I’ll admit one of my joys of working with GIS is finding and solving problems. That is true from my earliest days of working with the technology.  The possibilities of mobile GIS caught my attention with the release of the first iPad. Suddenly the context maps bring (who or what is near me) and problem solving power of GIS could be brought to the fore for all: anywhere. In particular offline mobile GIS became somewhat of a fascination to me. How can mobile users still use maps and solve problems if their smartphone or tablet has no wireless connection?

GIS Maps Offline Made Easy

We had a particularly interesting question asked of us recently around offline. From an electric utility looking to improve their approach to fault finding. Let me elaborate.

Utility field staff often use their trucks as mobile offices. On board they have laptops and the trucks have in-built wireless connectivity. Actual office visits are rare. Faults on electric lines can be particularly problematic, potentially causing power loss to many. So discovery and fault repair is a high priority. But isolating the actual fault can be a problem. Often there are multiple possible locations. Repairmen are usually provided, via a phone call, milepost markers on roads close to these possible fault locations. We were told “Life would be so much easier if we had a map, which showed the possible fault locations, and provided routing capabilities”.

We started looking at possible solutions. Online and offline maps were needed. Navigating close to the fault in trucks, then disconnected mobile maps when staff members left the truck. Given that the repairmen were using a mixture of devices – laptops and tablets – and platforms – Apple, Windows, Android – we extended our GeoAppSmart web application to solve the problem. The workflow was as follows:

  • Repairman received notification while in their truck of a problem.
  • The fault layer in their GIS map was updated in the office to show the locations of the faults, and pushed out to the map seen by the repairman.
  • On their laptops the staff member opened GeoAppSmart in their browser which loaded the faults layer automatically so they could see the locations of the possible faults on the map.
  • A routing widget provided turn-by-turn routing to each fault.
  • Setting GeoAppSmart to offline mode, then allowed staff to leave the truck and without wireless connectivity, use the map to find quickly the potential fault location on the transmission line.

A very simple but super powerful solution. We welcome your thoughts: contact us using the form below.

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Author: Matt Sheehan

Matt Sheehan is a Principal at WebMapSolutions. Matt evangelizes GIS and location intelligence around the world through keynotes, articles, tweets and his books.

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