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We are at the beginnings of a new mobile revolution. In the first part of this series we looked at the application of GIS in the wine industry. Mobile will change how we work with GIS; visualization, query, search, analysis, data collection and editing will all soon be done in the field.

GIS is increasingly being used in vineyard management. From mapping and analysing vineyard microclimates and soils, to monitoring and recording growth across the vineyard, to managing picking by zones. The new mobile revolution is about to broaden both the appeal and availability of GIS.

Mobile GIS – The Old Way

Historically there were two ways vineyard managers could use mobile computing and GIS. First there were laptops, next ‘legacy’ mobile devices. Summarising that landscape:

  • Hardware – Trimble have been one of the top mobile device providers. The price of mobile units range from over $7000 to around $1000
  • Platforms – All laptops and most mobile units use Microsoft windows. Thus booting, shutting down, patching of the operating system was standard.
  • Software – There are a limited number of software packages used for mobile GIS. ArcPad at around $500 and ArcView at around $1200, are two of the more popular examples.

Mobile GIS in 2011

Mobile is about to have as big an impact on society as the rise of the Internet. Location will be key part of this new revolution; low cost mobile devices equipped with GPS and tools to visualise and analyse location data. Mobile will move from the edge to the core of the computing landscape. So where are we in 2011?

A turf war is being waged between rival mobile hardware and software companies. Many new mobile devices have been launched in 2011. Both smartphones and tablets of varying sizes and spec. Disagreements continues over software. The recent spat between Adobe and Apple over the Flash player, being but one notable example.

But slowly the dust is clearing. For platforms; Android, Apple, Blackberry and Windows dominate. Now, no longer is there the need to build multiple versions of an application for each platform. A single code base which can run across mobile platforms is today a reality; thanks to HTML5 for the mobile Web and installed hybrid apps built with Adobe AIR.

There are two ways to access applications on a mobile device. The first is to simply fire up the mobile Web browser and load a Web application. Existing Web sites are designed for mouse interaction. Mobile interaction is with the finger, thus most Web sites need to be optimized for the mobile Web. This usually means a rework of both design and functionality. Restrictions by Apple mean that cross platform Web solutions are limited to HTML5. Sites built with Flash, Flex and Silverlight are not accessible on the IPhone or IPad.

Installed applications are the second type of application accessible on mobiles. These can be downloaded from the various app stores. Many are written in so called native languages; Objective C for Apples IOS, Java for Android etc. Native languages are specific for a platform, meaning multiple versions of the same app need be developed for cross platform operation. The recent launch of mobile AIR by Adobe, means that so called hybrid apps can be written which run across all platforms.

Mobile GIS – The New Way

So what will this new mobile revolution mean to the management of vineyards?

  • Hardware – the increasing number of mobile devices now available has dramatically pushed down prices. Most tablet devices are under $1000.
  • Platforms – there are a number of different mobile platforms; Apple IOS, Android, Blackberry. Users make mobile choices often based on the platform. Mobile GIS software solutions now run on many platforms. Meaning no matter what device a user might have, the same software can be used.
  • Software – A slew of new mobile GIS applications are being released. Both Web and installed GIS applications. Software prices are falling.
  • Multiple use mobile devices – a smartphone is now far more than a phone. Its is a mobile computer. Phones now have multiple uses.
  • Convenience – mobile devices are far more flexible and convenient that PC’s. They are easy to transport, and offer instant access to the Internet. No more booting of the operating system. They are also more intuitive to use. The mouse interaction on PC’s has always felt alien, particularly to older users.
  • Adaptable – many mobile applications run well on both smart-phone and tablets. But, it is often the case that a specific mobile devices is better used for one purpose than another. For example recording growth across the vineyard may be more easily done with a smartphone. Whereas mapping and analysing of the data may be better done on a tablet.

The penetration of mobile devices is rising, increasing numbers of mobile GIS applications are becoming available, and prices for both mobile hardware and software is falling. This will all have a profound affect on the agricultural sector. Vineyards, in particular, will see increased efficiency as mobile and GIS are more widely adopted.

WebMapSolutions are Web and mobile application developers. They have just released GeoMobile for ArcGIS to the Apple and Android App stores; a free mobile ArcGIS application. Contact [email protected] for more information.

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