With the 2016 elections just around the corner, we wondered how many organizations will be using maps and GIS (or location intelligence) to help boost their campaign. If you aren’t we will discuss in the article how WebMapSolutions are helping a number of different organizations boost their election campaigns.
Will you be using GIS and maps for your 2016 election campaign?
(GIS) can literally take dozens of pages of complex information and make a single, multicolored map that shows factors such as household density, family size, or racial and socioeconomic composition of neighborhoods along with their implied political and social attitudes where available from public opinion data” (Novotny & Jacobs)
GIS (can be used) to analyze fundraising patterns … and target areas that likely contained a large number of potential donors (Jardine, 2003)
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:
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:
Mobile applications require networking. Not any more: here we discuss 5 breakthrough offline use cases available now!
How often do you find yourself without mobile Wi-Fi connectivity? More often than you would like. Maybe you are in a remote area; working, possibly hiking, boating or fishing. Maybe you do not want to exhaust your mobile data plan. Its quite possible your mobile device has no outdoor Internet connectivity. Lower cost tablets only provide direct home or office based network connectivity and have no 3G/4G providing mobile data capabilities. Even if you have a tablet with networking service built-in from the telephone carriers, the service is inconsistent at best and sometimes it doesn’t exist.
This is a huge disappointment because tablets and smart devices have a great deal to offer businesses and consumers of all types, especially those that marshal resources to the field with the dreaded pen and paper. But until we can solve how we collect data of all types, integrate it into our workflow seamlessly, and do that in an occasionally connected world, we are going to remain in the stone age with pen and paper use by field staff.
The wait is over
Since we are mobile map and GIS experts, in this post we will describe 5 cool uses of mobile offline maps. (more…)
iPad minis are cool. Their size means they are easy to carry; ideal for field work. But they are poor cousins to their larger relative. The biggest complaint is their lack of resources. Put simple they are badly under-powered. RAM is the biggest problem, try running too many apps or start using the camera and slowness and app crashing is inevitable. We wanted to demonstrate mobile offline data collection on an iPad mini. Our integrated ArcGIS Online mobile disconnected app has been recently optimized with this aim in mind. The short video shows the app in action:
If the recent requests we have received for GIS development and knowledge help are anything to go by; engineering companies are excited about GIS. The project needs have been many and varied from GIS support and data services to Web and mobile development. More evidence we think of the widening interest in GIS; from GIS pros to now ever more non-GIS professionals.
Here is a short list of some of these needs:
Mobile GIS Planned Pipeline Visualization
“We are an engineering company who design pipelines. A key part of this work is involving property owners in the process. Driving and walking along the planned pipeline route with these individuals is important. The one thing we lack currently is the ability to visualize the planned pipeline. An iPad with pipeline and related feature overlays would be a huge help.”
Disaster management demands rapid response, and careful coordination of workers in the field. Mobile technology has the potential to provide important tools to first responders to help mitigate the effects of disasters. Working with a county in the state of Michigan, we have been investigating the use is iOS and Android devices in combination with ArcGIS Online to help improve disaster management efforts.
Disaster Management Today Relies on Pen and Paper
Over the last few years there have been an increasing number of tornadoes and floods causing considerable damage in Michigan. An important requirement of many county GIS departments, often with help from the Red Cross, is to quickly record damage and report findings to State authorities to then provide funding and assistance. Field workers are sent out to affected areas with parcel maps. Notes are made parcel by parcel on level of damage, often home owners are interviewed. Once back in the office this data is collated and assembled in a spreadsheet and emailed to the State. This represents a labor intensive effort under considerable time pressure.
The Use of Mobile Apps for Disaster Management
Mobile technology in combination with the cloud, have the potential to dramatically improve the efficiency and reduce the effort required in managing disasters. We were asked to investigate the use of tablets as disaster management tools; a mobile ArcGIS Online app which uses both onboard GPS and camera, to collect and report levels of damage. The app needed to work in both connected and disconnected modes.
