Are you wondering about Mobile GIS? Looking to improve how your field staff get their work done, looking to provide access to maps and GIS from any device and any mobile platform? In this article we will discuss some of the core elements of mobile GIS.
Mobile GIS Platform
Often a first question for those of us looking to use or build mobile GIS apps is: which mobile platform should we target – Apple, Android, Windows? At one time, this singular question was popular. We were focused on one platform, then often the popular choice was targeting Apple devices; the iPad and iPhone. But things are changing. The popularity of mobile devices means users have a mix of Apple, Android, and Windows devices. Cross-platform is increasingly the focus of today. That is mobile GIS apps which run on any device. Mobile Web GIS is one of the best cross-platform solutions. Ever more of our mobile development, as a company, is web focused for this reason.
I remember clearly the first music album I bought. Then we listened to vinyl LPS’s. I was 18, still living in England, and between school and University. The album was by The Tubes. One rather odd song stood out for me: What do you want from life?
At 18 it was a question I was beginning to ask myself. For me then my immediate focus was on geography. I never gave location or spatial a thought. Geography for me was about process. How was that wave cut platform formed? Intrigue over U shaped valleys. Marvelling at thunderstorms. On and on.
Mobiles are everywhere. Smartphones, tablets, even these new ‘somewhere in between’ phablets. They are cheap, come with amazing additions (GPS, camera, compass etc) and most importantly can be loaded up with an incredible assortment of apps. Go to the various app stores and the selection is amazing. Add to this those ever more popular Web apps, opened in your mobile browser, and things become almost overwhelming. Mobile technology has changed our world. Look around you and see how many people have their noses in a mobile.
GIS Transforming Data Collection
This post is focused on how location technologies like GIS in combination with mobiles are transforming how we gather and share data. We can split data collection into 3 distinct phases:
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.
I’ll admit it was a little tongue in cheek. But my blog post entitled “Please stop calling me the mapping guy” proved to be amazingly popular. Our blog is generally well read but this post pushed things off the chart. See Google analytics below:
But a well read blog post does not indicate approval or disapproval. Simply interest in the topic. From the responses I received it would seem many readers agree with the general thrust of my argument. Which leads me to this next post ….
We live in exciting, changing times for GIS. Launches like ArcGIS Online and Portal for ArcGIS from Esri, have made GIS technology easier to adopt and use across organizations. But, don’t be fooled, careful thought and planning is still needed for any successful GIS implementation. In this post we discuss four key areas you will need to consider before moving ahead with GIS.
The 4 Essential ArcGIS Elements
From working with customers, we have found success with ArcGIS is built on 4 essential elements:
1. Discovery and Planning
What are your goals and needs? Do you fully understand and can you articulate your requirements?
We discussed in our “What we learned from a failed ArcGIS Implementation” blog post the importance of the planning and discovery phase. Everybody involved in the project needs to provide input and have a thorough understanding of the requirements, goals and path forward. It is in this phase the initial blueprint is put in place. Time spent here potentially saves much time later. You need to be able to articulate your “pot of gold” (the term used by the client in our ‘failed’ blog post) or equivalent. What problems are you trying to solve with GIS? (more…)
Wireless connectivity while outside, remains a challenge for mobile users. The discussion of offline ArcGIS, or the ability to use a GIS application without need for a wireless connection, is often focused on working in remote areas. But poor or slow loading ArcGIS apps are all too common in both remote and highly populated areas. Poor wireless signals can lead to almost unusable mobile apps.
Why should all Mobile ArcGIS apps work offline?
It is for that reason we believe that all mobile ArcGIS apps should be offline enabled. Case in point. Last week we were working with Collector for ArcGIS collecting data in downtown Salt Lake City. We were using the app in online mode (Collector is also offline enabled). Loading the app took over 3 minutes, every pan, zoom, update was painfully slow. A task which should have taken an hour, took considerably longer.
In our view all mobile ArcGIS apps should work offline. Collector for ArcGIS and our Universal Map Viewer are among the few ArcGIS apps which provide both full online and offline or disconnected capabilities.
“Talk to those guys down the hall … the map guys”.
Please stop calling me the mapping guy
Enough is enough. Seriously. I did not like it then. Today, I am even less tolerant. I am not a mapping guy. Period.
Don’t belittle me. Don’t label me. Understand me.
We can bring new insight to your organization. Can provide new ways to view and analyse your organizational data. We are an important (new) face in the changing world of technology. Give us a hug, tell us we are special, then allow us to dramatically change how you run your business
You can tell I have had enough. If you head up an organization and are not leveraging GIS across your organization. You aren’t properly doing your job. Seriously.
We seem to hear so often now: “We need GIS apps which are super simple to use” . Why?
A history of GIS App Complexity
I’m afraid its true. We’ve been building GIS apps which are too complex. Too many GIS apps need users to be trained before use.
GIS has a history of complex and confusing apps
In 2005 Google Maps introduced us to simplicity. True, their target audience were consumers, not the enterprise, but still the simplicity was a thing of beauty. GIS has been pushing out applications filled with (too many) tools. Tools which are complex to use. Applications which are not intuitive. Applications which need training.
New Non-GIS Users
We are in the midst of geospatial revolution, driven by cloud and mobile technology. The geo world is being turned on its head. Traditional GIS users are being joined by a new far wider user base: non-GIS users. That’s not just consumers, but private organizations recognizing their business intelligence (BI) software is only giving them part of the story. By your staff who are looking to location based technology to improve how they work, and improve their organizational insight to make better decisions.
Its always pleasurable to write about innovative uses of ArcGIS. Particularly when it comes to customers of WebMapSolutions. In this case, one of our commercial ArcGIS customers, focused on real estate. The implementation was truly an innovative use of ArcGIS for management of land sales.
Real Estate 101
Before we jump into the details, let’s step back for a moment. The real estate market is broadly split into residential, commercial, industrial, and agricultural/rural segments. Residential real estate can include, houses, condominiums and townhomes. In contrast commercial real estate covers office buildings, multi-family housing, development land, and retail store buildings. Industrial real estate can include factories, mines and warehouses. Finally agricultural/rural includes rowcrop, pasture, livestock facilities, timberland, mini-farms, transitional land, and land supporting other crops such as fruit, berries and nuts. (more…)