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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.

Taking ArcGIS Online …. Offline

July 25th, 2012 by Matt Sheehan

ArcGIS Online is a major step forward for mobile ArcGIS. True its not just targeted at mobile, but it has and will make the lives of mobile developers and their clients considerably easier. Why? Let’s make a list:

1) Single endpoint, or webmap to load, in a mobile viewer

2) Easy for users to prepare and publish their data.

3) Shapefiles published to ArcGIS online are converted to Feature layers and pushed to the mobile ArcGIS viewer within the webmap itself.

4) Other data sources can be easily published in ArcGIS online, then rendered in a mobile map viewer.

Those are just some of the advantages.

We’ve just released ‘GeoMobile for ArcGIS Online’ a free mobile app which allows users to load on a mobile tablet, their own published ArcGIS Online webmaps. We designed it to be extensible. So it goes beyond the excellent ESRI mobile widget, in that we can add functionality based on user requirements.

We are approached regularly about offline ArcGIS. Thus the somewhat confusing title of this blog post ArcGIS Online Offline! Here, we will discuss using GeoMobile for ArcGIS Online to access your webmap in an offline mode. The approach we demonstrate could easily be used in our other free mobile app GeoMobile for ArcGIS Server.

Before we describe the offline widget in more detail, here is a demo:

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GeoMobile for ArcGIS Online – A Mobile GIS App for Tablets

July 24th, 2012 by Matt Sheehan

GeoMobile for ArcGIS Online is a free mobile app we launched in July 2012 to the Android Market. In August it will be released in the Apple market. The app allows users to access their ArcGIS Online maps on their iPad and Android tablets. Multiple maps can be accessed, when users set up and host their own configuration file. The mobile ArcGIS app goes beyond what is available in the excellent ESRI mobile app. We are actively extending the functionality of GeoMobile for ArcGIS Online for our clients.

Working with GeoMobile for ArcGIS Online

There are a number of simple steps needed to use GeoMobile for ArcGIS Online:

Step 1 – Setup an ArcGIS Online standard map service

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Free Mobile GIS Apps – GeoMobile for ArcGIS Online

July 14th, 2012 by Matt Sheehan

A guide to using GeoMobile for ArcGIS Online a free mobile app about to be launched

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Thoughts on Current State of Mobile Market

July 9th, 2012 by Matt Sheehan

Apple has been praised for its innovation in the mobile space. Criticism of the company has centered around their fixation on absolute control. Their spat with Adobe in 2011 over the Flash Player plugin, effectively forced Adobe to change direction away from Flash and Flex. This was an early sign that Apple would not be playing nice. Legal pressure forced them to allow cross platform apps, like those generated in Mobile Flex, to be made available in their Apple store. But it was not a decision made to placate Adobe. Now we see attacks on rival hardware companies, like the recent Samsung lawsuit:

Mobile Platform Specific Apps

Other interesting developments include; the dropping of Google Maps in favour of Apple Maps, and the suggestion that their Maps app for iOS will include Yelp check-in feature that ties in with review site Yelp, further integrating social networking and location-based services into iOS 6.

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Apple Helps Bring Mobile & Location to Center Stage

June 14th, 2012 by Matt Sheehan

Our thinking has been for the longest time that mobile will revolutionize the field of location-focused technology. Niche areas like GIS will be pulled into the mainstream under the location technology umbrella. Location based services (LBS) will coalesce with other location focused technologies.

As a company, we made a strategic decision nearly 2 years ago to move our focus from GIS development for the PC web, to mobile location app development. This year has been crazy busy. Combine this with Apples recent announcement, the launch of ESRI’s ArcGIS online, and new developments at Google and MapQuest, and we feel our strategy was correct; location is now at center stage in the mobile world. Making the decision when we did has also allowed us to develop expertise, and thus leadership in the location mobile app development space.

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Offline or Disconnected Mobile ArcGIS How To

June 13th, 2012 by Matt Sheehan

Offline or disconnected mode is one of the most in demand client and potential client requests we receive. And yet the main spatial solution providers have only made small steps in this direction. Chatting with ESRI, offline ArcGIS is on their roadmap, but no major releases are planned in the near future. Our interest is cross-platform solutions. So recent iOS and Android specific announcements from the likes of Google, though very interesting, do not serve our clients well.

It was time for us to look into our own solution. We broke down the problem into manageable chunks, then conferred with Mansour at ESRI on the details. Let’s discuss at a high level these pieces.

