Users of the new iOS, Android and Windows mobiles have been demanding new ArcGIS apps designed for these devices. ArcPad is a complex, specialised application which was designed to run on laptops or expensive mobile hardware provided by companies including Trimble and F4. In 2015 users are looking for elements of the core functionality provided by ArcPad, but with simpler workflows, the ability to extend and customise, mobile apps which run across platforms (iOS, Android, Windows) and devices (smartphone, phablet, tablet).
Core to these new user requirements is offline, or the ability to access maps and GIS tools while disconnected from the Internet.
Figure 1 – ArcGIS Offline
There are a number of use cases where offline mobile GIS capabilities are potentially important, these include:
– Being in areas with no or poor wi-fi connectivity
– Many mobile devices which lack 3G/4G. These are devices which are only usable indoors or where there is a broadband connection.
– Concerns around the cost of data plans.
ArcGIS Offline Problem
In 2014 Esri released an offline enabled version of Collector for ArcGIS, a free native mobile data collection product, coupled to ArcGIS Online. The app was made available for iOS and Android users. In the same year Esri also launched a new set of native SDK’s for building mobile applications which included offline capabilities.
WebMapSolutions reviewed these Esri releases soon after launch. Our general finding were favourable, but we also recognized gaps. These included:
Collector for ArcGIS
– A canned product which lacks the ability to extend and customize.
– Workflows were not always intuitive, and thus less appealling to non-GIS users.
– Lack of flexibility since coupled to ArcGIS Online.
ArcGIS Native SDK’s
– Developing an ArcGIS offline cross-platform app meant building and maintaining three separate code bases: Java for Android, Objectve-C for iOS and .NET for Windows.
ArcGIS Offline Solution
WebMapSolutions spent a period investigating potential approaches which filled the gaps we recognised in current ArcGIS solutions. We were looking for a way to provide mobile apps which were:
– Simple to extend and customize.
– Provided intuitive workflows for use by all users without the need for training.
– Used a single code base to provide cross-platform, and cross-device access.
– Allowed direct access to ArcGIS Server, ArcGIS Online and Portal for ArcGIS endpoints.
– Provided online and offline access to maps, GIS functionality and editing.
DisconnectedJS for ArcGIS
Figure 2 – DisconnectedJS for ArcGIS
DisconnectedJS for ArcGIS comes with its own API for developers interested in ArcGIS offline. WebMapSolutions have also begun building applications which use DisconnectedJS for ArcGIS. The first release is our DisconnectedJS Offline Editor. These are subscription based products