Mobile GIS & LBS
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.
Canned, configurable, custom Mobile GIS apps, where do I start?
September 8th, 2015 by Matt Sheehan
Canned, configurable, custom mobile GIS apps, where do I start? Its a good question. Let’s in this article break down your options.
Mobile GIS is Finally Here
Mobile GIS is taking off. Finally the crucial missing element of GIS is here. When we look back in time, Web based GIS became popular in the early 2000’s. The mobile revolution began with the release of the first smartphones and the iPad. Today mobile GIS apps are an important new enabling technology. Still the key question of any organization looking to provide field staff with mobile GIS is to answer the simple question: “To do what?”. As Bill Meehan says in his excellent article Mobile GIS? Never Heard Of It!.
“With mobile GIS, I could do all kinds of stuff: transformer inspections, pole inspections, damage assessment, customer surveys, staking, manhole cleaning, battery maintenance, meter testing, painting…” The list goes on! There may be hundreds of different workflows”
Defining use cases for mobile GIS is an important first step. Next is the right tool for the right job.
Canned, Configurable and Custom Mobile GIS Apps
Let’s imagine you have a ‘big GIS in the office’ like ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Server. What mobile options do you have?
There are 3 types of mobile applications:
Canned Mobile GIS Apps
These are mobile apps with fixed or set functionality. Examples here include Collector for ArcGIS, Navigator for ArcGIS. In most cases these are install-able so called native apps downloaded from the various app stores.
Configurable Mobile GIS Apps
Mobile apps you can adjust are called configurable. That means how they look, functionality or tools included, data or maps feeding the application. The ArcGIS templates are examples here. These are often Web applications.
Custom Mobile GIS Apps
These are mobile applications built specifically for your needs. In the day these were expensive one off apps. That is less true today particularly given advances in Web technology. Now a mobile web application can be built at relatively low cost. These are applications which fit your workflows and have the tools which may not be included with any canned or configurable app.
In the ArcGIS world, most of the canned and configurable mobile apps work against ArcGIS Online only. If you still rely on ArcGIS Server your choice is more limited but there are still some good options.
Custom, Configurable Mobile GIS Apps
Since mobile Web applications are so flexible, one area we have been focused on as a company are custom highly configurable apps. So the best of all worlds. That means mobile GIS apps which fit exactly your workflows, yet are not one offs. They can be configured for mobile map viewing, data collection, include custom forms, work both online and offline and can be used with ArcGIS Online, ArcGIS Server and Portal for ArcGIS. We have released Universal Map Viewer for ArcGIS which is one of a new breed of mobile web application. Highly flexible, yet providing a mix of tools which can be adjusted to fit your workflows.
Mobile GIS provides exciting new possibilities to improve how field based staff get their work done. Answering the “To do what?” question then leads to considering mobile GIS app options. As we have outlined there are many excellent choices. Feel free to let us now if you have any questions, we can help 801.733.0723.