We often have clients come to us and request we build a mobile app for iPad and/or iPhone. Our first question, before touching on functionality is: should you build a mobile GIS app for Apple devices only?
There are many reasons why building a mobile GIS app for just one platform (Apple iOS in this case) makes sense. Maybe your staff all have, and love, iPads and iPhones. They are comfortable with Apple products, and your IT department is set up to support iOS devices alone. I know many iOS fans who would cringe at the suggestion of switching to Android, for example. Apps which run on Apple devices are usually (and we will come back to this) written in a programming language called Objective-C. A language unique, or native, to Apple.
So … custom cross platform mobile GIS apps are expensive?
They certainly can be. Let’s imagine you would like a custom version of Collector for ArcGIS. Maybe you want a tool which is not provided by Collector. Lets say custom forms. iFormBuider won’t cut it. You need something for your unique workflows. Since you have a field team who use Apple, Android and Windows mobile devices (that means smartphone and tablets) you need a cross platform solution. What do you do?
More than likely you turn to a GIS development company like ours. You’ll ask us, if such a custom app is possible. And most importantly how much it might cost?
We live in a world of narrow thinking. How often do you hear comments like:
“I vote Republican (Democrat) because that is the way my parents have always voted”
“I know that mine is the one true religion?”
Or been in one way conversations where you (are forced to) listen to somebody telling you every small detail of their life. Their career, promotion etc.
How do we grow as people, as GIS professionals, if we spend our time staring at our own navels?
Widen your GIS thinking
Its time to widen your thinking.
How useful is somebody who keeps a narrow focus? Their boss wants (expects) them to be continually valuable to the company. That takes more than just doing the “right things” for promotion. Its taking an active interest in the (GIS) activities of the company; the industry, watching what others are doing, talking, reading, making suggestions, having ideas. Its too easy to sit back and go through the motions. Follow behind others. Focusing on how to get promoted directly, instead of what value you can bring to make the company more successful. You more successful. Its a subtle but big difference.
GIS is exploding. As a GIS professional opportunity knocks. Don’t sit and stare at your navel, or worry about all those new “GIS graduates” making you less valuable. You are incredibly valuable. Grab your career by the horns. Read, ask questions, contribute directly to your companies future (not just your immediate tasks).
Take your great ideas and start a company of your own!
Don’t miss out on the GIS wave. Join of us. Before it has passed.
There are a number of subscription based GIS Web application builders currently available. In this post we will discuss whether, in today’s rapidly evolving GIS market, you should subscribe to a GIS Web app Builder?
What are GIS Web App Builders?
GIS Web app builders are wizard based tools which allow those without programming skills to quickly stand up sophisticated GIS web applications. If your organization needs a variety of Web applications, maybe executive dashboards, mobile Web apps, or Web apps with a particular purpose, GIS Web app builders provide a quick way to assemble and launch these applications. They often come with a variety of modules which provide custom functionality, often targeted at specific markets; oil and gas, public safety, mining etc.
The release of ArcGIS 9 in May 2004 came with few Web applications. A number of companies saw the need to provide easy to use wizards to help GIS and non GIS staff generate Web apps quickly and easily. The goal was to provide simple, easy to use tools to produce Web applications for users across organizations. No need for a team of developers. Though they were expensive, these subscription based wizards became very popular, particularly with the ArcGIS community.
A New world of GIS Web Applications
We are in the midst of dramatic changes in GIS. Mobile and cloud are transforming the world of GIS. We have moved to GIS anywhere anytime. ArcGIS server remains, ArcGIS Online – a cloud based variant of server – is becoming increasingly more popular. Let’s look at the current landscape:
GIS Web application development has never been easier
Changes in technology, particularly with a move towards HTML5, have meant GIS Web application development has never been easier. The cost for developing GIS Web applications is at an all time low.
Free GIS Web apps everywhere
Over the last few years Esri have released a slew of free Web applications, targeting both ArcGIS server and Online. Easy to configure, these application are both general and industry targeted. The Esri local government team, for example, have over 40 free configurable templates available. No knowledge of programming is needed to configure these applications for use in organizations. They are also easy to extend to provide more custom functionality.
Esri’s Web App Builder for ArcGIS
We have already begun development planning around producing new widgets. Soon after the full release of Web App Builder for ArcGIS we will be launching widgets which provide custom functionality. targeting utilities, transportation and pipeline industries. As an example, we will be launching widgets for use on mobile devices, which will provide mid-stream pipeline companies simple online/offline custom data collection, QA/QC solutions which integrate seamlessly with backend PODS.
Excuse the pun, but the question need be asked: has Collector helped to put mobile GIS on the map?
We are just back from the Esri user conference in San Diego. A horrible place to go for a conference! As ever a terrific event. And the most popular sessions were ….. anything mobile. The Collector demos were standing room only extending into the corridor. Everybody seems to have mobile and Collector fever. Having been preaching the gospel of mobile GIS and mapping for so many years, this fills our hearts with joy.
