I often link the term ArcGIS mobility with use of the technology anywhere, any time, on any device. So in the office or field. PC, laptop, smartphone or tablet. I can use an ArcGIS app which is familiar to me, and has all the tools I need everywhere.
With the move toward GIS platforms and Web GIS, mobility was just one more addition to an ever more complex and confusing landscape. That is less true today than was once the case. Mobility actually now fits nicely into the overall adoption and use of new Web GIS patterns. Today it is possible to include mobility as part of any ArcGIS deployment, without the need for a separate mobile strategy. Let’s explore moving forward with ArcGIS mobility in 3 steps.
ArcGIS Mobility in 3 Steps
When we are working with clients on an ArcGIS deployment or are approached specifically about ArcGIS mobility, we move the conversation through 3 steps:
Step 1 – Where are you today, and where would you like to be tomorrow?
Step 2 – Where is the data you need to satisfy your mobility needs?
Step 3 – What are you ArcGIS mobility options?
We have always argued, before you jump into the technology, take a step back and explore. In our case we always conduct a Discovery Workshop aimed at answering the questions in these 3 steps.
ArcGIS Mobility Case Study
Let’s colour this mobility picture with a case study. In 2016 we worked with a US county wanting to test the accuracy of 911 mobile calls.
When a 911 call is made from a mobile phone, the call is routed to a dispatcher and location recorded. The dispatcher directs emergency services to the caller. But suppose the wrong dispatcher is notified and incorrect location received? That is potentially a very serious problem. Testing the accuracy of 911 cell phone calls is conducted in many counties across the US. Incorrect location data is reported back to phone service providers.
Step 1: Today, and where tomorrow – The county were looking to automate their 911 cell testing. In the past they had made test 911 calls, recorded the GPS location using a hand held device, then when back in the office testers logged into the backend system to compare their GPS information with that reported. A painfully manual process. The county wanted to use a GIS mobile app on a tablet to cut the time and cost of this process.
Step 2: Data – The mobile app needed simple data-sets. An editable WAP layer which recorded 911 call locations, and background reference layers such as county boundary. These were assembled by in-house GIS staff.
Step 3: Implementation – Exploration of mobile app options can be an interesting process. In the ArcGIS world there are a number of pre-built apps such as Collector for ArcGIS and configurable templates. This is often a good place to start, when looking for a mobile solution. In this 911 case, no existing mobile app fit the functional requirements, so we turned to a custom solution. After careful discussion with the client we found 3 core needs. The custom mobile app needed to be configurable, easy to extend, work on all devices. A mobile web app was the best option. We ended up building the app using our widget based GeoAppSmart for ArcGIS framework.
A tester was able to select a phone number in the WAP widget tool, a point was automatically added to the map marking current location. Point attributes were automatically populated with: phone number, current GPS location, reported location (after a REST call to the backend) and the calculated distance between actual and reported. Should any data need to be changed after collection, the app could be opened on an office PC and the edit tool used for updates. The client was not only pleased with the flexibility of the mobile app but also its flexibility. They can add and remove tools as needed. And over time they hope to extend the app to provide additional functionality.
Given a carefully thought through approach, ArcGIS mobility is potentially a simple addition to your mix of GIS driven user solutions.
Contact us on 801-733-0723 if you have ArcGIS mobility questions.
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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: