No network, no problem: NGA’s app provides mapping without a connection

Online maps are great, but they're not of much use in the field if there's no online connectivity available.  The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency has been working on a solution in the form of an app the agency calls DICE.

The Disconnected Interactive Content Explorer, which NGA teased in February at the ESRI Federal GIS conference and released in March through Google Play and the iTunes app store, allows users to display interactive content or maps in HTML, CSS and JavaScript on mobile devices without being connected to a network.  Built for iOS, Android, and Windows devices, DICE was designed for disaster response personnel, urban search and rescue teams and other similar outfits that might be working in locations hit by storms that have wiped out networks. 

Content is not included in DICE, but users can upload what they might need.  This capability allows DICE to serve as a container to parse and display interactive content in a web browser on a disconnected device. Content can include any HTML, CSS, and Javascript packaged in a zip file; it can also include local data such as tiles for interactive maps. DICE automatically detects items loaded into its system and presents it in a list, grid or map view. 

DICE "will allow NGA to easily provide consistent access to GEOINT for consumers operating in disconnected environments,” said Ben Tuttle, NGA Mobile Apps team lead. “Additionally, as the app is built on open standards and has been released as open source software on the NGA GitHub account it should allow other agencies to take advantage of this capability for distributing interactive data to disconnected users as well."

Tuttle’s comments are similar to those he made regarding NGA’s other similar mobile application called MapCache, a mobile phone app that provides an interface that lets users navigate a map, set areas of responsibility and build a data cache from sources they choose.  MapCache and other related NGA tools such as Mobile Analytic GEOINT Environment allow users to access vector layers and query data without a network connection as well as make reports from the field. 

“One of the No. 1 things that we hear from people is, ‘this has to work disconnected,’ whether it’s urban search-and-rescue people who are worried that the [cell] towers are going to be down or it’s security forces at a special event who are worried that there are going to be so many people that the towers are going to be intermittent in terms of connectivity,” Tuttle said at the time. 

About the Author

Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.


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