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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.

Offline Mobile Map Basics 5: Use Cases

 
September 12th, 2016 by Matt Sheehan

In our fourth article in this series: Offline Mobile Map Basics 4: What are your Choices?, we pulled all together and discussed your options for working with mobile maps. The different types of offline mobile map apps were discussed: web. hybrid and native. In this, our last article in the offline mobile map series, we will provide use cases or examples of offline mobile map apps.

Mobile maps and GIS are confusing. As we discussed in our last article, there are 3 mobile choices: web, hybrid and native. Given the problem you are looking to overcome which is your best choice? And, more than simply mobile, what is your best choice for offline?

Let’s consider 3 use cases. In each case a different approach is taken to provide an offline mobile map solution.

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Offline Mobile Map Basics: What are your Choices?

 
September 8th, 2016 by Matt Sheehan

In our third article in this series: Offline Mobile Map Basics: Editing Map Layers Offline, we discussed editing map layers when offline. Layer feature add, update, delete and attachments were at the core of the conversation. In this, our fourth article in the offline mobile map series, we will pull all together and discuss your options for working with mobile maps.

Offline Mobile Map Basics: What are your Choices?

Today there are three mobile offline ArcGIS choices: web, hybrid and native. Each has its own own advantages and disadvantages

1. Offline Mobile Map Web Apps

Web ArcGIS mobile apps are built with HTML5, Javascript and CSS. They are cross-platform and cross-device, and the most flexible of the mobile options discussed here. They also require the least amount of resource investment of the three. A typical use case for an ArcGIS mobile web app would be: “We want maximum flexibility. Our staff will be using many different mobile devices in areas lacking wireless connectivity. Cost is very important. Extending the mobile app over time with additional custom functionality will be required”.

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Mobile ArcGIS Choices: Native, Hybrid or Web

 
September 6th, 2016 by Matt Sheehan

Mobile adoption in the GIS world has taken place slower than many would have expected. The GIS landscape is changing so rapidly, mobile was just one more ball to juggle. But things have begun to change. We are now in a world of multiple devices. And not just smartphones and tablets, also wearable’s, smart TVs etc. There is increasing demand to have access to GIS anywhere, on any device.

Today there are three mobile ArcGIS choices: native, hybrid or web. Each has its own own advantages and disadvantages. If you are looking to have a mobile ArcGIS app developed the right approach need be made on a case per case basis. In this article we will discuss these 3 options; the pros and cons.

Mobile ArcGIS Choices: Native, Hybrid or Web

1. Native ArcGIS Mobile Apps

Native ArcGIS mobile apps are developed specifically for one platform. They are written in the native language of that platform. So Objective-C for Apple (iOS) devices, Java for Android, .NET for Windows. Functionality, user experience and performance are key advantages of native ArcGIS apps. But they are more complex and expensive to build and are not cross-platform compatible. A typical use case for a native ArcGIS mobile app would be: “We will only ever use iPads in our organization, and we are working with large data-sets. Performance is key”.
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Offline Mobile Map Basics: Editing Map Layers Offline

 
September 5th, 2016 by Matt Sheehan

In our second article in this series: Offline Mobile Map Basics: Offline Base-Maps and Layers, we discussed how to take base-maps and layers offline. From Esri-land Tile Packages (TPK) and Feature Layers were key discussion areas. In this third post in the series we will dig a little deeper and focus on offline mobile map editing.

Editing Map Layers Offline

As we have discussed in the previous two posts, base-maps are static. That means they are simply images or tiles stitched together to provide context. Layers are what sit on-top of base-maps and if the are Feature Layers they can be edited. What do we mean by edited? There are three types of editing:

1. Add – Imagine you are working in the pipeline industry, and are viewing on your iPad the current pipe network in an ArcGIS map app. You are currently extending the pipeline; adding an additional line. You will need to update the pipeline layer to include this new section of pipe. That means adding a new line feature.

2. Edit – You are out inspecting a power pole. When you tap the point feature which represents the pole in you mobile map app a list of attributes appears, these describe the pole; type, last inspection date etc. You notice the pole is listed as metal when you can see it is actually wood. You need to edit this features ‘material type’ attribute so it is accurate.
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Basics: Offline Base-Maps and Layers – Part 2

 
August 30th, 2016 by Matt Sheehan

In our first article in this series: Basics: Offline Maps and How to Get Started Part 1, we provided background on offline maps. We discussed the difference between base-maps and layers, and covered what are interactive and editable map layers. In this second post in the series we will discuss how we take base-maps and layers offline.

1. Taking Base-Maps Offline

For this conversation we will focus much of our attention on ArcGIS. Note, the same basic principles discussed here will apply to other map and GIS offerings. So what is a base-map? It is a series of pictures or tiles combined into a single image. Rather like a jigsaw puzzle. And just like a jigsaw puzzle a single image is usually broken into smaller pieces. Think of a huge satellite image. Take a cookie cutter and break that up into smaller chunks. These are tiles.

So why generate tiles? Improved user experience that is why. Google in 2005 released Google Maps. Suddenly we could pan and zoom satellite images for free on the web. And yes the first thing I did was zoom in to see my house. But take a closer look at Google Maps or an ArcGIS web map today. You will see the individual base-map tiles as you pan and zoom. Your experience is seamless and super fast. Imagine each time you panned the map, just for a moment the map disappeared, then reappeared with the new extent. That was the pre Google Maps reality.

