Mobile GIS – 2014 Edition

Windows_CE_logoIf there is one area “professional GIS” has failed it is in the mobile arena.  Crazy Windows CE, Java and other solutions just confuse and frustrate users.  Heck after coming back into the GIS consulting world I’ve picked up these handheld ArcPad GPS units and failed to be able to get them to work1.  There are some great Smartphone/Tablet solutions such as my favorite Fulcrum but they really fail on battery life2.

I’m always on the look out for better solutions to solve mobile GIS and the latest seems to be Windows Surface devices running Windows 8.  I’ve been getting a lot of requests internally to test the devices for data collection.  Most of it comes from the wish that users can run ArcGIS Desktop in the field.  We’ve been fighting this on the mobile side for years, but maybe we should just sit back and let them have their day with a hacked up Surface Pro 2 with USB GPS and a checked out ArcGIS Desktop Basic3 and be done with.

QGis_LogoThen again, what about standardizing on a PostGIS/QGIS field tool?  This solves a couple of issues for me including the licensing implications of having floating licenses in the field for days at a time.  I’m personally trying to reduce software licensing costs to a practical level and the unknown of who will check out extensions throws a wrench in it.  The beauty of a PostGIS/QGIS solution is in the freedom to send people in the field for data collection and not have licensing bite us in the rear.  I’m going to try to secure a Surface Pro 2 test-bed and see what such a PostGIS/QGIS field collection tool can do.

Plus once they get back into the office, sync the PostGIS data up and the GIS analysts can use it with their ArcGIS Desktop projects.  Win/win, right?


  1. To be fair, the older I get, the more confused I get with technology

  2. If you can’t tweet all day with your smartphone, how can you use the GPS?

  3. ArcView was so much easier to say

The Shapefile

So antiquated, so limiting, so dangerous…

Yet so important to our daily workflows.  It’s the pinch-point on every project.  Every year we make statements saying this is the year the shapefile goes away.  Yet here in 2014 I’m dealing with the limitations of DBF 1 yet again.  Shapefile, you drive me nuts yet I can’t quit you just yet.  Here is to another “wonderful” year of .shp, .shx, .shp, .prj, .sbn, .sbx, .fbn, .fbx, .ain, .aih, .ixs, .mxs, .atx, .cpg and of course .shp.xml.

Here’s to another year of the shapefile!


  1. I know so much about DBF reserve words, sadly…

Get the PostGIS Cookbook eBook for $5

8666OS_mockupcover_cbPackt has an eBook sale going on. All eBooks are $5 including lost of the spatial books including the new PostGIS Cookbook that comes out next month.  Other spatial books of note include:

The sale ends January 3rd so you have some time.

Apple Didn’t Aquire Broadmap

Update:  Well here you go…


broadmapWe had heard months ago that some BroadMap staff had moved on to Apple but today things have “exploded”.

Based on evidence and chatter from sources, Apple seemingly acquired mapping firm BroadMap in the first half of this year…

It’s complicated what has actually happened.  Many people are claiming different things, but from what I’ve been told:

  1. Apple bought the intellectual property of BroadMap and licensed it back to them.
  2. Management of BroadMap and many key staff have joined Apple.  I’ve gotten many different explanations as to “the how” of this but they’re at Apple
  3. BroadMap is still servicing existing clients.  They may be doing this with “legacy staff” or have been using a 3rd party for support.

BroadMap has tweeted that they’re still around as well.

Given the uncertantity of it all, I’m guessing there isn’t much marketing staff left at BroadMap to deal with all these questions.  Thus the ambiguity of it all.

Now what I’m interested in is Apple now has many old GDT1 staff on board.  I’m assuming they’re going to be working to replace TomTom with their own mapping data.  That’s more interesting that who owns what shell company anymore.


  1. Which was acquired by TeleAtlas and then TomTom

Using PostGIS on Amazon RDS with OpenGeo Suite

Paul Ramsey on using PostGIS on Amazon RDS:

With Amazon Web Services, I had a backed-up and replication-ready database up and running in under an hour, and OpenGeo Suite tied into it in another hour. With the knowledge I’ve gained, next time will take only a few minutes.

Think about that for a moment, a few minutes and you can deploy an enterprise GIS solution.  Life is easier when you don’t have licensing constraints.

Patents Are Awesome:: Apple Files Patent for GIS

So over coffee I read this:

Apple’s “Interactive Map” patent filing details a mapping program that enables users to dynamically adjust and view different “layers” of content pulled from the Internet. Examples include commuting, tourism and weather map layers, among others.

Layers of content, brilliant!  Why did we not think of this before?  The patent filing is a road map for GIS.  But I see huge problems with their method, look at this:

applegis

 

Where is the north arrow?   Not only that Apple’s map data for Washington DC is cartoonish.  No wonder people hate Apple Maps.  I can tell you the maps of Phoenix look much better.  Looking over the other supporting images is depressing.  Breaking down what I do into flow charts, gawd we suck.

applegis2

 

I look forward to licensing Apple’s patent to do my work.

BIM Guys Want You to Think BIM is the Cat’s Meow

BIM is the new GIS? Can you dumb it down a shade?

Look, I got suckered into thinking BIM was the future.  The painful fact is BIM is only useful to talk about, not actual use.  But that won’t stop CAD companies from trying to convince you BIM is the future.

Let’s just say that BIM is the new GIS. In speaking with Mike DeLacey, CEO of Microdesk, a long time Autodesk partner and reseller, the terms are interchangeable in an Autodesk environment.

Will all do respect Mike, Neogeography (are we spelling it with our without CamelCase these days) is the new GIS.  If BIM is interchangeable with GIS in Autodesk, I fear for Autodesk users.  Given DWG is all about 0,0 (seriously though, how about require a projection Autodesk?) and unless we’re mapping null island, 0,0 is about as far from GIS as you can get.

Only you think I need a title…

Mapmeter Included with OpenGeo Suite

Mapmeter (despite not being CamelCase) is a pretty awesome way to get analytics for your maps.  We’ve talked on my hangouts about how it is not free, nor is it open source.  But you can get a copy free until the end of the year:

we’re including a free annual Mapmeter subscription with every OpenGeo Suite purchase made before the end of the year. While a Mapmeter subscription is already included at the Platform level and above, this is the perfect opportunity for prospective Plus and Professional purchasers to save nearly $2400.