Disaster Management Mobile App Set Up
We’ve been building a mobile app framework which provides both online and offline functionality. We took this framework and adapted it for the disaster management requirements.
Figure 1: Base Map Layer Package Source in ArcMap 10.1
Our first step was to open ArcMap 10.1 and generate two base map sources:
1) A tile package or TPK for the offline basemap
Figure 2: Tile Package Generation in ArcMap 10.1 for Offline BaseMap
2) A tiled base layer based on a layer package (.lpk file) for an online base map.
Figure 3: ArcGIS Online Hosted Tiled Service Publishing from ArcMap 10.1 for Online BaseMap
Next we published an editable hosted feature service in ArcGIS Online. In our case we made some edits to the attributes of the shapefile and added two field (damage level, and comments) before publishing.
Figure 4: ArcGIS Online Hosted Feature Service Preparation & Publishing from ArcMap 10.1
In each case above the data needed to be in a Web Mercator projection which is the default for ArcGIS Online. Another point worth mention is that ArcGIS Online at present only supports 1000 features, so shapefiles with more than this number of features cannot be published as hosted feature services. We will revisit this topic in due course.
The hosted feature service needs setting up as we describe in the following blog post >a href=”http://www.webmapsolutions.com/hosted-feature-layers-arcgis-online”>http://www.webmapsolutions.com/hosted-feature-layers-arcgis-online
Now our interest is only editing certain attributes. Though we do wish to see all attributes in non-edit mode, when in edit mode it would be nice to only list these editable fields. In ArcGIS Online when we view the hosted feature service, we can open the ‘Configure Pop Ups’ option and set only those attributes we wish to edit as visible. Perfect. But alas not, this filter only applies in the web interface and not what is passed to the mobile app.
Figure 5: ArcGIS Online Hosted Feature Service Configure Pop Ups
After successfully publishing and configuring the services, we then combined the published tiled basemap and hosted feature service as a single web map.
Figure 6: ArcGIS Online Web Map
Offline ArcGIS Online Editing
So good, to summarise we have publshed three services to ArcGIS Online:
1) Hosted Tiled basemap
2) Hosted Feature layer
3) A Web map which combines the above two services.
Next it is time to think about offline. The tpk we generated earlier is in essence a zip file. We need to copy this to the mobile tablet. In the case of Android this is a drag and drop copy operation. For iOS it is done through iTunes. Next we set the configuration file. Given the general theme of this, as with all our mobile work, is to build a mobile app which:
1) Provides focused functionality – here connected/disconnected editing
2) Is configurable meaning the UI can be altered without need for a developer and recompiling.
3) Is flexible such that users can switch the web map loaded and ArcGIS Online account used.
The configuration file is a key element, providing maximum flexibility.
Figure 7: ArcGIS Online Mobile App Configuration File
This file, like the tpk, is copied to the device. And is read each time the application loads.
The 1000 feature limit in ArcGIS Online hosted feature service we mentioned earlier is both a problem and solution for this application. A problem since we often have source geodata containing many more than 1000 features. But we will never need more than 1000 features visible at any one time to edit, plus more than 1000 feature layer features will degrade the performance of the mobile application; zoom and pan will become increasingly more challenging. So what is our best compromise? In this case id we have more 1000 features and an ArcGIS server instance, we publish the full dataset to server, BUT only publish a subset of this data in ArcGIS Online. This subset would be the extent of the data published, so the area and features being edited that day or by that group of field workers.
Mobile ArcGIS Online Editing Conclusion
There are many potential applications of this technology in disaster management and assessment. Mobile apps such a the one described will prove important to local and state governments, the insurance industry and other key sectors and organisations. For more information about our work in this area contact us at email@example.com.
Recently we’ve had considerable interest in mobile application development based around check-in and mobile data collection. Facility management companies, surveyors, multi-level marketing, insurance claims, pipeline companies, water utilities; all have field workers who would benefit from mobile applications. Not only checking in to work sites, but keeping a record of the work done; notes, pictures, video, even voice records. To help with our discussions with these potential clients, we put together a demo which pulls together much of this proposed functionality. We have included in this article both screen shots of the key functionality in the demo, plus a video of the actual application.
