The Future of Mobile GIS

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					The Future of Mobile GIS


  Field data collection is vital to the work of many enterprises and government agencies,
including the military. But many of the current methods and technologies are
inconvenient, error-prone and time-consuming.

  By Ken Schneider     
  Field data collection is vital to the work of many enterprises and government agencies,
including the military. But many of the current methods and technologies are inconvenient,
error-prone and time-consuming.

 Whether in military, government or any industry with a substantial, mobile field force, there is a
great demand for reliable systems that quickly bridge the realities of the field to the desks of
decision-makers. That leaves the question of how field employees gather essential data across
a vast array of extreme environments and emergency situations ranging from the battlefield to
construction sites.

  Mobile computing has become more and more evident in most industries as the demand for
real-time information has increased. Key decision points for the best way to gather data in the
field have always been whether the device is suitable for extreme field conditions, portable and
easy to transport.

  Harsh situations, environment and weather all impact how and what tools can be used to
collect data quickly and easily. Lack of robust technology or connectivity can limit timely
information transfer and redistribution. In addition, high-stress situations are bad environments
for complicated technologies, and existing electronic technologies are expensive or too fragile
for robust field use.

The Future of Mobile GIS

 For these reasons, pen and paper often make more sense than laptops and PDAs for data
collection by field personnel.

 Rebirth of Pen and Paper

  The advantages of traditional pen-and-paper-based solutions are that they are easy to carry,
can be used under difficult physical conditions, and no training time is required. However, this
traditional approach has several drawbacks:

    -      Additional time is often required to reenter or scan the data after returning from the
    -      Since data cannot be sent instantly from the field, the cost of travel and administration
is increased.
    -      Collaboration can be difficult and time consuming, since there can be multiple maps
being updated.

 Laptops and rugged PDAs have become more popular as the demand for real-time information
has increased. However, they also have drawbacks and limitations. Additional time is often
required to train the field workers to use these devices, and laptops can be difficult to carry and
use in some field conditions. These devices are not meant to be used in extreme weather
conditions, and they can be expensive to replace if they are damaged.

 In addition, support costs skyrocket each time a device is used. The user may be left without a
device until support can be deployed, further increasing the cost of non-working devices. The
"per instance" cost to an organization exceeds thousands of dollars, and this cost continues to

 Digital pen and paper provide a familiar usage paradigm that has been shown to encourage
rapid adoption by field personnel. The finding of minimal support for digital data collection is
bound to have significant implications when considering the total cost of ownership for a
proposed field force solution.

 ESRI, the world leader in the GIS industry, recently partnered with a new company called
Adapx to deliver Capturx built for ArcGIS Desktop to their business, government and education

 The Adapx solution has three key components-a compact digital pen, digital paper and
Capturx for ArcGIS Desktop software. Users print maps directly from their geodatabase onto
regular paper using common four-color laser, LED or large format inkjet printers. The paper
becomes "digital" when it is watermarked with a special pattern of tiny dots called the Anoto
pattern. Adapx weather-resistant Rite-in-the-Rain notebooks and inks can also be used to
record notes in inclement weather.

 Capturx enables field workers to simply upload filed annotations from paper maps directly into

The Future of Mobile GIS

ESRI's ArcGIS software without manual data entry, making handwritten GIS information
instantly available in a digital format and ready to share with colleagues. The digital pen stores
data, and once docked into its station, transforms it into geodatabase features. Using Capturx
built for ArcGIS Desktop, field teams can collaborate on hard copy and no longer have to
re-enter field data. Since data is shared more frequently and at a faster pace, ESRI's customers
benefit from a more effective use of time and resources as well as a significant return on
investment. Since this solution emulates "business as usual" while out in the field and requires
no training as such for personnel, deployment is easy. User adoption has been rapid, since
Capturx built for ArcGIS Desktop eliminates the need for re-typing notes and at the same time
improves accuracy, enhances collaboration and faster information-sharing. Data is
simultaneously recorded both digitally and on hard copy, providing a fail-safe back-up system.

  Adapx digital paper and pen technology reflects a growing trend in information technology: the
incorporation of natural interfaces into the workplace. Behind this school of thought is the bold
idea that users don't need to change, but rather existing communication modalities, such as
writing and speech, can be seamlessly adapted to proven systems. The successful integration
of digital pen and paper technology into mobile operations is a clear example of this trend.

  "Opportunities for data collection and distribution particularly within the Departments of
Defense and Homeland Security, and the intelligence community are vast," said Lou Kratz, vice
president of focused logistics at Lockheed Martin. "Together with Adapx, we are uniquely
positioned to respond to their needs for reliable field data management solutions with the best
digital pen and paper software platform available to date. The Capturx product suite addresses
key challenges military and government clients typically face. It is quick to deploy without any
training, facilitates faster communication and greater collaboration, and has built-in security
features to keep highly sensitive information safe."

  "Military field personnel are exposed to a variety of field situations from the dry, dusty
mountains and desert regions of Afghanistan to muddy trenches in the midst of the rains in Iraq.
Data collected on military assignments is not only mission-critical, but often extremely
time-sensitive especially in war zones and emergency situations," explained Mike Moore,
director of strategic development for Lockheed Martin's global security solutions group. "We're
looking forward to working with Adapx to offer their solution to our customers. Capturx is easier
to use than any other option in the market and their digital pen has been proven to successfully
operate in the field, keeping important information intact."
  Field Force Digitization

  GIS has come a long way, with organizations being able to access and modify geographic
information easier and quicker than ever before. As mobile computing becomes increasingly the
standard, and specifically as more and more industries discover how to apply the efficiencies
that mobile GIS provides, there will be increasing growth in how these applications evolve to
meet situation-specific needs.

 We are seeing major advances in GIS technologies, and ESRI is at the forefront of some very
promising developments, in areas such as:

The Future of Mobile GIS

  -      Cartography-Improving GIS desktop applications through additional cartographic
mapping, analysis, and editing tools and providing user-driven usability enhancements.

   -      Servers-Evolving a robust server GIS platform to deliver comprehensive geographic
information services through a wide variety of clients and client platforms.
   -      Mobile GIS-Advancing mobile GIS via wireless technology to make organizations and
their mobile work force more efficient and productive.
   -      GeoWeb-Expanding the access of information by anyone at any time via the Internet.

  -      Geodata Management-Extending comprehensive geodatabase functionality and
geospatial data management capabilities.

  It is certainly an exciting time in the evolution of GIS. Not only are we witnessing this "rebirth of
pen and paper" as it relates to mapping, we are also on the verge of other game-changing
technologies that provide operational advantages for a wide spectrum of industries. ♦