What is Mobile GIS?

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  • Written By: Troy Holmes
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 15 October 2019
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Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are the software programs that provide electronic images of maps. These programs are typically designed to work in cars, cell phones, or other personal digital assistant (PDA) devices that support mobile GIS. This software helps people find the most efficient route to a specific destination.

There are many types of mobile GIS devices available for a car. Some newer cars have advanced audio systems that include built-in navigation systems. The pure portable GIS system is typically a small screen that can be mounted to the window of an automobile by using an adaptable suction cup. The system is powered by an external cord, which can be plugged into the cigarette lighter port of an automobile.

Many GIS systems include a voice directory assistance playback. This voice playback gives turn-by-turn direction to a specific location. Most voice playbacks can be either male or female in gender tone. The assistant warns the driver of upcoming turns or issues. The system will also alert the driver when he has made a mistake and assist him by plotting a new course.

Some newer mobile GIS applications include traffic alert features. These systems use satellites, which are tuned into real-time traffic reports. The system will notify the driver of unexpected traffic delays and plot a new course around the heavy traffic.


Traffic signal cameras have become a new method for law enforcement to catch drivers when they run traffic signs. Many GIS applications include a pre-built feature to warn the driver of an upcoming traffic camera. These cameras are documented by local law enforcement, which makes them available to GIS software programs.

Trip duration is another feature that is available on mobile GIS devices. This function calculates the estimated time to arrival based on speed and distance. The GIS device uses satellite monitoring to track the real-time speed of a car. This information is fed into the GIS system to determine the remaining time between locations.

Mobile GIS systems are not limited to automobiles. They are also used by hikers as a method of tracking coordinates. Many hand-held units can be easily carried in a backpack and are battery operated. These mobile devices can send beacon signals if the hiker gets into an accident. Rescue teams have advanced monitoring tools that receive beacon signals. This data is then used as a mapping device to determine the fastest route to the individual.


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