Karyn Nolan, CEO of Snow Mappy, began working in the geospatial mapping space nearly two decades ago as the owner of Pacific GPS. Her Hawaii-based company focused on creating GPS and GIS solutions for a range of clients, including Trimble and the U.S. Air Force Civil Engineers. After 17 years, Nolan sold Pacific GPS, but she never lost her interest in geospatial mapping. When she had the idea to create an application for winter sport enthusiasts to easily find their friends and family on the slopes, she decided to attend the 2019 Esri User Conference. There, she met Josh Peterson, an Esri Developer Consultant, and the two discussed the logistics involved in bringing Nolan’s idea to life.
Nolan remembers their fateful first meeting: “He outlined the specifics of how to develop the app in a way that felt doable, so it began to be more than just a vision.” With the support of Esri Services, Nolan and her team began developing Snow Mappy, the proof of concept application for Mappy.
While Nolan always planned for her new app to provide data analytics, the primary goal for Snow Mappy was to create a user-friendly tool that put the power of geospatial mapping in the hands of winter sport enthusiasts. However, implementing software like ArcGIS Runtime SDK into an easy-to-use app would prove to be a challenge. Nolan needed developers with experience in a variety of technologies. She again looked to Esri and connected with their Startup Program. This gave Nolan access to exclusive support from the Esri team, discounted rates on Esri products, and contact with third-party partners experienced in providing custom solutions for various ArcGIS SDKs.
Nolan hired Fresh Works Studio to develop the user experience and for deployment of the app. As the 2020 ski season approached, the Mappy team had an issue that could drastically impede their expected launch: the app would crash when a user switched between 2D and 3D maps or between different resorts. In some instances, the only solution was to reinstall the app entirely. Peterson and the Esri developer Consultant Team connected Nolan to a longtime Esri partner, GEO Jobe. “The ski seasons are a fixed point in time each calendar year. So, the release dates are very much dictated by when the skiers are actually going to be on the mountain,” explains Eric Goforth, Director of Professional Services at GEO Jobe. “Part of the reason I was able to make headway was the Runtime team itself.” Goforth worked with one of the Runtime SDK’s product managers, Nicholas Furness, to provide the Runtime engineering team the information they needed to identify the cause of the crashes, and they were able to implement a fix and deliver a preview version of the next Runtime SDK release for Mappy to use. With Esri’s cooperation, Mappy was able to test their app with the new version of Runtime, solve the crashing issue, and—most importantly— launch as scheduled.
Nolan continues to work with her partners at GEO Jobe, Fresh Works Studio, and Esri to bring more ArcGIS-based solutions to her users. In early 2021, Snow Mappy launched at resorts in the Unites States and Canada. The beta was a success, with nearly 1,500 downloads on iOS alone and 7.5 million real-time data points collected from anonymized users. Nolan and her team have used this ski season to refine their process for building customized datasets for specific venues. She says, “By next year we hope to be at hundreds of mountains because we’ve built the rubber stamp.” Nolan plans to work with her partners to develop an overlay that will help skiers and snowboarders avoid slopes that are too steep or too flat. Mappy will soon provide indoor mapping as well, using Bluetooth sensors in large buildings. Snow Mappy has proven to be a valuable asset for data analytics, which Nolan has used to form partnerships with ski resorts. But that’s only one part of her vision for Mappy: “We work with the venues to work with the consumers.”
For Nolan, getting geospatial technology into the hands of people who would not be considered GIS experts is very exciting. “I love that guests are getting exposure to these cool 2D and 3D maps and to the Esri world,” she said. “I think that Runtime has really allowed Esri technology to get into the consumer space.”
Snow Mappy uses ArcGIS Runtime SDK for iOS and is written in Swift and Swift UI. It currently utilizes functionalities like 2D and 3D mapping, geocoding locators, and routing, with plans for more overlays and web mapping. It makes use of local Mobile Map Packages (MMPKs) and Mobile Scene Packages (MSPKs) but will soon move toward an online system. Users have all of these tools at their fingertips with Snow Mappy. Nolan has successfully leveraged a wide array of Esri’s geospatial tech into what she calls her “passion project,” a user-friendly app for “finding my husband on the mountains.”