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 Mobile GIS & LBS
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.

So many ways to apply mobile GIS and yet ….

May 16th, 2014 by Matt Sheehan

Mobile GIS can be used in so many different ways. In combination with the cloud, this is a powerful new way to view, analyse and gather location based data.

And yet we remain in a world where paper and pen are still the main tools used in the field. In many organizations there is a reluctance to move to new mobile GIS technology. Many factors are behind this resistance:

1) Data security concerns.
2) Concerns over budget.
3) Worries over integration with existing business systems.
4) Lack of understanding of what is now possible.
5) Resistance to change.

Read the rest of So many ways to apply mobile GIS and yet ….

GIS in 2014: confusion, uncertainty and opportunity

May 12th, 2014 by Matt Sheehan

Cloud, mobile, platform, location analytics, security, location strategy, indoor … GIS is in a state of flux. That’s a challenge. Am i still useful? What’s our best future path? Confusion and uncertainty.

Disruption can be tough.

The technology is moving so fast. Its hard to keep pace. Flex is out HTML5 in. Responsive design. Cross-platform. Multi-device. ArcGIS Online. Storymaps. Templates. Dashboards. Integration.

Esri are moving their messaging to platform.

So many Esri partners and GIS companies in general are still focused on how they have always worked with GIS; their solutions in isolation. Is cloud GIS a threat? ArcGIS platform?

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New ways to visualize and analyse property data in commercial real estate

May 8th, 2014 by Matt Sheehan

Paper maps remain at the core of what many commercial real estate GIS departments produce. In this fast paced sales environment often these maps are needed yesterday. But this maybe about to change. The popularity of mobile devices: smartphones and tablets, and advances in mobile GIS technology could mean the dominance of paper maps in commercial real estate is ending.

Read the rest of New ways to visualize and analyse property data in commercial real estate

Lowering Data Collection Costs for Pipeline Companies

May 6th, 2014 by Matt Sheehan

What are the biggest challenges today faced by pipeline companies when it comes to data collection and management?

Cost is maybe number one. Many of the current PODS systems are very expensive. Inefficiency and inaccuracy is a close second. Still paper and pen are an important part of how data is collected in the field. This then has to be collated and input into the central company system when back in the office. Often this can take weeks or even months.

Today using cloud and mobile technology, there are far better and cheaper ways to collect and manage field data. Imagine a real scenario faced by pipeline companies; tracking encroachments. The video below shows an iPad application which dramatically improves on old methods:

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GIS opportunities … looking for nuggets of gold

May 2nd, 2014 by Matt Sheehan

If we all look in the same place we will never find those elusive nuggets of gold.

I read that sentence years ago, and it always stuck in my mind. To me it meant set your own path, don’t follow the herd. The most discussed and publicized opportunities are no longer opportunities. Discover the yet to be discovered.

As GIS comes out of the shadows, opportunities abound. The audience for, and applications of the technology has dramatically increased. But like gold the opportunities are not sitting on the surface, they are there to be discovered. Go where everybody else is looking and success may well be elusive. Read what the GIS community is discussing; hot topics and trends. New, focused conferences are popping up left and right. All very interesting, and no doubt valid, but …..

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Where does GIS fit into business intelligence?

April 29th, 2014 by Matt Sheehan

We often hear that GIS is moving beyond its traditional user base. Business applications of the technology are a new and exciting area; integration with SAP and Cognos, location analytics and Esri Maps for Office …..

Increasingly more of my time is now spent discussing business location intelligence. These are not your standard GIS conversations. Firstly the term GIS is never used; location technology, location platform, location strategy are all preferred. Second, these are often discussions on what is missing in current business intelligence systems (BI). The short video below steps through a business case for location technology in the outdoor advertising space:

Read the rest of Where does GIS fit into business intelligence?

Stay focused on simple

April 28th, 2014 by Matt Sheehan

I like the word simple. Easy is another favourite.


We live in an increasingly complex world. Its confusing. But think about it; complexity is really only simple pieces combined. Like a car engine; a combination of parts which together form a complex system. Working within complexity demands understanding or focusing on the individual pieces which make up the whole.

GIS is complex. Lots of pieces to the pie. With cloud GIS, more pieces have just been added.

How often do you have client conversations which make your head spin? Detailed descriptions of requirements.

Read the rest of Stay focused on simple

Fitting the solution to the problem: changing our GIS mindset

April 25th, 2014 by Matt Sheehan

My wife asked me to put up a shelf over the weekend. To the garage i went to find my tools; drill, screwdriver, level ….. I’m no handyman, but when presented with this problem (new shelf), I had all the pieces (tools) ready to provide a solution.

How often do we grab our tools and wander around the house looking for problems to solve?

