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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.

The Benefits to Organisations of Mobile GIS and The Cloud

June 13th, 2013 by Matt Sheehan

As a mobile enabled GIS software development company, our focus is on three key sectors; local government, transportation and forestry. Each utilize geo-technology to varying degrees. The new paradigm that is mobile GIS and cloud computing, offers solutions to business challenges for organisations active in each of these sectors. We are finding some common themes

Local Government – Data Sharing

Sharing information with the general public is a key concern of local governments. This can be as simple as providing information about local amenities such as parks, boating docks, camping areas, and libraries. Visit the Web site of your town or city and you will often discover this simple information is hard to find, and usually presented as a simple text based list. Finding out about local events; where and when, and other local information presents similar challenges. Maps are an easily understood way to present information. New cloud based services allow not only easy publishing of this type of data, but access to this data at any time and place. At the centre of Esri’s cloud based mapping platform; ArcGIS Online is a web map. This is an interactive map containing a collection of relevant published data or layers, which can be embedded in any web page. So maybe the location of local parks. If more sophistication is needed beyond just displayed locations, maybe tools such as ‘Find the nearest park to my house’, the web map can be used within an application. With an iPhone or iPad in hand this query becomes ‘Show me the nearest park to my current location’. Cloud enabled mapping services allows local governments to more easily share important public information. The general public can now access this data anywhere and at any time.

Figure 1: Local Government Parks Finder Application

Transportation – Collaboration

The size and complexity of organisations involved in the transportation sector presents many challenges. One key area is sharing and collaboration. Historically departments within transportation organisations have operated with their own computer systems, and guard carefully their data. Cross departmental data sharing has proved challenging. This is partly the fault of legacy computer systems, and in part politics. Multi-million Euro legacy systems are still being sold. Systems which do not leverage the new mobile enabled cloud technology world we have entered. We have been working with a large transportation department in the US. Their simple request was for a low cost solution to asset management. So field data collection, central storage, cross department access to the data and tools to visualize and analyse. Using cloud based mapping services and iPads we have built a system which allows field crews to record asset and work related information – traffic light inspection at this location – and to push this data to a cloud service. Executives use Web based dashboards we have built to access this data in real time to visualize and make improved business decisions. This data, and the simple software tools we are providing, are accessible across the organisation, dramatically improving collaboration.

Figure 2: Idaho Transportation Department Mobile Data Collection App

Forestry – Low Cost Data Collection

Foresters spend much time in the field. Gathering tree and forest data on an ongoing basis is crucial to successfully managing forests. Often field work is done using pen and paper or ruggedised laptops and mobile devices. This approach has had its challenges, pen and paper is inaccurate and inefficient, while ruggedised mobile devices are expensive and often come with complex software packages. Repeatedly we are told by clients they need simple low cost solutions which provide intuitive workflows . Mobile enabled cloud technology is providing the opportunity for companies such as ours to satisfy these requirements. Using rugged, waterproof cases and high accuracy GPS receivers, we have been helping foresters replace their pen and paper and expensive Trimble handhelds with iPads. Lack of wi-fi access we have overcome by storing both base maps and editable layers on the mobile device itself. Once online, foresters can upload their data to the cloud, allowing access to office based analysts and executives.

Figure 3: South Carolina Forest Harvesting Mobile App

We do truly live in changing times. Mobile enabled cloud technology is replacing expensive, proprietary legacy systems. Improving data sharing, collaboration, efficiency and decision making while reducing costs.

Contact us to learn more about our work and project

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Categories: ArcGIS Online, cloud GIS, Mobile GIS

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