Let’s jump into a topic which is much discussed: offline mobile GIS asset management. A problem which lacks good solutions. In this post we will cover the nuts and blots of how offline works for GIS and work orders. We will also share a little secret which might surprise you. Onward.

Mobile Asset Management: Taking GIS and Work Orders OFFLINE

Many mobile GIS based work order systems are built for laptops. Complex interfaces, hard to use in the field. Often offline needs a full download of all system data: inefficient, slow, and super hard to administer.

Our focus in this post is true offline mobile GIS work order apps. Mobile apps built for tablets not laptops. Simple interfaces and easy offline uploads and downloads. These are new generation offline mobile GIS work order apps.

The 3 Ingredients of Offline

Let’s start with some basics. GIS is a technology which answers WHERE questions often presenting information in the form of a map. A basic GIS map is made up of two core elements:

1. Basemaps – This is the base map layer: satellite image, roads, topography. It provides the map context.

2. Operation Layers – These are assets or features: a power pole, valve, pipeline, sensitive area etc. They are represented in a GIS on a map as either a point (valve), line (pipeline) or polygon (sensitive area). We can associate or link a feature to data related to that feature. In this case work which needs to be done on that feature such as an inspection. So for valve A show me pending inspections.

A work order system is usually separate from a GIS. Data is stored in a relational database.

3. Work Orders – A work order is information about work which needs to be done on a feature eg. inspect. It is linked or associated with a GIS feature by the features id, often an asset ID. So in our map view; find a feature in a GIS, say a specific valve, represented as a point on a map. Now show me the current work orders associated with this feature. To do this the object ID is passed from the GIS feature to the work orders database as an ID query. A record is returned which contains the pending work order information for that feature. This can then be displayed in a form. Simple.

So how do we take maps and work orders offline? In simple terms we copy the basemap, operation layers and work orders to the tablet. That means a zip file of basemap images (tile package or equivalent), geodatabase of operation layers for the area of interest and work order relational database. In offline mode the map and work orders are all pulled from local sources and not over the Web. That means fast performance. Edits which might be done when offline: add a new feature on the map, or update a work order to complete, are all stored in the respective database and pushed to the GIS or work order system respectively when back online.

Its important the technology does not get in the way of completing and recording inspection information. Simple mobile apps which provide intuitive workflows are critical. No more complex interfaces with multiple pages of drop downs.

Gap in the GIS work order Market

Many current GIS work order systems are expensive, hard to set up and configure, and provide far more than most organizations need. Many do not take advantage of the new GIS offline mobile paradigm. There is a big gap in the market for low cost simple GIS work order systems which include simple offline enabled mobile GIS apps. This is an area of focus for us at WebMapSolutions

An Offline GIS Secret

Mobile apps, particularly those which work offline, are presumed to be complex and built on native code (Objective C for Apple, Java for Android, .NET for Windows). But advances in web technology means it is now possible to build offline GIS work order apps in Javascript. This is a mobile web app which runs in a browser on your tablet. The implications here are huge. Again this is an area of focus for us at WebMapSolutions

Wondering about offline mobile GIS asset management? Contact us on 801-733-0723.


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