The ArcPad Team Blog

Unofficial stuff from the team behind the World's leading mobile GIS platform

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Data and Synchronization with ArcGIS Server

ArcPad now has the ability to synchronize data directly with ArcGIS Server out of the box! No coding or development environment required, just a couple of wizards! On Friday 9th May 2009 we published an instructional blog to show this capability of ArcPad. This blog will talk in more depth about the benefits of providing this functionality.

  • Organizations that have already invested time, money and effort in deploying standalone ArcPad projects can now set up Server synchronization with little or minimal change to the original project and workflows.

  • Data synchronization methods can be “mashed up”

So, let’s go into these points in a bit more detail.

Migrating Existing Projects

We were aware that many users that have previously created ArcPad projects that may have, in many cases, extensive customization within the AXF from custom forms to automated calculations. So if you want to (or have) migrate your personal geodatabases to the ArcGIS Server environment you can take ArcPad with you!

Within the ArcPad Data Manager you have the provision to use previously created ArcPad AXF’s as a template to extract the data/schemas from the server environment. When you do this, all of the customizations that have been previously set up will deploy in the new AXF. If you want to create an AXF with datasets that have previously been in separate projects you can also link to several AXF’s as templates which is a very powerful benefit.

When you install the ArcPad Server Extension a folder called ArcPadPublications is installed in your \ArcGISServer\ (on your AGS machine). Once you have processed the mxd for Server an APO file is created next to the mxd (see pic). In ArcCatalog (as the previous blog entry shows) you can now set up a Map Service with ArcPad functionality (different to Mobile Data Access).

Once the map service is set up working in ArcPad is business as usual. Users are merely going to download data from the server (using the Add data from server) rather than have it stored on a card or the device*. Once data has been edited within ArcPad, users simply post the changes using the “Synchronize data with ArcGIS Server” tool (once again see blog below).

*This is the standard approach however the next topic will discuss some different methods of deploying data for ArcPad.

Synching “Mash Ups”

Most people refer to “mash ups” within the world of web pages and collating information from different locations. So why did I choose to use the buzz phrase? Well, ArcPad allows users to mix the variety of check in/out methods that are available to tailor a robust method to get data in and out of mobile, desktop and server environments easily.

Previously I mentioned how users can deploy an AXF through the server environment and that from ArcPad you can update the server through live synchronization. What if you were a user that had a device that had no network communication (such as 3G) or in a remote location with no coverage? Obviously in both scenarios no one can update to the server directly, so ArcPad allows the functionality to still check in the data using conventional methods i.e. connecting a device to a desktop computer (not the server) and running the standard check in process available. This means that field workers have a lot of flexibility in the way communicate between ArcPad and ArcGIS when they want to submit there data.

Apart from the ArcPad Data Manager, ArcPad installs its own Toolbox that can also help with distributing datasets. The check in/out processes can be written as part of a larger geoprocessing tool that organizations may have already built that process and analyze data. Now the model can process, analyse and distribute in one process.

Finally, here are some other distributing data methods. If you don’t want to use server to synchronize data automatically (or if you don’t have the license), you can create deployable CAB or ZIP files. Depending on the environment you are deploying too will determine which you choose – CAB for windows mobile and ZIP for desktop/tablet environments. If you have the appropriate software, data can also be added to these files to make a single install such as applet files that might have some custom tool buttons to use for a project.

As you can see there are many methods that you can use to deploy data to devices through manual processes, but with minimal configuration of enterprise data and ArcPad projects you can rapidly get your existing work flows up and running within the ArcGIS Server environment without using a single line of code!

For more information on these topics please head to the Online ArcPad help documentation and see the ArcPad Data Manager section or even post a thread on the ArcPad forum on ArcScripts.