GIS applications move to cell phones

Cell phones attract new platforms from geospatial software developers

It makes perfect sense when you think about it. After all, most cell phones already have GPS. Why not push high-end GIS tools out to cell phones?

Simple map applications have long been available for cell phones. But one of the most intriguing new developments at the ESRI International User Conference in San Diego is the extension of high-end GIS applications and tools to cell phones.

The Pacific Disaster Center, a project largely funded by the Department of Defense, demonstrated its newly released DisasterAWARE platform at the conference. The platform continually monitors information feeds from meteorological and geological agencies and delivers information and alerts in real time to subscribers. Subscribers can share analyses and situation reportsand can query underlying databases.

But what makes DisasterAWARE different than previous similar applications is that it is available on Apple iPhones. Why iPhones, especially when most agencies and departments shun the iPhone option? Because the Pacific Disaster Center is headquartered in Hawaii and Hawaii State Civil Defense uses iPhones and asked for an iPhone application. The Pacific Disaster Center is also planning to release an Android version in the next couple of months, apparently with DoD approval.

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While the Pacific Disaster Center doesn’t have plans for a BlackBerry version of their application, RIM was on site demonstrating Freeance Mobile for BlackBerry, a new application that not only allows agencies to download ArcGIS 10 data to BlackBerries but that also allows users to edit maps and data and send them back to the ArcGIS server. The application employs a server-side application and a Java applet on the BlackBerry.

Yet another offering was Avenza’s preview of a geospatial PDF application for Apple products, including the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch platforms. The application will allow field personnel to intereact with geo-registered PDF maps on their devices.

GeoPro LBS Inc., a Canadian company, introduced one of the more interesting new products at the show – GeoPro. GeoPro is a hardware-software solution that runs on the Iridium satellite network to deliver workplace safety, monitoring and productivity tools. The hardware part of the equation is GeoPro Messenger, a ruggedized two-way satellite text-messaging device that has built-in GPS. The device can be used to communicate with other staff via e-mail, mobile phone or other GeoPro users. Field staff can use a dedicated emergency button on the device to call for help, and emergency incident management tools are provided that deliver audit trails, automatic GPS position updates, and forwarding of information to first responders.

About the Author

Patrick Marshall is a freelance technology writer for GCN.


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