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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.

Offline Mobile GIS: Finding a Location which has no Address

November 4th, 2015 by Matt Sheehan

Ok so I often say in this blog “we live in exciting times”. GIS is coming out of the shadows. Innovation is taking off. New thinkers are bringing fascinating ideas forward.

I became very interested in work being done by a UK based company called what3words. After meeting Chris Sheldrick the co-founder, we thought it worth spending time looking at their technology and ways to integrate it with ArcGIS.

What is what3words?

what3words have created a universal addressing system. They have broken the world into 3m squares and given each square a 3 word address. So for example index.home.raft is an address in London.

How is that useful?

Its first easy to communicate. Second it provides an address for places with no address.

Why did that interest a GIS company like WebMapSolutions?

We have done much work with mobile and particularly offline. So working with maps and GIS on a mobile device when disconnected (or poorly connected) from the Internet. Having a universal addressing system which works offline intrigued us. Imagine using your smartphone during a disaster to view maps and find addresses without the need for an Internet connection. The possibilities are endless.

ArcGIS-what3words Mobile Offline Demo

We wanted to build a proof of concept app. A mobile ArcGIS app which works both online and offline and uses the what3words addressing system. More than that we wanted to build it using Javascript. That’s right web technology. Using a combination of Javascript and Java we used Cordova to build a hybrid (native-like app). The demo below shows the Android version of the app. Using Cordova we can generate the same for Apple or Windows devices. Very cool. See a demo of the app below:

So what next?

A good question. This is a very new approach. For us this was a proof of concept. More tweaks will be needed, and a more robust demo built. But we see this as a wonderful integration of two innovative solutions, ArcGIS and what3words, which has some exciting possibilities to solve real world problems.

Contact us for more information on 801-733-0723.

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

One Response to “Offline Mobile GIS: Finding a Location which has no Address”

  1. Steve Swazee says:

    As the Executive Director of a U.S. based nonprofit which does geospatial development work for units of government, I am saddened to hear of this business development. It flies in the face of efforts across the United States to move the Emergency Services Sector, and consequently the public, onto the Military Grid Reference System (MGRS – “U.S. National Grid or USNG” inside the United States) when a street address is ineffective or confusing for communicating location. This metric based world-wide reference system is currently in use by NATO forces, endorsed by the U.S. National Search and Rescue Committee (made up of 7 federal agencies) and is one of two defacto location communications standards inside the roll out of Next Generation 9-1-1 systems. Various efforts to promote another “standard” inside geospatial products going forward ultimately undermines efforts to save lives and reduce suffering during disasters.

    I invite the opportunity to debate the superior merits of USNG versus what3words, MapCodes or whatever proprietary “where” answer the next company would like to dream up in an open and fair forum. There are numerous articles and substantial background information available online through a simple Google search or through a visit to the

    Steve Swazee

    Executive Director

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