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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.

5 Cool Uses of Mobile Offline Maps

February 4th, 2014 by Matt Sheehan

Mobile applications require networking. Not any more: here we discuss 5 breakthrough offline use cases available now!

How often do you find yourself without mobile Wi-Fi connectivity? More often than you would like. Maybe you are in a remote area; working, possibly hiking, boating or fishing. Maybe you do not want to exhaust your mobile data plan. Its quite possible your mobile device has no outdoor Internet connectivity. Lower cost tablets only provide direct home or office based network connectivity and have no 3G/4G providing mobile data capabilities. Even if you have a tablet with networking service built-in from the telephone carriers, the service is inconsistent at best and sometimes it doesn’t exist.

This is a huge disappointment because tablets and smart devices have a great deal to offer businesses and consumers of all types, especially those that marshal resources to the field with the dreaded pen and paper. But until we can solve how we collect data of all types, integrate it into our workflow seamlessly, and do that in an occasionally connected world, we are going to remain in the stone age with pen and paper use by field staff.

The wait is over

Since we are mobile map and GIS experts, in this post we will describe 5 cool uses of mobile offline maps.

Mobile Offline Maps

A common question we get asked is:

“Can you build us a mobile applications which provides offline interactive maps?”

A map which you can zoom and pan. One which shows your current location using GPS. Maybe you are fishing and would like to see the lake contours to find the best spots. Hiking in the back-country and hoping to avoid getting lost. Showing a land owner the path of a proposed new pipeline. Having access to offline maps has a very wide array of applications.

From a mobile development perspective, there are a number of potential paths one can follow based on user requirements. WebMapSolutions have taken different approaches to provide clients the offline mobile maps they need.

Mobile Offline GIS Editing

2014 is the year for mobile offline GIS editing!

Offline GIS capabilities have long been promised without ever becoming a reality. That has just changed. At WebMapSolutions we have recently released to the Apple Store and Google Play an offline GIS mobile data collection and editing app. Integrated with ArcGIS Online the app provides:

1) Offline base maps

2) Offline data collection – point, line and polygon.

3) Offline feature editing – point, line and polygon.

4) Offline GPS showing current location.

5) Offline feature image attachments.

6) Automatic edit upload to ArcGIS Online when back online.

The mobile app has been designed to be intuitive and simple to use. Once you have downloaded the app go to ArcGIS MarketPlace to sign up for a free trial.

Professional Mobile Offline Editing

Working with GIS technology while offline is one important area of mobile development. Another is a combination of offline mobile map and GPS with GIS or in isolation. Reporting and map annotation are two good examples. Imagine a key part of your work involves visiting sites and writing reports. These sites are often remote, lacking Wi-Fi connectivity. The report needs to include information about a specific location; GPS position, images, an embedded map, notes and form input. An offline mapping application with reporting tool is potentially a huge time saver. Open a form in the mobile app, fill out the fields, attach images taken with the mobile camera, and map image. when finished generate a PDF, save and store on the mobile device. Email this to your manager or central computer when back on line.

Map annotation is another very nice use of mobile offline technology. Take the idea of making notes on a paper map and move that to a mobile app. The following video shows an WebMapSolutions mobile map annotation app running on a smartphone:

Advanced Offline Mobile Map Functionality

There are wide array of more advanced functions which can be built into offline mapping applications. Imagine you have a mobile app which provides offline base maps. The app has access to local data saved to the mobile device – maybe in a mobile database – which has a location component. Maybe its GPS based point data. Many advanced tools can be built using this data when offline. Routing, and search are two good examples. Imagine you are working in a forest and wish to locate, in offline mode, every tree over 20 m in height within a square mile of your current location. The mobile offline app could provide search capabilities, displaying the results as points on the map. More than that a routing tool could provide the shortest route to each tree. All without Wi-Fi connectivity.

WebmapSolutions engineers have created a range of innovative advanced offline mobile map apps for clients.

Offline Mobile Recreation Maps

Simple offline maps for recreation are becoming ever more popular. These are mapping apps which are easy to use and provide very focused information. An interactive base map, maybe using satellite imagery which allows panning and zoom, combined with data overlays.

Lake Powell in Southern Utah is 254 sq miles in area, and is visited by 2 million people every year. Much of the lake is remote and lacks Wi-Fi connectivity. Providing an offline mobile app which includes an interactive map and information and the location of restrooms, camping locations, hikes, mooring spots, natural wonders, great swimming spots and more would be very useful, and popular with visitors to the lake.

How about a deep sea fishing offline map app which includes ocean bottom, and contour data and overlays shallow water and reef locations, buoys, good fishing spots for certain fish species?

Share with us some of your ideas and thoughts on the use of mobile offline maps.

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Categories: ArcGIS Online, cloud GIS, Mobile ArcGIS, Web and mobile GIS

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