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Esri cultivates mobile GIS apps

March 16, 2017  - By

I’ve attended a couple of Esri events these past couple of months. They are on the move. For a big software company (est. $1 billion in annual revenues), they are reasonably nimble. Of course, if you’ve worked with Esri software, no doubt you’ve been frustrated at times, but considering the size of the organization and the dynamic nature of GIS technology, it’s understandable.

Keeping up with the GIS technology makes me dizzy at times; I can only imagine what it’s like in the Esri roadmap planning meetings. Thank goodness Esri is a privately held company (versus a public company listed on a stock exchange). Being a privately held company gives Esri executives the flexibility to make and implement decisions quickly without worrying about quarterly (or even annual) financial performance.

Following are roadmap slides for some of the Esri mobile GIS products. Incidentally, did you know that mobile GIS apps are the hottest in the Esri software suite?

Collector for ArcGIS

The big news for Collector is that it’s being rewritten using a runtime library. The current Collector will be enhanced and supported (per the above image) for the foreseeable future. Once the new runtime version of Collector (CollectorX) has caught up to legacy Collector, the legacy Collector will begin the road to retirement. In the meantime, version 10.4.3 will likely be released sometime in April. It will implement GPS point averaging, renaming photos and Workforce integration.


Esri Collector for ArcGIS roadmap.

Expect another Collector release (10.4.4) with minor enhancements before the Esri User Conference (UC), which will take place July 10-14 in San Diego, California. According to Esri, Collector and mobile GIS in general (such as Survey123, Workforce, Navigator), are the hottest products in the Esri software suite, and iOS continues to be the dominant device that Collector is being deployed on.

ArcGIS for Windows Mobile

For those of you still working on the ArcGIS for Windows Mobile platform (not to be confused with Microsoft Windows Mobile on handheld devices), remember that at last year’s UC, Esri extended support (patches and hot fixes) for ArcGIS for Windows Mobile will be discontinued in July 2017 and enter mature support (request cases, phone/chat, online support services).

ArcGIS for Windows Mobile (Water Utility Mobile Mapp app)

If you’re still using ArcGIS for Windows Mobile, it’s time to start thinking about adopting a new mobile GIS platform. Two Esri options are Collector for ArcGIS (iOS, Android and Windows) and ArcPad (Windows and Windows Mobile). Before you start pummeling me about ArcPad, it’s a powerful and flexible mobile GIS. Unlike Collector, its user interface and functionality can be highly customized (see example screenshot below) and hit ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Enterprise (ArcGIS Server) in real time, just like Collector.

Esri Collector

Esri ArcPad – highly customized

Survey123 for ArcGIS

Quickly moving along, Survey123 for ArcGIS (iOS/Android/Windows) has become a powerful tool for collecting mobile GIS data, with one of its key features being data-collection forms using conditional logic (for instance, if/then) and the ability to create forms using Excel. Following is Survey123’s product roadmap.

Survey123 for ArcGIS Road Map

Survey123 for ArcGIS roadmap.

Navigator for ArcGIS

Navigator for ArcGIS (iOS/Android) is an interesting product owing to the ability to integrate one’s roads into the app. Navigator includes standard Street Map data with turn-by-turn directions. What’s cool about adding proprietary roads is that one can navigate to rural, proprietary assets (like a pipeline valve) using turn-by-turn directions. The time savings to guide folks to assets in an unfamiliar geographic area can be compelling.

Navigator for ArcGIS

Navigator for ArcGIS.

Workforce for ArcGIS

Rounding out the mobile apps is Workforce for ArcGIS, which is a simple workforce management tool for assigning and coordinating field work crew tasks. Assign a task along with a location to a number of work crews and monitor the progress of the tasks as they are completed.

Workforce for ArcGIS

Workforce for ArcGIS Road Map

ArcGIS Online

All of the above apps are free to use with the exception of Navigator, which is $50 a year per device. In other words, when you buy an ArcGIS desktop license, you get access to these apps as well as ArcGIS Online.

ArcGIS Desktop & Pro

A quick word about ArcGIS Desktop: Esri is beginning to transition away from ArcGIS Desktop and towards ArcGIS Pro. Expect Esri to start encouraging you to move that direction, too. If you already have an ArcGIS Desktop license, you have access to ArcGIS Pro.

The focus of Esri development is going to be on the ArcGIS Pro platform, so you’ll need to head that direction eventually. ArcGIS Pro is Esri’s next-generation 3D, analysis, image processing and data management GIS platform.

Operations Dashboard for ArcGIS

Finally, I’d like to mention Operations Dashboard for ArcGIS. While it’s not a mobile GIS app, it certainly leverages data collected by mobile GIS. Another free app from Esri, Operations Dashboard allows one to create an executive dashboard showing a variety of charts, maps and gauges for monitoring project progress. It is available as a Windows client and a browser-based application (think iPad).

An executive doesn’t need to have a piece of Windows software installed to view an executive dashboard. Simply email a link to the custom dashboard and they can view it on their iPad while on the go. Dashboards can be customized with widgets and map tools using the ArcGIS API for Javascript.

Whether you love them or not, Esri is pushing the technology envelope. For a company like Esri that thoroughly dominates an industry, it would be easy for them to sit on their laurels, enjoy the fruits of their labor and be averse to taking risks. Hand it to the Esri team for continuing to stick their necks out.

Upcoming events

For those interested, I’m conducting a couple of one-day workshops in Oregon and Washington in May:

I hope to see you at one, or both, workshops. We already have quite a roster registered, so sign up ASAP if you’re interested in attending.

Editor’s note: In the next month or two, look for an update and continuation of January’s column, “3D GNSS data and the GEOID.” It’s a complicated subject (see if you can spot the error in the article), but one that needs attention.

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Media: Esri

This article is tagged with , , and posted in GIS Software, GSS Monthly, Technology

About the Author: Eric Gakstatter

Eric Gakstatter has been involved in the GPS/GNSS industry for more than 20 years. For 10 years, he held several product management positions in the GPS/GNSS industry, managing the development of several medium- and high-precision GNSS products along with associated data-collection and post-processing software. Since 2000, he's been a power user of GPS/GNSS technology as well as consulted with capital management companies; federal, state and local government agencies; and private companies on the application and/or development of GPS technology. Since 2006, he's been a contributor to GPS World magazine, serving as editor of the monthly Survey Scene newsletter until 2015, and as editor of Geospatial Solutions monthly newsletter for GPS World's sister site Geospatial Solutions, which focuses on GIS and geospatial technologies.