The low cost and popularity of Apple and Android mobile devices has opened many new ways to apply GIS. Many applications GIS development companies like us are building are in part or fully mobile enabled. Mobile presents many new and exciting possibilities. In many ways we have only just begun to scratch the surface of the many opportunities to apply GIS and location service.

One area in which we have received many client requests is the replacement of pen and paper with mobile GIS. Many field based staff still rely on paper maps and note taking. Mobile technology coupled with GIS and location services has the potential to dramatically improve how people work in the field. Eliminating pen and paper will be a huge step forward in terms of efficiency.

3 Ways to Replace Pen and Paper with Mobile GIS

Okay, picking just 3 examples is interesting. But there are so many ways we can improve efficiency with mobile GIS. The examples below we all driven by client approaches:

1. Online and Offline Data Collection

Grab your map, notepad and pen and off you go to do field work. maybe bring your digital camera too. Spend the day scribbling on paper; filling out forms etc. In the office lay out your paper map, pull together the notes/forms, maybe download your pictures; consolidate and manually enter all data into your office GIS or back-end system. Sound familiar?

How inefficient!

Mobile has all the answers. But wait ….. often we have no wi-fi connection. What then?

Ah, the offline or disconnected conundrum. Much requested but few solutions. We have been approached so many times about offline editing. Enough times for us to build our own solution. Offline is complex. Our offline app runs on both iPads and Android tablets. Simple workflows were key to the design. Replacing pen and paper the driver.

The app is now available in the iTunes Store and Google Play

2. ArcGIS Online – DropBox Integration

How often do we need to carry around reams of paper when we are on location? Imagine you are looking at potential sites for a new retail stores. Your analysts have put together their research, you have documents, pictures, maps .. all in paper form. Trying to work through all this paper, and make your own notes while on site presents many challenges. Its also static data.

Change that picture. Pull out your iPad view an interactive map which show each of the sites, read documents related to each site. Take site pictures and your own notes and store them all on your iPad for later upload. Simple.

Again driven by client requests we have developed an application which runs on your desktop/laptop, smartphone and tablet which integrates ArcGIS Online with Dropbox.

More than just providing static prepared documents, the app also allows users to generate dynamic data focused on the surrounding demographics and drive time data.

3. Mobile Map Based Notes

Maps are helpful in many ways. We were asked if it might be possible to make notes on top of a map: broken pipe here, inspection needed there. We mulled over a solution and came up with the following:

Grab your smartphone or tablet scribble on the map, add points lines or polygons to mark spots or areas and upload (in real time) to your supervisor the results. Very cool.

Share with us your thoughts on replacing pen and paper with mobile location technology.

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