The combination of cloud technology and mobile GIS are helping to broaden the appeal of GIS. Increasingly geospatial companies are using the term location technology in place of GIS, since location has a more universal understanding. The general public are looking to location technology to help in their daily lives. As we think about this new audience for GIS technology, there are 3 key areas to apply cloud based Mobile GIS: workforce solutions, data discovery and citizen engagement applications.
The traditional arm of GIS. Improving internal processes; modeling, analysis, visualization. Helping to improve how we work. Mobile brings new possibilities for extending the enterprise use of GIS. Field staff are now able to use the power of GIS on their iPads, iPhones and Androids. Data collection, and editing have been a key early uses of mobile technology. On site analysis for retail location, is one of the many areas now possible using mobile GIS.
Data Discovery Applications
Focused on the general public; intelligent mobile maps are the perfect way to provide users quick and easy access to local information. An example is a Parks Finder. Imagine you wish to find the closest park to your current location, which has a play-ground. And you would like to find the shortest route to get there. We can now leverage GIS technology and provide a mobile application which allows users to see a map of local parks and search capabilities. Maybe a mother wishes to find the closest park with a play-ground. A mobile app powered by GIS can provide search capabilities for this mother to not only find the closest park, but the shortest route to get there. Now that is a powerful application; intuitive visualization and fast, easy data discovery.
Providing information in an understandable easy to discover way has historically been a challenge. Local governments in particular would like to be able to share with citizens information about local events, road closures, construction projects, and other relevant local information. An ever bigger wish is to provide the ability for citizens to provide feedback; or a mechanism for citizen engagement. GIS and mobile or Web maps again can provide the perfect solution. Reporting an abandoned vehicle, lost pet, debris on road, gas leak, snow complaint can all now be done using GIS technology. Local governments now have the ability to provide a feedback mechanism to local people. More than that they can centrally store this information and use GIS tools to analyze and act on each citizen request or report.
Esri, the California based GIS company, have been quick to adopt cloud technology through ArcGIS Online, and have been focused on broadening the appeal of GIS. In September 2013, they launched the ArcGIS MarketPlace; a one stop shop for GIS applications. This launch has made it far easier to find GIS and location-centric applications built against ArcGIS Online. Both enterprise and consumer focused applications are available through the MarketPlace.
The Universal Appeal of Mobile GIS
Myself and a colleague were fortunate enough in early September to visit China. This is not the land of western businessmen, as our media suggests. China is a land truly of the Chinese. Move beyond the major cities and westerners are rare, as indeed is spoken English. China is a land of contrast and wonder. In one small town, I noted to my left a new BMW car and to my right a farmer walking behind an ox with a hand held plough. The infrastructure in China is undergoing rapid change. Bullet trains, new roads, bridges, and tunnels are being built at an incredible pace. The country has a very wide and extensive Wi-Fi network, and mobile devices are everywhere. In fact, I have never seen such a dependence on smartphones and tablets. The poor and rich; everybody has a mobile device. One can see at every turn potential applications of mobile GIS technology. In the hands of the enterprise and government for infrastructure development and for use by the general population. China’s drive to growth and development has the advantages of cloud and mobile technology to help accelerate progress. Location technology has as a central role to play in these advances.