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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.

Is Mobile GIS about to take off thanks to Hybrid Laptops?

December 6th, 2015 by Matt Sheehan

When you have time this holiday season pop into Best Buy. Wander into their laptop section and be prepared for a surprise: 80% of all laptops on sale are 2 in 1 hybrids.

What is a 2-in-1 hybrid? They combine the features of a laptop and tablet into a single device. So one device which provides the best of both worlds. Hybrid laptops are having a huge impact on the computer market. The the 2-in-1 segment will see shipments worldwide jump 86.5% in 2015. These new devices will dramatically affect mobile GIS in 2016 and beyond.


The Evolution of Mobile GIS

Let’s step back for a second. Laptop and PC sales have been in decline for a number of years, as mobile devices have become increasingly more popular. Consumers were the first to jump in, replacing their (clunky) home computers with new, portable, easy to use smartphones and tablets. Society is being transformed by mobile; always connected is today’s mantra.

The work place has been slower in adopting mobile technology. Still, as a GIS company, we work with organizations challenged to replace pen and paper and traditional laptops favoured by field based staff (more on this topic in an upcoming blog post). Overcoming resistance to replacing old workflows is but one barrier faced by organizations. Another, more profound, is the sheer complexity and expense of mobile GIS apps. As an example, we worked in 2014 with a large, very successful organization focused on asset management. Their goal: they wanted to develop mobile GIS solutions for their customers. Their challenge: the expense of putting in place 3 development teams; one to build Apple mobile apps, another for Android and a third for Windows. We worked with them for a number of months proofing a single mobile Web GIS app approach, and thus the need for one development team. It was a tough, challenging process, with some very entrenched thinking to overcome.

We are very much in a world of transition. Mobile for too long has been confusing and expensive. In organizations too many devices and too many applications. But the picture is beginning to clear. Hybrid laptops represent a new more flexible option. And, as we will argue later, mobile Web is becoming the popular more flexible approach to building mobile apps.

We are moving towards the reality of one device, and one GIS app for both office and field use. This advance may actually create a split in the mobile world.

The Mobile GIS world is Splitting

Let’s think about two types of workers:

1. Staff who work both in and out of the office. Maybe a real estate agent. Somebody who uses their office for planning, and marketing. And are often in the field showing prospective clients properties. These folks are beginning to realise the benefits of hybrid laptops, and a single GIS app for both office and field use.

2. Think next about staff who are largely field based. Maybe maintenance staff. Mobile devices – smartphones and tablets – serve these staff well. They can use focused GIS apps to view their work orders for the day, find the easiest route to each job, and report on work done.

The Resurgence of Windows for Mobile GIS

This year we saw Google announce an end to their encroachment into GIS. By discontinuing their map engine product, they underlined their true consumer focus for their map products. Esri and others are the enterprise GIS market players. With hybrid laptops, we may be seeing the start of a similar split for mobiles. Traditional tablets and smartphones will remain popular with consumers and field based staff. While hybrid laptop will drive the rest of the organization. The release of Windows 10, used on most hybrid laptops, may well see the resurgence of Windows and Microsoft as a company.

The Rise of Mobile Web GIS

Mobile Web GIS has one huge advantage over other mobile technologies: mobile Web GIS apps run on any device and any platform. That is huge. So no need to build 3 versions of the same app for Windows, Android and Apple devices respectively as many do today. Mobile Web GIS is not ideal for all apps, but for many it offers the perfect mix of flexibility, extensibility and scalability!

We think there will be a huge growth in mobile GIS web apps over the next few years.

Is Mobile GIS about to take off thanks to Hybrid Laptops?

Mobile GIS has had a spluttering start. There are still very few good mobile GIS apps on the market. We see that changing over the next few years. Hybrid laptops, which can be used both in and out of the office, and new mobile Web GIS apps which run anywhere on any device both provide a new level of flexibility and cost savings.

Mobile GIS is about to become one of the key growth drivers of our industry. Exciting times indeed.

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

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