High-Accuracy GIS on your iPhone or Android–What it would take

Do you own an Android-Powered smartphone or iPhone?  Then you are helping to create the combined market share dominance that these two platforms are now celebrating; and it appears Android is inching ahead of the iPhone as of Q3 2010. Where am I going with this metric?  Currently, if your GIS data needs to be at least sub-meter and comes from handheld mapping grade GPS instruments (I’ll just focus on Trimble here), the supported operating systems are Windows Mobile, XP, 7 or some variant of Windows CE.  For field collection software, you might be running Trimble TerraSync, Esri ArcPad w/GPSCorrect, ArcGIS Mobile, Cartopac, or a custom solution built on Pathfinder Tools SDK; all of which run solely in a Microsoft Environment.I’ll pose a scenario; what if Trimble released an SDK or field collection software that would run on iOS or Android?  This scenario should not be that far fetched.  Let’s look at the facts; ESRI has released  ArcGIS for iOS with plans of following up with an Android equivalent in March 2011.  These ArcGIS for Smartphones apps are designed to work with the onboard Smartphone GPS (which by no means is at least sub-meter).  Trimble’s bread and butter is mostly hardware.  Trimble has a suite of standalone GPS Receivers that work over Bluetooth (ProXRT, ProXT, ProXH).  The aforementioned GPS receivers are only missing one thing, a data collector, which could be an Android or iOS device. Here’s 6 reasons why Trimble should want to write a GPS software for the iOS and Android platforms:

  1. Some of these devices are getting activated at a rate of 300,000 handsets per day.
  2. Both the Android and iOS environments are ripe with thousands of developers who could utilize a Trimble SDK for custom applications.
  3. Both the Android and iOS environments are ripe with millions of users (like you and me) who would utilize the software.
  4. This software would serve as a monkey’s-paw into further standalone Trimble GPS sales, because the software would be designed to utilize a Bluetooth connection to a high accuracy GPS receiver.
  5. Because Android devices and iPhones necessitate internet data plans pre-configured, this would also be a monkey’s-paw into real-time technology workflows that utilize VRS and connected databases.
  6. Trimble could utilize the Android marketplace and iTunes for software distribution.This workflow would necessitate using range-poles or backpack units as well.  Which is fine from an accuracy perspective because the antenna is always above the user.  The nuts and bolts of this software would be that it would need to contain Bluetooth drivers for stand-alone Trimble GPS receivers such as the ProXRT, ProXH, and ProXT.

What are your thoughts?

Please fill out the poll to the right.  Do you think that Trimble should release an SDK or software package for high-accuracy GIS field data collection on Android or iOS?  Please leave comments if you are moved to share your opinion!  If you find this conversation interesting, share it.