From our perspective, this surge in mobile interest has created new client needs. Most notably:
Collector Set up and Training
We’ve been inundated with requests from clients to help set up and train staff on the use of Collector. The app is popular with GIS and non GIS trained staff alike This has necessitated familiarizing these field based workers with the online and offline Collector workflows. Data set up and publishing in ArcGIS Online has also been required. Collector is replacing older pen and paper based methods once used to collect data. Using a smartphone or tablets built-in GPS, users location and the location of features can be automatically set. Feature attributes are stored on the device if offline, locally stored edits or additions are pushed to ArcGIS Online when back online. Images can be attached to features using the mobiles built in camera. (more…)
Mobile GIS is exciting. It offers a new ways for field based staff to get their work done more efficiently, and provide more accurate data. Energy sector regulation and management have many challenges. Field surveys are often done in remote areas outside of mobile communication coverage. Data collection still relies on a disjointed combination of equipment. New mobile GIS technology offers potentially dramatic improvements in how Mineral Exploration Regulation Teams get their work done. We will discuss a new integrated approach in this article.
Mobile GIS and Energy Sector Regulation
Its worth providing some background on a typical scenario for mineral and energy activity regulation.
Mineral Exploration Regulation Teams
Much of the work done by mineral exploration regulation teams is centred on monitoring ground exploration activities. Comparing reported activity and impacts, against what is observed. Field inspections are typically ground based and often done in remote areas. Off-road 4WD vehicles and possibly air support may be needed depending on the activity, urgency of an inspection, the availability of staff and accessibility of sites. There are other dependencies on ground conditions such as weather, agricultural and cultural practices.
Many organizations are now considering mobile GIS. Much of this is a move to efficiency, to get out of the traditional cycle: collect field data on paper, submit this to a GIS specialists, who then enters this into a GIS. Mobile GIS means field data can be uploaded directly from the field to the GIS.
So what needs to be considered when adopting mobile GIS technology? We’ve been developing and implementing mobile GIS solutions for a number of years. As we have found, mobile GIS implementations are not straightforward. Careful consideration, planning and preparation is needed. In this post we share 7 key areas to consider when moving to mobile GIS.
Mobile GIS is becoming ever more popular in organizations. The advent of cheap mobile smartphones and tablets has meant that location technologies like GIS are no longer confined to office use only. Mobile GIS is helping to empower field staff, as well as provide new tools to all mobile users. In the post we discuss 4 popular uses of mobile GIS.
4 Popular Uses of Mobile GIS
1) Data Collection
Pen and paper have been the traditional way data has been collected in the field. Sometimes it is the main storage method also. Mobile GIS presents a new way to collect data accurately. Leveraging GPS, in-built cameras and Internet access, mobile GIS provides new ways to collect, and upload data to a central location. This provides a dramatic improvement in efficiency, no more paper storage or manual data entry. Now rich, accurate field data can be collected, uploaded and shared across an organization in real time. Collector for ArcGIS is a nice new mobile editing app. We’ve built a flexible framework which provides much of what is in Collector, but is customizable and runs across all popular mobile platforms (Apple, Android, Windows)
Caught your attention? Those words: change your company change you career. Today you have the opportunity to light a fire under your career or company. You’ll ask:
“But where do I begin?”
First understand. Don’t be overwhelmed by information overload. Filter and focus. GIS is changing. Its changing for the best; moving from the periphery to the core. What does that mean? See Esri repeating “whats your location strategy” to business executives for a clue.
We are in the throes of upheaval. Look only as far as the end of your nose, focusing on your jobs tasks at hand, and you’ll miss it. Look back at how you always did business before, and you will be out of business.
Forget yesterdays leaders. Who are the leaders of tomorrow?
Questions. Questions. Its confusing. Nobody knows the path things will follow. That is because it is not set.
YOU CAN SET IT (am I shouting?)
So get up and go. These are amazingly exciting times. Don’t be told the path. Set it. Your career and/or company are depending on it!
Offline mobile editing has been one of the most common GIS requests over the last couple of years. Finally with Collector, Esri have released a fully functioning online and offline mobile editing app. We’ve been helping many of our clients with training and set up for Collector. The feedback has been very positive, but we keep being asked:
“We would like a custom version of Collector (which also runs on Windows mobile devices)”
Branding, custom functionality and greater mobile device support. Given our years of working with mobile offline ArcGIS editing, we threw some weight at this problem. We have come up with a Web based offline editing solution; one which runs in a mobile browser. The solution can be used on all popular mobile platforms (iOS, Android, Windows) and across devices: smartphones, tablets and smablets. It is also, and mostly importantly, very flexible. Some of the notable features:
a) Loads both ArcGIS Server and ArcGIS Online hosted layers.
b) Easy custom styling and branding.
c) Flexible offline basemaps.
d) Responsive, so styled for all mobile devices.
e) Easily extended to support custom functionality.
f) Includes templates for custom reports.
g) Simple, intuitive workflows for all users.
Custom Version of ArcGIS Collector
Below is a video showing a demo version of the app. We highlight specifically the custom reporting functionality: