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iGIS – GIS for the iPhone

As a City Engineer, I deal with complex spacial data that makes the most sense when viewed graphically. For a lot of the information I need, I am reliant on GIS – Geographical Information Systems (and the City’s planing assistant who maintains the data) to interpret the interactions between property lines, utilities and all of the data the can be stored about these items in a database.

I recently upgraded my standard cell phone, for an iPhone 4 – and although I am not an Apple fanboy by any stretch of the imagination, some things that are available on the iPhone and devices with similar capabilities are outstanding for productivity in my work. One of the apps that I am really impressed with is iGIS by an Australian Company called Geometry Pty Ltd, available for $20 through the iTunes app store. Using iGIS, I am able to locate and identify features in shp files that can be downloaded onto the iPhone, using Google Maps as a background image. The software supports many projections and allows the lineweights and colours to be easily modified to make viewing easier. Also, I like that you can make notes about items that can be geolocated in a shp file, ideal for commenting on the accuracy or changes in a feature in the shp file. Here’s a video from the developers, showing the capabilities:

The software is highly functional as is, and provides accurate representation of the data in the shp files for use in the field, and with any review, the question comes up, “what features would I like to see in future releases. So here’s my wishlist:

  • Other methods of file transfer (in and out) other than wifi, such as Dropbox, email or even the iTunes file transfer capability
  • Reducing the list of projections to some “favourites” or even better, sorted based on your current location
  • Reopening the software to the last map used, rather than having to find it from the list of maps
  • supporting the openmap maps, as they can be downloaded onto the device while in wifi without burning up a data plan
  • Better support for multitasking on the iOS 4 software, sometimes it crashes when switching programs
  • modifying data in existing shp files from within the software (this is probably a big ask, but hey!)
  • If you regularly use GIS data in the field (or haven’t been able to due to a lack of device) and have an iPhone, this software may be right for you, the GPS accuracy of the iPhone is typically good for this sort of activity, but will not provide less than 5m resolution, so you can’t expect survey grade data! I highly recommend iGIS, over the past week, it has been used to locate 6 sewer manholes in forested areas of the municipality, three in the middle of a rainstorm – a paper map wouldn’t have survived that!

    Disclaimer – I received a free review copy of this software from Geometry Pty Ltd.

    Mike Thomas

    Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada. If I post something here that you find helpful as you navigate the world of engineering, planning and building communities, that’s wonderful. But when push comes to shove: This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.

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