Problems require solutions. But without a clearly defined problem, proposing solutions is wasted effort. And yet we are all guilty of throwing around (GIS) solutions without first defining the problem. Read the rest of Fitting the solution to the problem: changing our GIS mindset

ArcGIS Online DeMystified

April 22nd, 2014 by Matt Sheehan

We’ve been working with ArcGIS Online since its inception; indeed this is where the majority of our work is now centred. We recently gauged the sentiment of users with a short Q&A. The responses were excellent. After collating and digesting the feedback, we thought it worth sharing some of our thoughts and reflections. And to clear up some misconceptions.

The list below is organised by theme based on the responses.

ArcGIS Online DeMystified

1) Useage

Getting our heads wrapped around what ArcGIS Online offered was initially a challenge. Much of that was changing our mindset. We spent time learning how to set up our account, understanding users and groups, web maps versus hosted services. Now we have moved past that initial learning curve, we have found working with ArcGIS Online pleasurably easy. Our ArcGIS server folk suggest too easy and have voiced their concerns over their usefulness (they remain essential).

Esri are still working out kinks, but overall we have liked how user friendly we have found ArcGIS Online.

2) Templates

Over the years Esri have released many free apps which support/add value to their server based solutions. We still remember well the ArcIMS Javascript template. Many still use the Flex viewer for ArcGIS. We’ve been surprised by how many configurable, free apps Esri have launched over the last year (I think over 40 have been released by the local govt team alone). They are not all perfect, but have made it much easier to stand up a focused app quickly. Most are configurable, so a tweek here and there will alter functionality look and feel. Many, but not all, are ArcGIS Online focused.

One respondent mentioned not liking the map viewer. We use that largely for admin purposes; publishing, styling etc. Customized templates is what we provide to our users.

Its true in some case you’ll need somebody who can code to step in. But often we have found if you have accessible data, it’s quick and easy to configure one of these templates. Having more autonomy, without the need for development expertise, we see as a big deal.

3) Credits

We found the credit model confusing when ArcGIS Online was launched. Thanks to feedback Esri have simplified. It remains a pay as you go model. Certain tasks and service will consume credits: map tiling, GeoEnrichment etc. Overall we have found we have used very few credits in our day to day map publishing and use (and we are heavy users, yet in 2013 we only used around 150 credits).

The credit model has taken us a while to understand. Its different to how we used to work; with an ArcGIS server license. But we seem to be able to do much with little credit use-age, which we like.

4) Pricing model

It was interesting to read that a number of respondents saw ArcGIS Online as expensive. A couple of people mentioned free and freeware. Ultimately ArcGIS Online is a subscription based model, which has a built in pay as you go element (credits). A developer account is free and provides more limited functionality. Base subscription pricing starts in the low $2k. From a subscription account, maps can be published as public or private. The base price of a subscription is tied to private or named user accounts.

We have viewed pricing as low versus the need to buy a server license. True the more you do and more private users you want, the more you will pay. But what you get for relatively little money down – that is relative to what we used to get – is considerable.

5) Functionality

At its core we use ArcGIS Online for publishing and sharing maps. We often mash up ArcGIS server layers, with other data sources. This was something we once had to do inside an application using code and configuration files. Users are now empowered to style and publish maps easily and quickly. Back-end processing still applies, and new custom functionality can be added to Web and mobile apps through application development (clever GIS developers still have gainful employment).

One other thing worth mentioning is that folks can publish their data in whichever projection they choose. You are not stuck with Web Mercator.

6) Integration

Stepping back one thing we see is now the ability to integrate each of the GIS pieces (we call it the GIS revolution in our blog). The emergence of mobile and cloud technology have helped drive this change. Esri’s place in this universe is their ArcGIS platform; ArcGIS Online is one piece of this bigger whole. In many ways it serves as the glue (Esri may not like me calling it that but I’m gonna stick with it). Rather than abandon other pieces, in favour of ArcGIS Online (and it may look that way), Esri are firing on many complementary fronts and pulling all together under the platform.

A long post. I’ve tried to avoid a sermon/bias, and give our thoughts on not just the path we think we see Esri following, but demystify some misconceptions. We also tried to give a little wider perspective. We live in a rapidly changing world. Location and location technology are no longer a niche. We see releases like ArcGIS Online as enabling technologies. Never before could we provide complimentary location-centric (GIS) solutions to field staff, executives, analysts, and non-GIS folk.

These are exciting times.


Goodbye to paper maps and pdf’s, hello to cloud enabled GIS

April 20th, 2014 by Matt Sheehan

You cannot beat a beautiful paper map. Cartographers are talented people. But in today’s fast paced, mobile world, paper maps used for day to day work are no longer practical.


As soon as they are printed paper maps are outdated for one. For two, they are in essence pretty pictures. Pictures which take an age to produce.


Today we all need and want more insight than a paper map can provide. Interactivity and the ability to query and search are ever more essential. In such a fast moving world we need deeper insight 24×7. We need access from anywhere, using any device (PC, tablet, smartphone). We need cloud enabled GIS! Read the rest of Goodbye to paper maps and pdf’s, hello to cloud enabled GIS

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