iPads for GIS

I get a lot of questions from folks wondering why we’re sending iPads to remote locations.

GIS is our #1 business case for getting these iPads into the field for our users. Each device/user is to receive ESRI’s ArcGIS and MotionX GPS HD. The iPad 3G models contain an internal GPS receiver (Broadcom 4750) which matches the Garmin NUVI.  I discussed the topic of wireless data service availability in an earlier post.

The ArcGIS app can use a number of data sources, including our ESRI ArcGIS servers. Other sources include the USDA Geospatial Data Gateway.  I’ve listed other sources in various posts, and at some point will dedicated an article to describing the data sources available.

The MotionX app matches pretty much all of the Garmin GPS MAP76 features. I own a GPSMap76s and a GPSMAP 76cs (and a few other Garmins) so I can make this comparison with some experience.  The Gamin units with sensors (the “s” designation) have some useful features at high altitudes, in marine applications, and for weather guessing.

Most of the GIS field work our organization is dealing with, those extra Garmin features are just extras.  Our primary concern is recording an accurate track and creating a documentation trail of the property inspection.  The iPhone’s GPS and Camera are very good for this and the iPad’s display features help with reviewing data and completing reports in while still in the field.  The ability to turn around reports from the field is a tremendous financial value for our organization and customers.

The iPads and iPhones aren’t ready to be plugged into a tractor’s navigation array for precision farming applications (yet), but I believe you’ll like the functionality they do provide in the field now.

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