iPhones and iPads continue to replace the terminals once used by field service teams, but there are bigger implications as the kind of information gathered using Esri’s industry-standard ArcGIS Field Maps app finds new deployments in smart city management and digital twins.
With tens of thousands of clients worldwide, Esri is a leader in geospatial information system (GIS). Its core product, ArcGIS Pro, is highly complex software with a wide array of capabilities and numerous extensions that can be used to handle challenging tasks.
It’s supported by ArcGIS Field Maps on iPhones and iPads, a component of the larger product designed to link accurate mapping technologies with location-based data to help track, place, and monitor resources in the field.
ArcGIS Field Maps is much more efficient than paper-based asset tracking, as it enables agents to gather and edit data and report it in real time. The process is less error-prone and also makes it easy to audit who entered what data when, and to share data across the company in real time.
The fact the app works on iPhones reflects once again the extent to which Apple has seized space in enterprise ecosystems.
How do you use it?
You might use the Field Maps app to track electricity pylons, mobile masts, or utilities as a means to support public safety or for government use in, for example, traffic management systems.
Some examples of its use:
- The Charlottesville, Va., fire department uses ArcGIS Field Maps to maintain 1,500 fire hydrants across the city, replacing a cumbersome paper-based process.
- Globally, food retailers use ArcGIS to identify optimal locations in which to open up new stores.
- The app is used to manage the water supply in Colorado. A spokesperson said the solution had improved data quality and generated measurable improvements in efficiency compared to the paper-based system it replaced.
The Field Maps app was also used to support recovery efforts following severe storms in southeast Alaska in the fall of 2019. Mike Davis, mobile technology practice group lead at HDR Engineering, said: “With the durability of iOS devices, which we’ve used in the field since 2014, we can support teams from the deserts of Dubai to the North Slope of Alaska. We’ve never mobilized a team as fast and efficiently as we have with ArcGIS Field Maps app on iPad.”
More than maps
This foundational technology has implications beyond mere maps. Esri has created deep learning systems to extract useful data from information it gathers, such as extracting accurate geographical data from satellite images. The best way to look at these systems is that they can make use of technologies — such as iPhones, LiDAR sensors, or iPads — to gather accurate real-time data that can itself be combined with other sets of data to yield actionable insights.
The on the ground, the real-time reporting provided by these products also helps support emerging digital enterprise use cases, such as digital twins — systems that emulate real-world assets to optimize users’ understanding, management, and decision making around those assets.
Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport has created its own twin that runs multiple data sets, such as passenger numbers, aircraft, and ground vehicle movement. This virtual digital airport runs alongside the real thing, helping provide insights to manage airport traffic flow, track equipment, and warn of problems.
We’re also seeing digital twins deployed to help design and manage highly complex challenges, such as traffic management in major conurbations or the design and management of smart cities.
Inevitably, as IoT sensors proliferate, networks improve, and on-device/cloud-based machine learning models emerge, the transformation of daily life into data accelerates.
This surely is part of what is driving Apple’s interest in on-device machine learning, LiDAR, the Neural Engine in Apple Silicon, and long-term investments in both 5G and next-generation 6G networks, along with ultra wide-band (UWB).
Built for consumers, even with the addition of indoor mapping tools, Apple’s Maps app is absolutely not a full-fledged GIS product to rank against ArcGIS Field Maps, but both solutions weave well into the digital tapestry as ‘mobile everything’ and ‘processor anything’ change how we see and manage our worlds. Whether it’s augmented humans wearing Apple Watches or augmented city management systems wielded on iPhones, data is becoming an echo of our world.