Esri recently announced the release of its ArcGIS for Android application. I spent a few minutes talking with David Cardella, product manager for mobile technologies, about how the app will be used by Esri customers and what lies ahead for mobile development at Esri.
What does this application mean to our users?
All our mobile solutions, not just specific to Android, are essentially a window into our users’ GIS. This allows them to extend the reach of their GIS out into the field or even down the hall, outside their office space. Having ArcGIS on mobile devices means it’s much easier to do this, especially on smartphones and tablets. These devices are so pervasive and prevalent in the consumer industry but we’re also seeing organizations implement and integrate them as well.
Is there a typical user for these applications?
Since the ArcGIS App for Smartphones and Tablet was launched, we’re finding that non-GIS people are downloading it. While we intended it for GIS customers as a more convenient way to get their data on these devices, we’re finding that because of the accessibility of the various marketplaces and app stores, it’s really reaching a large number of people outside our customer base.
Was that unexpected?
In a sense, it was. I expected some non-GIS people to download the app because it’s in the Android Market, but not the numbers that we’ve seen. Our primary focus was to allow our existing customers to get their data on the device, but non-GIS people are using it to discover all the maps we have hosted in ArcGIS Online. Our customers like that aspect of it. They like that they can get their data on their device, and then users of the application really like both. They like to be able to get at different types of data. The app allows them to access the ecosystem of maps that we have online as well as any data that our customers want to share out.
How does this play into Esri’s mobile strategy?
We’re finding that these mobile platforms, iOS and Android especially, are becoming much more pervasive in enterprises as well as with consumers. The trend is that consumers are using these devices to access maps and location-based services. In terms of our mobile strategy moving forward, we want to support ArcGIS and GIS capabilities on the most popular platforms. So as new platforms pop up and become popular, we’ll build on them as well. Until then, we’ll continue to build more and more functionality into existing platforms.
What kind of skills are needed to work on the mobile team?
Generally speaking, we’re looking for energetic people who are creative, who aren’t afraid to express their ideas and their opinions. That’s what has made our company so successful. We’ve got a lot of free-thinking people who have ideas and can express them. We’re looking for motivated people who really enjoy what they’re doing; that enjoy GIS and mapping and see the value that GIS brings to all sorts of vertical industries. People have to be able to work in a team environment; there are no islands here. They also need to be able to communicate properly.
Where do you think mobile technology will be 5 years from now?
I look back five years ago where we were with mobile, both within the consumer market and mobile within GIS, and I never would have thought we’d be where we are now. Over the next several years I see a few pervasive platforms emerging. There might be one or two others that share the limelight with iOS and Android. I certainly see the movement to tablet devices replacing desktop in homes. I don’t think we’re there yet, but we’re moving in that direction. Certainly I think with smartphones being so conducive to browsing the web, there are some households who use their smartphone as their primary ISP. As a company, we’re going to follow that and be right there. We’ll keep a close eye on what those trends mean to our customers and where they’re going to demand their GIS be and we’re going to work hard to help them get there.
What’s the best thing about being at Esri?
I really have a sense of responsibility. It’s being able to work in an environment where you work with a team towards one common goal, and you get to see that project from beginning to end. Then you get to see how people are using it; it’s very fulfilling. It’s amazing to see people use our apps. They can contact us through the app, and we get comments like “It’s a great app, I use it every day; I can’t imagine not having it as part of my everyday job.” It’s fulfilling that we’re hitting the mark and making a difference … we are helping.
Want to be part of building the next generation of Esri’s mobile technology? Here are a few of our current openings:
- Software Development Programmer – Mobile
- Android Application Developer
- ArcGIS Mobile Product Engineer
- Mobile Product Manager