Mobile Geo Technology Review
We’ve mentioned before that the mobile market is in a very fluid state. New hardware releases, differing approaches to app development and new tools to help improve locational accuracy are just a few of these areas of change. The lack of maturity is one of the reasons why the market remains consumer driven. Business’ fear any investment today will need replacing tomorrow. But enterprise adoption of mobile is beginning to ramp up. Companies have started to realize the potential improvements in efficiency and operation that mobile can bring. Let’s review the mobile landscape from a corporate perspective.
A survey of corporate users in the USA by Good Technology found that Apple’s iPhone 4S is the most popular smartphone with 37 percent of all mobile activations for the first quarter of 2012 (four times that of any other device). The iPad 2 claimed the second spot overall, with 17.7 percent of activations for the quarter, with the newly released iPad claiming 4.3 percent of all activations for the quarter, and an impressive 12.1 percent of activations in March alone. Android smartphones represented 26.1 percent of all activations for the quarter, while Android tablets came in at 2.7 percent.
Apple mobile products continue to be the most popular mobile choice within corporations. Yet, Android is now challenging iOS in the consumer market. And with Windows increasing popularity, competition in the mobile hardware space will continue to grow.
Today most mobile apps are targeted at the Apple iOS and Android platforms. We’ve mentioned in previous columns, there are two possible approaches to mobile software; web or installed apps, let’s explain that in practical terms. Thinking about the gas pipeline business, much activity is conducted on site. Operations is a key department. Many of those working in operations carry mobile devices, though they are not all tech savvy, the use of mobile apps providing them with simplified workflows could dramatically improve how they complete their daily tasks. Increases in efficiency, thus reduces company costs. Let’s imagine a potential scenario. An operations manager needs to record safety inspections data on site. Location, time, text and image data needs collecting. His smartphone has all the tools needed to do this work; a camera, mobile app designed to provide a workflow targeted at the task in hand, local and network storage of the data. So will a web based mobile app or installed mobile app best serve his purpose? In this case an installed app. There are two reasons why this is the case. First, working with imagery and local storage is not possible through a browser based app. As is the case on PC’s, largely for security reasons, browsers have limited access to local resources. Second, it is quite possible that the operations manager will be in areas without wi-fi access. No wi-fi access eliminates the possibility of using web based apps. In this case, any operations data required, needs storing and accessing locally. So interactive maps, base maps and pipeline relevant layers, will need to be stored as tile packages on the device.
Mention need be made of accuracy. At present most mobile devices have GPS accuracy to around 5m. Conversations we have recently had with the US Forest Service and Chevron, have raised major concerns over this level of accuracy. They need sub metre accuracy. Efforts are now underway to improve these ground readings. The US based Gas Technology Institute recently announced a new high accuracy GPS integration with tablet devices used to document new as-built pipeline installations.
Mobile Location Solutions
The GeoInformatics sector is gradually undergoing change. The niche that was GIS is beginning to coalesce with a plethora of other location focused services. A number of traditional GIS companies have widened their focus and mission to location technologists. The advance of the mobile revolution is exposing a wider audience to spatial tools and solutions. Attend any ESRI presentation and you will hear increasing reference to satisfying non-GIS users. Google have started moving into areas traditionally served by GIS. Attending a recent oil and gas workshop, we listened to Google directly encouraging ArcGIS application developers to start looking at their solutions. Consumer focused location based service providers such as Foursquare are using location technology for marketing and advertising purposes. Indoor Positioning System (IPS) is a navigation system which works indoors. Though still in the development stages, this system will allow for indoor geoinformatics.
The geospatial world is changing; those focused on geoinformatics are being presented with a huge opportunity to move from the periphery, to the centre of the information technology stage.
Feel free to contact us with your thoughts