition to the tablets market, with its less restrictive environment for software development. Discussed in the following article:

Now that it is possible to build sophisticated Adobe AIR apps on the IPad. The possibility of porting the ESRI Flex viewer to the IPad is exciting, particularly when combined with geolocation. This will be the focus of the next post.

Mobile Location Based Application Development

Monday, June 27th, 2011

The tech blogs are buzzing with excitement over mobile application development. Smartphones and mobile tablets offer new and interesting extensions of existing Web applications, plus the opportunity for new innovation. But both the hardware and software are ahead of business adoption. A phenomena noted historically with new technology leaps; the advent of the Web being a notable example. It took a number of years for the Web to move from an academic tool to widespread business use. Single location computing is about to be a thing of the past. Desktops and laptops sales will plummet. The future is about mobile computing.

GIS (Geographic Information Systems) has inhabited a niche in the world of computing. It has been long lamented as an important but not widely known technology. The launch of Google maps in 2006 shook this comfy niche. Bringing the widespread availability of free slippy maps with the ability to overlay markers, photos, videos. ESRI, the open source community and the other key players in the GIS market had to move quickly to catch up.

Mobile is about to have a much wider impact on the GIS industry. Real estate often proclaim its “Location location location”. Take heed GIS industry. We are entering a time of location based application development. GIS is a part; a tool, in a much wider game. Developers will be building location based applications, NOT GIS applications. GIS allows us to work with location data, but it is merely a tool. One of many.

Mobile ArcGIS Application?

So no more GIS mobile map application development or mobile ArcGIS Application Development. Maybe location based services powered by ArcGIS or location based service applications.

The GIS industry is already being left behind. The hype and money pouring into so called location based service (LBS) companies is phenomenal. Foursquare, Godwalla, Yelp, faceBook Places; the list goes on.

Mobile Location Based Service Application Development

As a company, we have become very focused on mobile. Tablets, with their larger screens, are wonderful. We’ve moved beyond just maps. Maps are great for visualizing spatial data. But location application development is more than just about maps. That pushes us back to the old GIS paradigm. That said, our initial work on the BlackBerry PlayBook uses ArcGIS and is a mapping centred app. We have been porting over some of the functionality from the ESRI Flex viewer. This first video is a demo of the base functionality:

We wanted to take the check-in model used by Foursquare and build a check-in widget. This we built as a stand alone app, then ported it to a widget. This second video shows this widget:

Mobile Business Apps

We’ve been traditionally an interactive Web map development company. Ten years of building clever mapping applications often driven by GIS. We are done talking GIS to clients. Our customers want software solutions. Our challenge is to demonstrate the importance of location as part, or at the core, of this solution. Mobile devices have made that conversation far easier. We need to show clients the future. Build real mobile location based applications which solve real problems.

So lets drop the whole GIS tag. We are in the location services industry.


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