A geographic information system or GIS, is a perfect tool for working with spatial data. ArcGIS from ESRI is the most popular GIS software currently available. After years of building PC based GIS applications, we’ve turned our attention to mobile. Smartphones and mobile tablets now provide a new way to access spatial data. Mobile GIS offers many benefits over traditional office based GIS usage. Two key advantages are geolocation, or what is near me, and context. With a mobile GIS viewer you can visualize, query and edit features of interest near your current location. Maybe private/public property boundaries, tree type. In this article we will discuss some of the key benefits of mobile GIS in forest management.
Mobile GIS Forest Management App – Data Visualization
We have been in conversation with a number of forest management groups with regards mobile computing in forest management. Their first question, in each case, revolved around overlaying layers of interest on a base map while on site. To actually have the ability to see features of interest near to them. Mobile devices are a perfect way to view your data. Adding your layers to a base map is now easy to do. Figure 1 shows US Forest Service boundaries.
Figure 1 – US Forest Service boundaries
Mobile GIS Forest Management App – Query Features
Once you have visualized what is around you, you can then interact with what you see using queries. These queries can be complex or simple. So show me all trees within 50 ft of where I am standing which are over 20ft tall, or simply a features attributes. Figure 2 shows public and private fire perimeters.
Figure 2 – Public and private fire perimeters
Mobile GIS Forest Management App – Feature Data Updates
Suppose you look at the attributes of a feature using the mobile application while on site, and some of the attributes are wrong. Maybe the circumference of the trunk of a tree in front of you. Through the application, you can correct these attributes, and thus update the database which stores this data.
Mobile GIS Forest Management App – Feature Data Collection
Often field workers will take actual drawings or readings in the field. The field worker then goes back to the office and manually updates the data. Using a mobile forest management app you can update the system directly; no need for paper pen or updates when back in office. Similarly you can add features, maybe new area planted.
GeoMobile for ArcGIS – the Mobile GIS Viewer
We have just launched a free mobile ArcGIS viewer called GeoMobile for ArcGIS. Its free because we wanted to demonstrate how GIS could be used in the field. The GIS mobile app is available for both Apple and Android devices. Its a completely custom solution, so both the look and available tools can be easily changed. The mobile application allows users to add their own layers to the map viewer using a configuration file. The video below shows a demo of GeoMobile for ArcGIS:
GeoMobile for ArcGIS is available from these links:
Mobile GIS – What’s Next?
We’ve been working closely with ESRI on offline mode. The ability to store and access spatial data where Wi-Fi is not available. The video below demonstrates some of this work. You will see both base map tiles and a shapefile stored on the mobile device and loaded in offline mode:
This work continues to move forward. We are looking at editing offline. Storing data locally on the mobile devices and uploading it when back on the network.
We continue to push forward with mobile GIS development. One day we all may wonder how we ever worked with GIS on non-mobile devices. For now we would be very interested in your feedback. Particularly the potential uses of mobile GIS in your part of forest management. Let us know at: [email protected]