If there is one area “professional GIS” has failed it is in the mobile arena. Crazy Windows CE, Java and other solutions just confuse and frustrate users. Heck after coming back into the GIS consulting world I’ve picked up these handheld ArcPad GPS units and failed to be able to get them to work[footnote]To be fair, the older I get, the more confused I get with technology[/footnote]. There are some great Smartphone/Tablet solutions such as my favorite Fulcrum but they really fail on battery life[footnote]If you can’t tweet all day with your smartphone, how can you use the GPS?[/footnote].
I’m always on the look out for better solutions to solve mobile GIS and the latest seems to be Windows Surface devices running Windows 8. I’ve been getting a lot of requests internally to test the devices for data collection. Most of it comes from the wish that users can run ArcGIS Desktop in the field. We’ve been fighting this on the mobile side for years, but maybe we should just sit back and let them have their day with a hacked up Surface Pro 2 with USB GPS and a checked out ArcGIS Desktop Basic[footnote]ArcView was so much easier to say[/footnote] and be done with.
Then again, what about standardizing on a PostGIS/QGIS field tool? This solves a couple of issues for me including the licensing implications of having floating licenses in the field for days at a time. I’m personally trying to reduce software licensing costs to a practical level and the unknown of who will check out extensions throws a wrench in it. The beauty of a PostGIS/QGIS solution is in the freedom to send people in the field for data collection and not have licensing bite us in the rear. I’m going to try to secure a Surface Pro 2 test-bed and see what such a PostGIS/QGIS field collection tool can do.
Plus once they get back into the office, sync the PostGIS data up and the GIS analysts can use it with their ArcGIS Desktop projects. Win/win, right?