So how does this relate to offline? To be able to use base-maps in areas without wireless connectivity we need to copy these tiles to our smartphone or tablet. In Esri-land this can be done dynamically (see Collector for ArcGIS and the base-map selection option for offline) or through a tile package or TPK. This is simply a zip file of images. Tiles at different zoom levels: a “pyramid” of images.

Why tiled maps? from Penn State is a good article on this subject, well worth reading.
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Biggest GIS Barrier is Lack of Understanding

 
August 29th, 2016 by Matt Sheehan

I was thinking yesterday about the phrase “I know enough to be dangerous”. Its one ever more applicable to GIS. As more organizations and individuals adopt the technology, knowing just about enough (or not) is ever more common. And its a problem!

Biggest GIS Barrier is Lack of Understanding

The fact that GIS has become easier, does not mean GIS is now easy. I write about this often, but it is so true. And I see it so often. Organizations looking to solve problems with the new distributed model of GIS (Web GIS) and flailing. Its why I’ll say again

The Biggest GIS Barrier is Lack of Understanding

GIS was a niche technology. Used by GIS trained staff. Answering both simple and complex ‘where’ questions. GIS trained staff are essential to the future success of GIS. Not to promote GIS but to prepare and apply GIS correctly. As a company we work on both small and large projects, and in both cases we are seeing a lack of understanding as being a huge barrier. We spend as much time educating as we do implementing. Now don’t get me wrong, we love educating. But with sometimes tight deadlines this process, particularly when working with other implementor’s, can be challenging. Its one reason we introduced our GIS Solutions Engine, to help move projects forward efficiently and ensure all are on the same page.

In the push to promote GIS technology, adoption is beginning to happen before understanding. That is a worry. More emphasis need be put on helping organizations and individuals solve their business problems without the technology itself being just one more barrier.

Contact us on 801-733-0723.

Lost in GIS

 
August 22nd, 2016 by Matt Sheehan

Let me start this blog post with an age test. Do the following lines of dialogue mean anything to you?

“Oh, the pain, the pain”

“Where are you my hairy friend?”

How about?

“You Deplorable Dunderhead”

“Nickel Plated Nincompoop”

This will mean nothing to the younger generation. But to some of you (and yes I can see you smiling) this means Lost in Space. Forget the movie remake, this was one of the greatest American TV sitcom’s ever made. Filled with terribly wooden actors, predictable story lines, comical monsters (many also seen in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea’), cheesy sets .. I could go on. ‘Great American TV sitcom?” I hear you ask. Without question. Why?

Dr Smith that is why!

A simply marvelous character: sneaky, underhanded, greedy, lazy, cowardly. He stole the show. Dr Smith was the reason we watched.

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Offline Maps and How to Get Started Part 1

 
August 17th, 2016 by Matt Sheehan

I thought it worthwhile pulling together a series of posts on offline maps and how to get started. This an area in which we have particular expertise.

Many of the most popular mobile apps available today include maps. Apps like Pokemon Go and Uber are two excellent examples. Built in GPS in smartphones and tablets has enabled users to ask a multitude of ‘where questions’: Where is the closest PokéStop? Where is my Uber driver?

The popularity of consumer mobile mapping apps is now moving to the enterprise, to save money, or make money. GIS is a technology which quietly sits behind many mobile enterprise mapping apps. GIS generates maps from raw data and allows users to ask both simple and complex ‘where questions’. More on GIS later.

Offline Maps and How to Get Started Part 1

Mobile maps often rely on wireless connectivity to work. As an example, when you see your Uber driver heading towards your location on the map, quietly in the background your smartphone is getting information back over wireless on the changing location of that driver.
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GIS Technology on its own is Useless

 
August 15th, 2016 by Matt Sheehan

I’m troubled by fixed mindsets. Whether that be personal or corporate. I’m old enough to have experienced the dot com boom. Embedded tech ideas driven mostly by internal ‘brilliance’ than solving real client problems. The ‘if we build it they will come’ approach. Rather like the film Field of Dreams. Fiction!

GIS Technology on its own is Useless

I like the title of this blog post: GIS Technology on its own is Useless. We could take the GIS part of that title away. Technology helps to solve problems. It is not a solution on its own. Read that again.

If we throw technology over the fence at users/clients/colleagues does that solve their problem?

Today’s GIS technology is incredible. But it is only as useful as the problems we know how to solve using GIS. On its own GIS is useless.
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What is a GIS Solutions Engine?

 
August 9th, 2016 by Matt Sheehan

A GIS solutions engine: state the problem and with the simple press of a button …. out comes your answer. Sounds too good to be true. I bet I have you wondering where you can get this wondrous technology.

What is a GIS Solutions Engine?

There is little doubt that GIS has become easier. Releases like ArcGIS Online have greatly simplified the process or mechanics of generating and publishing maps. There are now many configurable (that means you don’t need to build from scratch) web and mobile applications which come with these platforms. Now anybody can set up and help provide answers to where questions with GIS. Right?

Well… definitely, maybe!

From our experience with customers, if you do not have in-house GIS expertise or are not prepared to spend time learning GIS ….. answering your business where questions with GIS might not be so easy.
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