Mobile GIS solutions are an improvement over collecting data with pencil marks on paper maps.
A geographic information system, or GIS, is a digital mapping database. It allows users to pick and choose the data they need for doing a particular job. Mobile GIS is used in four areas: public safety, environment, government, and utilities and infrastructure. Mobile GIS solutions are a powerful and useful addition to the standard office-based GIS.
Mobile GIS Hardware
Hardware for mobile GIS is different from the traditional stationary office computer or network. Typically managers use laptops, PDAs or Pocket PCs to input and process data in the field. Some of the newer mobile GIS solutions use pen-tablets that let users make digital sketch maps. Manufacturers of traditional professional GPS units now make integrated hand-held hardware that runs GIS software and has GPS capability.
Mobile GIS Software
Software is the core of mobile GIS. Popular GIS software packages often have mobile GIS versions that take up less computer memory than stationary versions. You can install mobile GIS software in small hand-held devices that let you collect data in the field. GPS software combines with GIS to give precise locations during field data collection.
Mobile GIS with Wireless Connectivity
Park rangers and biologists at San Diego State University have used mobile GIS solutions with wireless Internet for environmental solutions. Being able to see habitat maps while in the field allowed rangers to monitor changes in natural habitats.
Aerial Mobile GIS Components
Aerial mobile GIS are designed to be used from airplanes and helicopters, primarily with pen-tablets. The Nature Conservancy uses aerial mobile GIS to make digital maps of invasive weed species. Using mobile GIS from up in the air lets biologists efficiently map where weed species are on the ground. The Nature Conservancy can then create strategies to fight the invasive species and protect native ones.
Technology is only as good as the people who use it. Professionals with strong training and experience in mobile GIS solutions are key components of the system. When operated by intelligent and informed people, mobile GIS provides quality data for decision making. In the right hands, mobile GIS can save money and time and improve efficiency. Well-trained mobile GIS users help fire departments fight fires, and emergency departments evacuate residents and save lives.