Offline versus Online Mode

In code we can detect if a mobile device has online connectivity. If it does reach out over the network for map and server functionality. If offline look locally, to the device itself, for resources.

Local Storage

Mobile devices have varying amounts of local storage. They also come with so called lite databases. In offline mode we take advantage of these local resources.

Offline ArcGIS Visualization – Tile Packages

Let’s imagine we have an ArcGIS Online web map we wish to view on our mobile in disconnected mode. Using ArcGIS 10.1 we can now generate a tile package of the layers used in the web map. These .tpk files vary in size, we need to be careful when generating these packages, particularly thinking about the capacity of the mobile device targeted for the mobile ArcGIS app. But once the tile package has been generated this need be stored on the mobile device. Note, tile packages which include base map tiles will need agreement with ESRI since there are various licensing agreements attached to the source of these base tiles.

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Initial Thoughts on Apple’s Map Announcement

June 12th, 2012 by Matt Sheehan

Our first reaction to the recent announcement from Apple on their maps initiative is that it brings little new to the mapping landscape. As a mobile location-focused development company we see nothing which would help our customers beyond our current ESRI, Google and MapQuest solutions.

Apple are targeting their platform we suspect with this launch; API’s or tools for developers will focus on Objective-C. Google have done the same with some of their cutting edge map solutions; with Java for native Android. We are pleased Apple see the business potential for location in the mobile sector. But, knowing their business practices, we hope this will not further deepen the split in the mobile world between iOS and Android. Now native apps have their place. But cross platform is what our clients are crying out for not multiple versions of the same app for each platform. ESRI, Google and Mapquest all provide super Javascript map API’s. We hope Apple do the same.

One thing we were excited to hear from Google was their announcement last week of an offline or disconnected mobile solution. Initially a Java for Android launch; we see this as a long overdue move. Many of our clients require offline mobile functionality. We have our own disconnected mobile solution, but it would have been nice to have had Apple announce their own offline mobile solution in their maps API. Looks like Google will remain ahead here and in many other map related areas.

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Mobile ArcGIS Online-Offline Editing

June 5th, 2012 by Matt Sheehan

No doubt the most frequent approach we get for the mobile ArcGIS apps we develop are offline or disconnected workflows. Clients want both to be able to visualize basemaps and their layers when out of wi-fi range, and offline editing; new feature additions, deletions and attribute edits.

ArcGIS 10.1 gives us tile packages (.tpk) so we can store tile pyramids locally on the device. Mansour has a nice example showing how to access basemap tiles using a tpk in offline mode on his blog.

The real challenge is offline editing. ESRI introduced Feature Server with Feature layers in ArcGIS 10, which work nicely in online mode. In April they released an Online-Offline Editing Sample using their iOS api. They include in their notes supporting the sample:

“For the sake of simplicity, the sample ….only allows you to add new features when the application is offline, not modify or delete existing features.”

Now there is the real challenge, what they have left out of the sample.

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Building Mobile GIS Apps using Titanium

May 22nd, 2012 by Matt Sheehan

We build custom cross platform mobile GIS and location based mobile applications. There is our one sentence elevator sales pitch. But what is this cross platform business? Put simply write one code base and run it across multiple platforms. So take your beautiful mobile web application written in HTML5/Javascript convert it to an installed app using Phonegap. Distribute it to the various app stores and you are done. You have created a hybrid mobile app. So why all the fuss over native apps? These are apps written in the language of choice of a specific platform; Objective C for iOS, Java for Android. So multiple versions of the same app need writing for each platform. These sound expensive to write and maintain. As with all things there are advantages and disadvantages of each approach.

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Is Google Maps GIS Lite?

May 11th, 2012 by Matt Sheehan

We’ve never been a company which sits on its hands and wonders what is around the corner. Sure we have some key partners, but they don’t limit our reach and exploration. Our goal is to provide the most appropriate solution to our clients. That might be an ESRI solution, Google, MapQuest, technology combination, open source. We are continually working to expand our skills and add more tools to our geospatial toolbox. The more tools we have available, the more effective we are at picking the right tool for the job. (we all know using pliers as a hammer is never ideal.)

In the past we have leaned on the likes of ESRI’s ArcGIS Server (and their various web mapping APIs) as well as some of the more advanced open-source options like GeoServer, OpenLayers, OpenScales, etc. But things are changing. Attend any GIS focused conference and you will notice two things. First, that ESRI now talk about “non GIS users”, and not just in passing; all the time. And second that Google are usually there in one form or other. After chatting with one senior Google geo person we decided to look at their offering in greater depth.

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