Mobile Development

"Mobile First!"  Why?  Because mobile is exploding; because mobile forces you to focus; and because mobile extends your capabilities. Take two minutes to watch the introduction of this Luke Wroblewski video.  Over the next few years, tablets will have a compound annual growth rate of 35%;  Smart phones will grow by 18% (Canalys).  Yrjö Neuvo, former Nokia CTO, predicts that by 2020, mobile users will be downloading one Gigabyte of content per day. But Wroblewski's message is about more than the growth of mobile technology. Designing for mobile applications causes a focus on crisp, easily navigated user interfaces that anticipate user expectations.  Among the user expectations that designers must address is new capabilities based on location.

Traditional geospatial companies have much to bring to mobile, but successful offerings will differ from past successes.  Ola Rollen, President and CEO Hexagon, identifies that geospatial providers need to consider the other end of the spectrum where customers do not use laptops and computers – that they use cell phones and tablets to access and use location enabled applications.  Successful Location Based Services (LBS) applications are being deployed from traditional GIS and map companies as well as new companies that grew up on the web.  This will continue into the future but many new technology players are entering the market with innovative location based applications. Waze is a good example of a new company that is harnessing location information from mobile devices to provide community-based traffic. Waze CEO Naom Bardin makes the connection that maps are to mobile as search was to the web  (Video – AllThingsD).  And even that analogy is too limiting because maps are just one form of location information. It's location information of all types that will drive an economy of activity based on mobile and embedded devices (See IoT blog).

So what do we in the geospatial industry need to learn to make the most of location in mobile?  Mobile app development is occurring in an environment of "web vs. Native" (Comm. ACM).  In short, pitting JavaScript against compiled languages.  HTML5 aims to lead a transformation towards an open web platform.  W3C Geolocation is key to a device asking, “Where am I?”  Connections between mobile devices and cloud services is a fortuitously timed convergence: the cloud can handle millions of users simultaneously accessing particular applications that may involve heavy computation and the chaining of diversely hosted services. The mobile device is a lightweight terminal ready to connect users to the cloud, many times a day, for two-way transfers of location intelligence.     

"What is an OGC enabled mobile app?”  As part of the recent OGC Web Service Phase 9 (OWS-9) Testbed, Ingo Simonis developed definition, requirements, and information architecture for OGC enabled mobile apps.   An OGC enabled mobile app runs on a mobile operating system; has a user interface optimized for a touch screen on a mobile device; utilizes the device's sensors as contextual input; implements one or more OGC services and/or data container standards; and visualizes or updates those data.  That there are already lots of OGC enabled mobile apps kind of snuck up on us. Those apps now serve as the start of that an OGC mobile first approach.  For example, also coming from OWS-9 was GeoPackage, a file format for geodata tuned to the needs of mobile first.  Results of GeoPackage in OWS-9 are now being prepared as a candidate OGC standard in the GeoPackage SWG.

OGC's first location services standard was the OGC OpenLS Interface Standard, established in 2004.  Although OpenLS was developed before emergence of a more open mobile environment (before the iPhone), the services it defines are an excellent set for the new LBS infrastructure:  Geocode, Reverse Geocode, Route Service, Navigation Service, Tracking Service.  Now is the time for a revision of OpenLS considering the requirements for GeoPackage as well as other approved and emerging OGC standards: The OGC Open GeoSMS Standard and the 3D Portrayal, ARML2.0, OWS Context, OpenPOI, IndoorGML, Sensor Web for IoT candidate standards. 

Through OGC member activity and staff outreach and marketing the OGC standards are becoming more widely known in the broad mobile markets, e.g., GSMA's Mobile World Congress.  We will continue to work with our present liaisons and form new liaisons, e.g., Small Cell Forum, to increase connections to the mobile industry.  Realization of the OGC vision of achieving the full societal, economic and scientific benefits of integrating electronic location resources into commercial and institutional processes worldwide demands that OGC continue to increase engagements in the mobile industry.



  • More information and references in this Evernote site.
  • Overview of this blog series on geospatial trends
  • Next Week's topic: Indoor Frontier
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