It was not long ago that any conversation around Mobile ArcGIS was detailed and complex. That is no longer the case. Sure needs have to be clearly defined and best choices weighed up. But mobile ArcGIS solutions are now far easier to put in place. In this blog post we will outline what your choices are today when considering mobile ArcGIS.

Mobile GIS Made Easy

There are 3 main choices when it comes to mobile GIS. These are:

Configurable Apps – These are pre-built apps. You see the term COTS (configurable off the shelf) often used. There are a number mobile COTS apps which have been released by Esri. Many of these apps are available in the app stores (Apple’s, Android, Windows). Data collection is an important focus of a number of the more popular Esri COTS apps. Collector is map based (drop a point on the map and add attributes).  While Survey 123 is a form based app (build a series of questions, generate a form. Users complete the form then upload the results to a map, where a point marks the location at which the form was completed). Mobile COTS apps come with ArcGIS. Being a named user is the core requirement.

Custom Native Apps – If you have very specific mobile GIS needs a generic app may not satisfy your needs. Particular focused tools or workflows might require the building of a native app. This often requires external help from organizations like ourselves. Custom mobile apps can be built to provide exactly what you need. Time and a realistic budget are often required. As an example, we have just completed a mobile ArcGIS-Maximo integration for asset management. A complex app to build, but one which has greatly simplified the lives of field based maintenance staff.

Custom Configurable Apps – Standard COTS apps are generic apps. That means they are built with fixed workflows and tools. In most cases they cannot be altered or extended. They thus may or may not satisfy all of your needs. But there is a second category of COTS apps, these can be called custom configurable COTS apps. They can be thought of as somewhere between the two categories above, meaning they are easy to set up and adjust, but can also be built specifically for your needs.

Let’s explore. The beauty of a COTS app are that they are pre-built. Thus, no need to reinvent the wheel and build new mobile apps from scratch for every need. Today mobile apps can be built in a modular way, that means leveraging widgets. These are small code elements which provide specific functionality: print, measure, edit etc. At WebMapSolutions, leveraging GeoAppSmart, we have been building custom configurable COTS apps for a number if years. Mobile apps we have spawned include simple asset management:

Resimercial viewer providing access to key data sets and tools for real estate agents and brokers:

Simple online and offline data collection:

We are big fans of custom configurable COTS apps due to their flexibility. They provide the same focused functionality as custom native apps, plus the out of the box configurable benefits of COTS. Very much the best of both worlds.

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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. Follow him on Twitter:

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