We often have clients come to us and request we build a mobile app for iPad and/or iPhone. Our first question, before touching on functionality is: should you build a mobile GIS app for Apple devices only?
There are many reasons why building a mobile GIS app for just one platform (Apple iOS in this case) makes sense. Maybe your staff all have, and love, iPads and iPhones. They are comfortable with Apple products, and your IT department is set up to support iOS devices alone. I know many iOS fans who would cringe at the suggestion of switching to Android, for example. Apps which run on Apple devices are usually (and we will come back to this) written in a programming language called Objective-C. A language unique, or native, to Apple.
So … custom cross platform mobile GIS apps are expensive?
They certainly can be. Let’s imagine you would like a custom version of Collector for ArcGIS. Maybe you want a tool which is not provided by Collector. Lets say custom forms. iFormBuider won’t cut it. You need something for your unique workflows. Since you have a field team who use Apple, Android and Windows mobile devices (that means smartphone and tablets) you need a cross platform solution. What do you do?
More than likely you turn to a GIS development company like ours. You’ll ask us, if such a custom app is possible. And most importantly how much it might cost?
Excuse the pun, but the question need be asked: has Collector helped to put mobile GIS on the map?
We are just back from the Esri user conference in San Diego. A horrible place to go for a conference! As ever a terrific event. And the most popular sessions were ….. anything mobile. The Collector demos were standing room only extending into the corridor. Everybody seems to have mobile and Collector fever. Having been preaching the gospel of mobile GIS and mapping for so many years, this fills our hearts with joy.
From our perspective, this surge in mobile interest has created new client needs. Most notably:
Collector Set up and Training
We’ve been inundated with requests from clients to help set up and train staff on the use of Collector. The app is popular with GIS and non GIS trained staff alike This has necessitated familiarizing these field based workers with the online and offline Collector workflows. Data set up and publishing in ArcGIS Online has also been required. Collector is replacing older pen and paper based methods once used to collect data. Using a smartphone or tablets built-in GPS, users location and the location of features can be automatically set. Feature attributes are stored on the device if offline, locally stored edits or additions are pushed to ArcGIS Online when back online. Images can be attached to features using the mobiles built in camera. (more…)
This years Esri UC in San Diego was the best yet. So much cool new technology. The GIS revolution is in full swing. But now it is all over, as you sip your coffee on your first day back at the office. Now what are you going to do?
Floods on new information, ideas, products. Its your job to organize your thoughts, and take action on implementation within your organization. Inertia is your biggest enemy.
What’s your mobile strategy?
Mobile is everywhere. Quite literally. We have become so dependent on our mobile devices. At this years UC it was hard to avoid discussions around mobile. More than any other advance, mobile is having a profound affect on GIS. Esri are pushing forward with new mobile technology. There is no doubt that Collector has raised the profile of mobile ArcGIS. Mobile data collection integrated with ArcGIS is hot at the moment. Old methods of using paper and pen are rapidly being replaced. Collector took a while coming, but it was well worth the wait. We are working with ever more clients helping set up Collector, and train staff.
Mobile presents new opportunities to apply GIS in new ways To replace outmoded methods. To use GIS technology in a seamless manner both in and out of the office. Data collection is but one application of mobile GIS technology. As was demonstrated at this years UC, there are a plethora of new applications of mobile GIS.
Mobile GIS is exciting. It offers a new ways for field based staff to get their work done more efficiently, and provide more accurate data. Energy sector regulation and management have many challenges. Field surveys are often done in remote areas outside of mobile communication coverage. Data collection still relies on a disjointed combination of equipment. New mobile GIS technology offers potentially dramatic improvements in how Mineral Exploration Regulation Teams get their work done. We will discuss a new integrated approach in this article.
Mobile GIS and Energy Sector Regulation
Its worth providing some background on a typical scenario for mineral and energy activity regulation.
Mineral Exploration Regulation Teams
Much of the work done by mineral exploration regulation teams is centred on monitoring ground exploration activities. Comparing reported activity and impacts, against what is observed. Field inspections are typically ground based and often done in remote areas. Off-road 4WD vehicles and possibly air support may be needed depending on the activity, urgency of an inspection, the availability of staff and accessibility of sites. There are other dependencies on ground conditions such as weather, agricultural and cultural practices.
Just to advance the discussion on the work we have been doing with offline editing in the Web browser. We have extended the demo app shown in a previous post to be responsive. In other words to run well on all mobile devices: smartphones, tablets and smablets. The short video shows the same offline ArcGIS editing application running in a browser on a tablet and smartphone.
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:
Think about this. My daughters 6 month old uncomfortable football boots (soccer cleats in US) ripped apart last week. $70 down the drain. No doubt a poor ROI.
My $120 Adidas boots sit gleaming in my closet. Sometimes gracing the field. But chronically underused. A poor ROI?
Here lies our little conundrum. How do we define and measure ROI? If we have an expensive resource and it under-performs, we might suggest a poor ROI (the opposite might also apply in the case of over-performing). But what if we under-use or do not fully utilize a resource? (more…)
We live in challenging times. As budgets are cut, expectations are we do more with less. We have two options; work harder or work smarter.
Guess which is our preferred approach?
Working smarter means stepping back from your role and daily tasks. Pushing away barriers, both actual and self imposed. We are surrounded by change in GIS; more than that in technology itself. If you stick with tried and trusted methods of getting your work done, you are living in the past. There are better ways. (more…)
Many of our clients use desktop GIS applications such as ArcMap. Some have developed Web GIS applications. One common theme across all clients with whom we work, is an increasing need to integrate their GIS data and applications.