GIS goes mobile
- By Dan Carney
- Oct 16, 2000
The huge popularity of handheld computers as personal organizers is spurring
many agencies to explore ways to take advantage of this lightweight, highly
portable computing platform. But porting processing-hungry applications
like geographic information systems to handheld devices presents several
challenges for the information technology staff back in the office.
The biggest issues may be managing the devices, maintaining them, keeping
track of inventory and updating software. Fortunately, the increasing popularity
of handhelds has led management tool vendors to add support for them to
their products that are used for managing PCs on a network. "There are a
lot of management tools out there for these devices, managing them the way
we manage desktops and notebooks today," said John Inkley, manager of federal
sales at Palm Inc.
But the payoff for getting this roving army of handheld computers under
control seems worth it. Agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service and the
Bureau of Land Management are using or testing handhelds to gather data
for GIS applications. The Forest Service is combining the Palm computers
with a Global Positioning System (GPS) application to automatically locate
the person entering wildlife information in the database.
For users who are befuddled by the degrees, hours and minutes of latitude
and longitude of a GPS system, go2 Systems Inc., Irvine, Calif., has developed
an eight-digit location code that is like a ZIP code for GIS systems.
If the system gains acceptance by government agencies, it will provide
a quick and easy way for workers using handheld GIS devices to enter location
data. By entering a city reference and the eight digits, users can pinpoint
locations within 10 meters.