This post discusses how the IQGeo web and mobile platform integrates with solutions from Esri. IQGeo provides the leading enterprise mobile solution for working with Esri in utilities and communications companies. IQGeo lets you expand the reach of your geospatial data and applications to everyone in your enterprise, on any device, online or offline.
We integrate in a similar fashion with all the main GIS vendors including GE Smallworld, Hexagon (Intergraph) and Synchronoss, but this post focuses specifically on Esri.
Web and mobile platform
The way that we are most commonly deployed today across our overall customer base is when the IQGeo Platform is used alongside an existing GIS product to deliver a wide range of web and/or mobile applications. Some organizations use IQGeo as a web platform, some as a mobile platform, and most use us as both. We have many ArcGIS customers using IQGeo as their web and mobile platform, in both electric and gas industries. All these customers are using ArcFM, but that is not required. The IQGeo Platform automatically replicates whatever data model is used in the ArcGIS database.
A key advantage of IQGeo compared to other products in the market is that we provide one common platform that delivers identical functionality in any web browser and on any mobile device, online or offline, including all customizations. This is a strong reason that customers choose to use IQGeo for both web and mobile applications, as it significantly reduces the cost of implementation and the ongoing cost of ownership. This is far more cost effective when compared with supporting two (or more) separate technology platforms for web and mobile applications, which is the case with the offerings from all of the traditional GIS vendors, including Esri.
In this scenario, we typically sync the data from the source GIS into the IQGeo database on a regular basis. Usually a nightly sync makes sense, but this could be done more or less frequently, depending on the business needs. Our Esri ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) module handles the data sync. We do an initial load of all the data into the IQGeo database, followed by nightly incremental updates.
A technical side note for those interested is that, after trying multiple different technical approaches to identify changes within the ArcGIS environment, we elected to export the full dataset every night and determine changes ourselves. We found this approach (somewhat unexpectedly) gave us the best performance and provides full control over tracking the changes. We sync both the feature data (geometry and attributes), and map tiles, which means that maps are displayed in the IQGeo environment with exactly the same appearance that they have in the Esri environment. This includes complex styles and annotation. With systems that use a geometric network model, like ArcGIS, we derive the connectivity from the geometry in the IQGeo environment.
This screen shot shows data synced from an ArcFM electric model, with an upstream trace run from a transformer back to the substation:
Syncing the data into the IQGeo environment enables us to ensure excellent performance and scalability, and also gives us full offline data sync capabilities at enterprise scale.
Offline mobile use
After the nightly changes have been applied to the IQGeo database, we export one or more update packages for the offline databases that are used in the field. Offline databases can be configured in flexible ways. One option is that all users can have a copy of the whole database. Or alternatively some users can have offline data that is a subset of the entire database, split by region and/or by feature type. For example, some users might have offline data for gas while others had electric (in combined utilities), or some users could have just the data that is needed for pole inspections in the company’s north region. Pushing out data updates to hundreds or thousands of offline users on a nightly basis is a challenging task, and a key strength of the IQGeo Platform is its ability to handle this with excellent performance and scalability.
Syncing data back to ArcGIS
Customers commonly use our mobile applications to do a variety of updates including “red lines”, data corrections, lightweight design and as-built updates. All these changes can be pushed back to ArcGIS where they can be reviewed and applied to the master GIS database. Data flows can be easily customized, and changes can also be pushed to other back end systems including design applications, work management, ERP systems, and more.
This scenario enables you to leverage the investment made in your existing GIS, but expand the benefits that you get from your geospatial data by making it available to everyone who needs it, wherever they are, in the office or in the field.
One of our customers using ArcGIS is an electric utility serving around a million customers. They currently have approximately 200 users of the IQGeo mobile application, each with an offline copy of the entire database. A typical nightly sync involves about 10,000 changed features.
The daily offline sync process typically runs in under 5 minutes for each individual field user.
Working as a web and mobile platform with Esri Utility Network
A key advantage of the IQGeo Platform is its ability to continue working if you migrate your back end GIS from ArcGIS to the EUN. As mentioned at the beginning, the IQGeo Platform supports sync with all the main GIS products, which have a range of different data modeling and network modeling constructs. There are a number of network modeling constructs in EUN that are new to the Esri world, including junctions with terminals, containment, assemblies and subnetworks. However, all of these notions have existed in other products, including GE Smallworld and Intergraph G/Technology, for 20+ years. There are some slight variations in the details of the implementation, but the basic concepts are all the same. IQGeo has supported all these extended network concepts for more than 4 years and supports very flexible network tracing that works with all these concepts online and offline.
The following graphic shows examples of the range of network modeling constructs supported by IQGeo:
We will support ETL from the EUN just as we do from all the existing major GIS products including ArcGIS. We see this as a straightforward combination of elements that we have already implemented for various different existing systems.
We have experience of customers using IQGeo as a consistent front end for the majority of users while going through a major back end GIS migration. One large electric utility had three back end GIS products – ArcGIS, GE Smallworld and Intergraph G/Technology – and they elected to migrate all of them to a single platform, which was a multi-year project. They implemented IQGeo in a few months and it synced with all three back end systems, and when the project was completed, the sync just took data from the new system. Users were insulated from all of this back end activity. Exactly the same approach would work well in providing a common application experience to most users while going through a migration from ArcGIS to EUN.
Connecting to ArcGIS Server and ArcGIS Online
The IQGeo Platform can also connect directly to data stored in ArcGIS Server and ArcGIS Online via Esri REST Services and can provide many of the same capabilities as when accessing data in the native IQGeo database. This includes map display, turning layers on and off, feature selection, search and query. Usually for a company’s main network asset database we will sync the data as described in the previous section to optimize performance and scalability, in order to support large scale offline data sync, and advanced functionality such as network tracing.
However, the direct connection to ArcGIS Server and ArcGIS Online can be useful for accessing a wide range of data sources, especially those published by external companies and agencies. For example, the following screen shot shows IQGeo displaying Township boundaries using the Esri REST API, directly from the NC OneMap site that shares data from various agencies in North Carolina.
Leveraging existing skills and application investment
The approach that we have outlined here means that your GIS team can continue to leverage their existing skills and application investment, as well as easily extending them to leverage the IQGeo Platform.
Working alongside your existing Esri system of record, IQGeo can work directly with your existing data model and map styles, preserving the significant investment that you have made in these assets.
This post has explained how IQGeo can add value to your existing Esri GIS implementation. It ensures easy data access throughout your enterprise, when and where people are working, in the office or in the field, online or offline on any device. You can continue to leverage elements of your existing Esri application portfolio where this makes sense, and in other areas you can replace elements or extend the scope of your system with IQGeo’s modern, easy to use applications.
Learn more about the IQGeo Platform