Tag Archives: Mapping

mappt – yes a promotional piece but maybe some thought is mixed into it

How many times have you opened up Microsoft Word and tried to find that one function that is hidden away? It has happened to us all, we waste time ages trying to find the function only to end up opening ‘Help’ and reading through the instructions. Due to the evolution of core spatial software, the same can now be said for a myriad of GIS applications, with functions galore and an interface that would scare off even some of the most tech savvy professionals out there.

Welcome to the world of apps. Small, dedicated and smart applications are now available as either add-ons or dedicated pieces of software that are used on mobile devices. Example; ‘Twitter’, a simple application to post short messages. It has some value add functions for capturing photos adding links  etc., however the premise is simple: post a message in 140 characters or less.

The simple application that meets the core needs of a user is a different mindset to what we have traditionally expected. Evaluating software based on the number of features it supports is tried and tested although not all features may be required. Changing habits and technology required vendors to think about the software they develop. Not so long ago the mobile space was commanded by ArcPad Mobile and whatever else worked on WindowsX based platforms. This is rapidly changing.

The advent of tablet technology is enabling people to work when and where they want and the hardware supporting these gadgets are almost as good as any desktop device. Last I looked, an OctaCore tablet supporting a 32 GB memory and a screen resolution that makes your eyes boggle for only $500 invites you to leave the office and work in the field with your data.

The issue I find, is that while habits are changing and allowing us to work where we want, the applications in the spatial field are still focused on functions and features without too much thought on design and need. Simple workflow supporting core functions is not too far fetched is it?

Recently I have been privileged to help a start-up company whom have taken a design focus to its mapping application. Introducing ‘Mappt’ (only on Android)mappt-logo-med is one of the different breed of technical applications now designed for specific workflows. Its focus is not to be the king of mobile GIS applications, but fit in with a modern workflow where quick and agile use while working in a disconnected environment is needed. In essence, they have looked at a workflow and engineered a product for a specific component.

Its marketplace, ArcGIS for Mobile, GIS2Go, WolfGIS and iGIS (for the iOS), plus others all contain a range of features similar and equivalent to Mappt. Some require ongoing subscription plans, others require a supported backend enterprise  but the premise is the same. Field base GIS work traditionally uses pen/paper/printed maps and technology and new data capture done on laptops or by drawings. Tablets provide flexibility to capture and manage data in a structure that is familiar to you when in the office. Applications should be focused on allowing the professionals to manage the data flow, while others are empowered to capture it while in the field.

                              gis2go        esri      wolfgis

While the spatial industry will no doubt always be a technically focused industry, these smaller, more focused applications are now empowering others to deliver the base level of information needed for businesses. Collecting, adding to and sharing data from field to office can now easily be outsourced to many through these types of applications. Where will we find ourselves in five years time is anyone’s guess, but at this rate I propose that the professional skills many of us studied over a number of years will be best put to quality assurance, rather than core spatial information capture.

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Where did I go at 1am in the morning?

The Answer, the O’Reilly Where 2.0 Online Conference. (http://en.oreilly.com/wherefall09/). This was an online conference focused on utilisation of the Apple iPhone sensors and how applications can easily be built to use these sensors in weird and wonderful ways. Quite an insightful conference and I was amazed at how awake I was particularly at 1am in the morning.

So why I would attend an online conference particularly at 1am in the morning?

  1. Most importantly, allows me to attend in my PJs as the conference was run on New York time,
  2. Online participation is exceedingly high. No more waiting for someone to stand up and ask that first question. Just type away!
  3. Can save the presentations as they are given.
  4. My work did not want to fork out the costs of sending me over to America.

The online conference turned out to be a bit of a code fest although I did gain some pretty insightful knowledge in what goes into building an application. It was especially interesting to see how the sensors are being used and what the developers would like to see added. So lesson one, these are the sensors in your modern iPhone:

  1. The Accelerometer – This pivots and turns the screen based on the movement of the iPhone,
  2. The Magnetometer – The digital compass in the 3Gs and the basis of many new and cool applications for the iPhone.
    Magnetometer Settings

  3. The GPS Reciever – this is what give you your location although the phone refers back to triangulation (~700m accuracy) when you don’t have clear line of sight to the sky.
  4. The Proximity sensor – This turns the screen off so you don’t accidentally hang up while talking to someone on the phone!

The Where 2.0 conference setup this dedicated session on the iPhone as it is the most dominate ‘smart’ phone in Australia (and most places in the world for that matter) and for the fact that more spatial data requests and captures will happen on devices like these in the future than from traditional GIS desktop applications.  In fact it was predicted back in 1999 by Max Egenhofer speaking at the 1st Brazillian Workshop on GeoInformatics (http://www.spatial.maine.edu/~max/pubs.html) that the smart phone would be the leading GIS device of the future

“Spatial Information Appliances – portable tools for professional users and a public audience alike, relying on fundamentally different interaction metaphors: Smart Compasses that point users into the direction of certain points of interest, Smart Horizons that allow users to look beyond their real-world field of view or Geo-Wands – intelligent geographic pointers that allow users to identify geographic objects by pointing towards them”

Ref: Simon R., Fröhlich P. & Anegg H., Beyond Location Based – The Spatially Aware Mobile Phone (http://userver.ftw.at/~froehlich/papers/Beyond_Location_Based_W2GIS.pdf)

Sounds pretty cool hey? Lesson two, it may not be widely known in the spatial sector since we generally deal with top end GNSS receivers but companies like Apple and Nokia alike are the biggest GPS receiver sellers and consumers in the world. Knowing this I feel that it would almost be right in saying that these companies are the new leaders in GPS and navigation. Certainly mobile mapping is the new fad and with so many people out there collecting and geo-tagging information it seems likely that this is the new way for us to collect information.

It was nice to listen and provide input into this conference considering in each presentation, ‘location’ was key to the applications being talked about and how the future would be built around utilisation of GPS to a higher degree. At around 4am in the morning I perked up at mention of a new iPhone application called ‘Theodolite’. http://hunter.pairsite.com/theodolite/

Imagine this, a surveying term wrapped up in a surveying application for the iPhone. Ok, now I know the GPS receiver in the iPhone is accurate to ~40 metres and so this isn’t a surveying application but the future looks bright.

I talked about Wikitude and a little on augmented reality in a previous post and attending this conference re-assured me that this new technology can really make it in this mobile mapping, smart phone, social media age. I don’t think we will be calling our phones “GeoWands” in the future but damm they are cool.