ArcWatch: GIS News, Views, and Insights

January 2012

What's Ahead for Mobile GIS in 2012 and Beyond?

A Conversation with David Cardella, Product Manager for Mobile Technologies at Esri

Esri's ArcGIS for Smartphones and Tablets, including the new Android application, are proving popular with both GIS and non-GIS professionals. Esri writer Leslie Roundy spent a few minutes talking with David Cardella, product manager for mobile technologies, about how mobile applications, including ArcGIS for Android, will be used by Esri customers and what lies ahead for mobile development at Esri.

Roundy: What does the ArcGIS for Android application mean to Esri software users?

Esri's David Cardella
Esri's David Cardella sees Android and iOS gaining traction in North America.

Cardella: All our mobile solutions, not just those specific to Android, are essentially a window into our users' GIS. This allows them to extend the reach of their GIS out into the field or even down the hall, outside their office space. Having ArcGIS on mobile devices means it's much easier to do this, especially on smartphones and tablets. These devices are pervasive and prevalent in the consumer industry, but we're seeing organizations implement and integrate them as well.

Roundy: Is there a typical user for these applications?

Cardella: Since ArcGIS for Smartphones and Tablets was launched, we're finding that non-GIS professionals are downloading it. While we intended it for GIS users as a more convenient way to get their data on these devices, we're finding that because of the accessibility of the various marketplaces and app stores, it's really reaching a large number of people outside our traditional customer base.

Roundy: Was that unexpected?

Cardella: In a sense, it was. I expected some non-GIS professionals to download the application because it's in the Android Market, but not in the numbers that we've seen. Our primary focus was to allow our existing customers to get their data on the device. But non-GIS professionals are using it to discover all the maps we host on ArcGIS Online. Our customers like that they can get their data on their devices. And the application's users like both the data and maps that Esri hosts plus the authoritative maps and data our customers provide. They like to be able to get at different types of data. The application allows them to access the ecosystem of maps that we have online, as well as any data that our customers want to share.

Roundy: What's in store for mobile development at Esri?

Cardella: We're finding that these mobile platforms, iOS and Android especially, are becoming much more pervasive in enterprises as well as with consumers. Consumers are using these devices to access maps and location-based services. In terms of how Esri wants to move forward, we want to support ArcGIS and GIS capabilities on the most popular mobile platforms. So as new platforms appear and become popular, we'll build on them as well. Until then, we'll continue to build more and more functionality into existing platforms.

Roundy: Where do you think mobile technology will be five years from now?

Cardella: When I look back five years ago, where we were with mobile, both within the consumer market and within GIS, I never would have thought we'd be where we are now. Over the next several years, I see a few pervasive platforms emerging. In North America, I see Android and iOS gaining traction among consumers and in the enterprise. I believe Windows Phone 7 will start to increase in usage as well, especially in European markets. There might be one or two emerging mobile platforms that share the limelight with iOS and Android. I certainly see the movement to tablet devices replacing desktops in homes. I don't think we're there yet, but we're moving in that direction. With smartphones being so conducive to browsing the web, there are some households that already use their smartphone as their primary means to connect to the Internet. As a company, we're going to closely track mobile technology trends, study what this means to our users, and determine where they're going to demand their GIS be in the next few years. Our job will then be to develop the best technology to suit their organization's needs.

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