The newly available tools for mobile GIS are gradually transforming many organizations. Mobile devices such as iPads with built in GPS, in combination with simple apps which leverage GIS and cloud computing are helping to improve efficiency and reduce costs. In this article we list 5 advantages mobile GIS brings to organizations:
1) No more reliance on pen and paper maps. Disaster management and assessment is time critical. Field operatives need to respond quickly, and provide accurate damage data. Historically, data was gathered with pen and paper. Teams then came together and the data was collated and assessed. This was a challenging time consuming process. Today disaster management organizations are using mobile technology to gather data. GIS provides a means to visualize this data on a map and analyse. Dramatic improvements in assessment have been realised using this new digital approach. WebMapSolutions have been working with Monroe County implementing a new disaster assessment mobile system.
2) Sharing and collaboration – Cloud computing brings a new way to centrally store and access data. This has had important implications for sharing and collaboration. Region 6 of the Idaho Department of Transportation took a far sighted approach to some of their internal challenges around data sharing. Looking to ArcGIS Online, the new cloud based mapping platform from Esri, they enlisted WebMapSolutions help to implement a mobile GIS enabled cloud based solution. Today field crews use iPads to store assets – culverts, mile posts etc – and work completed on these assets in a centralised GIS. Allowing analysts and senior staff to access and analyse this data. This has had a major impact on the decision making process.
3) Mobile GIS has never been so cost effective – Gone are the days when the only mobile solution was a $6000 Trimble ruggedised device. Today mobile devices are ubiquitous. It is now possible to build light-weight GIS mobile apps, which provide simple intuitive workflows, and run on smartphones or tablets. The forestry industry rely on field based foresters. Costs are keenly watched in an industry with tight margins. Many organisations in this sector are looking for low priced mobile solutions. WebMapSolutions have started working with a number of forestry clients; providing low cost custom mobile solutions for foresters.
4) Simple, intuitive mobile GIS applications We once lived in a world of complex, swiss-army knife type GIS applications. The approach was in many ways to recreate desktop applications like ArcMap and QGIS on the Web. GIS applications were filled with widget after widget, serving every GIS users need. These apps became complex and confusing to use. We have today begun to move away from this approach. Now it is possible to build light-weight apps which provide simple focused functionality. As an example, WebMapSolutions recently launched an offline mobile editing solution. The mobile app provides simple functionality, no bells and whistles; add, edit, delete point, line and polygon data, include an attachment and store in ArcGIS Online.
5) GIS for all – GIS was once a niche, used by those with geospatial training. Today a much wider audience can access and use what GIS provides. The term GIS is quietly being shuffled to one side. Now maps and the output from GIS can be used to provide information in an intuitive, easy to discover manner. Many organzations are now using GIS technology to share information. In local government, data sharing with citizens is important. WebMapSolutions are now building simple applications which work across PC’s, laptops, smartphone and tablets, providing information to citizens. The Parks Finder and Polling Places applications respectively, are two recent examples of our work here.
We live in exciting time. Mobile enabled cloud based GIS offers many possibilities to organizations to reduce costs, improve efficiency and share data with a wide audience.