A key challenge of building the demo was finding a suitable mobile application tool set. Initially we discussed using a combination of SimpleGeo with a mapping API. But MapQuest came to the rescue with their new Flash mobile tool set. Not only do they provide routing and traffic data, but local search, and a range of other functionality all easily integrated with the map.
Mobile Worker Data Collection Application – Opening Screen
The opening screen in the application shows the base functionality. Each view or tool is listed as a selectable image. At any point a user can open the map to see their current location. This changes as the user moves. As we will discuss, the map is also utilised by other tools in the application.
Figure 1 – SmartPhone MapQuest Data Collection Application
Mobile Worker Data Collection Application – Directions Screen
Let’s imagine a potential scenario. A field worker starts each day by opening a mobile application such as the one we are describing here. They want to start by seeing the days calls and an optimised route to these calls, mapped out for them. In Figure 2 we show a single source and destination mapped. MapQuest also allow for multiple source-destinations to be entered and displayed. At any point in the day the user can open this tool and see on the map the location of their next call.
Figure 2 – SmartPhone MapQuest Directions View
Mobile Worker Data Collection Application – Check-In Screen
Next, the worker arrives at the first call and wishes to check-in. Figure 3 shows the check-in screen. There are two options shown. First a check-in by venue; so a field technician about to fix the air conditioning in a specific 7-11, for example. In the demo the user would type in the address, this could just as easily be a selection from a list of venues nearby. The second option is a check-in by current location or lat/long. Maybe a surveyor wishing to record, or check-in at a particular point. The check-in process would send name, id, location and time to the company server. A check-out would similarly record similar data centrally.
Figure 3 – SmartPhone MapQuest Check-In View
Mobile Worker Data Collection Application – Local Search Screen
At any point in the day a field worker might wish to do a local search. A search for venues, points of interest, maybe people within a certain distance of a location. The MapQuest api offers many possibilities for these types of searches. In Figure 4 and Figure 8, we show a simple venue search within a certain radius of either current location or from a specific address.
Figure 4 – SmartPhone MapQuest Search View
Mobile Worker Data Collection Application – GeoCoder Screen
A geocoder is a useful tool. In Figure 5 we show how users can type in an address, and use MapQuest to add a marker to the map of that location.
Figure 5 – SmartPhone MapQuest GeoCoder View
Mobile Worker Data Collection Application – Data Screen
Data collection is often an important part of a field workers job. Surveyors, service technicians, pipeline inspectors are all recording data while in the field. Mobile applications are perfect both for recording and storing location based data – notes, pictures, voice records, video. They are also ideal for reviewing historic data. Let’s imagine a pipeline inspectors who on August 1, 2011 inspected a section of pipeline. He records what he sees using this mobile application. A field engineer, using the same application, views this data and makes appropriate repairs. A second inspection done on September 1, 2011 again using the mobile application, to view images and notes made a month before and by the field engineer, shows the work was completed successfully. This is a very real work flow.
Figure 6 shows the applications data screen. The search option makes a request to the company server for past data records. The search could be done by date, location or any number of other criteria.
Figure 6 – SmartPhone MapQuest Data View 1
Figure 7 shows the summary data input view. So this is a summary of the data recorded by the field worker prior to storage. The camera on a mobile device can be used to attach photos or video to the work order. Mobile devices also have voice recorders. Notes can also be included in the data stored. The data itself can be attached to a check-out, or stored locally on the mobile device, maybe for later upload to a central company server.
MapQuest have an excellent new set of mobile tools. The application discussed in this article is based on input from potential client. Those who have seen the application have been excited by the possibilities. When clients can see live demos of mobile solutions it often elicits new thinking and ideas. As mobile application developers the ideas which come from these discussions and demos are why we love what we do.
WebMapSolutions are a Utah mobile application development company. Specializing in locations based services (LBS), GIS and mapping applications. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org