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Matt Sheehan
Matt Sheehan
Matt holds an MSc in Geography and GIS. He has been working with clients solving problems with GIS for over 17 years. Matt founded WebMapSolutions whose mission is to put innovative, intuitive GIS driven applications into the hands of new and existing users.

Reflections on CalGIS 2012 & Mobile GIS

April 16th, 2012 by Matt Sheehan

Just back from CalGIS in Sacramento. An interesting two day conference. Our presentation; ‘Is mobile the Future of GIS?” was one of the last sessions on the Friday. Its a shame since we gave an overview of the mobile market space; in hindsight it would have been better positioned early in the conference. Even so, we still managed a good sized audience.

Is Mobile The Future of GIS?

The conference was made up of a cross section of GIS focused organisations across the state; both public and private. We were interested to see which themes were most discussed, and gauge where mobile fits into a traditionally web/desktop GIS focused conference.

GIS WorkFlows

The discussion of simple workflows dominated many discussions. Both in casual conversations and as part of presentations. How do we provide users an easy way to get their tasks done, was often repeated. Avoiding overhead and unnecessary steps. We heard criticism of the training needed to work with tools like ArcPad. Hide the complexity. Make apps intuitive, design them with as few steps as possible to arrive at an outcome or solution.

Open Source GIS

Open source GIS is alive and ever more popular. The keynote mentioned the work the State of California is doing to build open source GIS solutions. Conversations with LA County and 34 North showed both how popular and robust open source GIS tools have become.

Google GIS

Another GIS conference with a Google presence. Josh Livni gave a very interesting presentation on geospatial Google solutions. To paraphase Josh; we aren’t GIS solutions providers, but many of our solutions come pretty close.

Mobile GIS

Apart from Farallon Geographics, we were the only company to focus our presentation wholly on mobile GIS. Most presenters mentioned mobile in passing. Data collection was the most common mobile use case. Mobile adoption in the GIS sector has proved slow. In part due to mobiles relative newness, which has created various levels of confusion. This was confirmed from all we saw and heard at the conference.

GIS or Location Based Solutions?

It was hard to resist; repeating our thoughts on retiring the term GIS. We raised the question a number of times. Not to irritate, simply to gauge opinion. Others are beginning to agree that the term GIS does not capture the true core of what we all do; provide location based solutions!


Overall, this was a well attended, most interesting conference. It reinforced the path we have followed as a company. To build low cost custom location focused mobile apps which provide simplified workflows. We see mobile presenting huge opportunities to the location focused (GIS) sector. As we discussed in the final slide of our presentation. Mobile brings:

1) Context – i can now see live, while in the field my location/GIS data
2) New users have started using location tools. This user base will continue to expand.
3) New tools can now be built which take advantage of mobility and context.
4) The markets for location apps will expand.

Widespread adoption of mobile location apps remains consumer focused with the likes of FourSquare. This is beginning to change. Companies like ours will continue to expand as clients come to us for an increasing range of location based mobile app solutions.

Let us know your thoughts

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Categories: Mobile ArcGIS, Mobile GIS

One Response to “Reflections on CalGIS 2012 & Mobile GIS”

  1. tutol says:

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