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ESRI ArcGIS App for iPad a Boon to Urban Planners
There are a lot of apps in the iTunes store that are useful to the urban planning industry, largely because there are so many factors involved in creating urban spaces that are safe, functional, and beautiful. For example, planners that specialize in transportation might appreciate Washington state's OneBusAway app (or any of its counterparts in other cities and states). Those working on alternative energy development may like Solar Friend, an app created by panel-maker Bosch that can tell users how best to utilize the solar energy in any given area. And those responsible for all manner of inspections (land, building, environment, etc.) will no doubt enjoy the ease-of-use provided by iG Inspect, an inspection management program created for government use. But regardless of the niche you choose when it comes to the wide world of urban planning, you'll likely benefit from downloading a little app called ESRI ArcGIS. Okay, so it doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. But when it comes to geographic information systems, you won't need any special hardware to access this one in the field; with an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch at your disposal you're good to go (although the graphics capabilities of the iPad offer the best fit for this visual app). And let's face it: most urban planners spend plenty of time outside the office surveying the areas they're working on first hand. How much can you really learn from a computer? At some point you've got to get out into the physical environment to get a feel for the real-world aspect of your project. You can't just plop a park down in the middle of a neighborhood without knowing how it fits in physically with buildings, power lines, traffic, and so on. While you can no doubt get this information from a variety of sources, nothing compares to seeing it with your own eyes. But that doesn't mean you won't need some help from a mapping app at some point, and the folks at ESRI have been focused on land-use planning since 1969, making them eminently qualified to develop software for that very use. So what can you expect to get out of this app? Well, you'll get more than Google Earth can offer, for sure. While there are certainly a lot of mapping options available (different views), you can find that on many map apps these days. This one also provides you with tools for searching, editing, measuring, magnifying, differentiating layers of visibility, collecting and attaching data to maps (text, photos, video, etc.), and sharing. You can save maps that you've created or altered and access your own data at any time. Of course, you can also see community-hosted maps, giving you further insight into users that actually live in the urban area you're surveying. And there are all kinds of search options that will help you to navigate the many types of maps provided by this incredible application, as well as the data and tools that will help you to complete your urban planning projects. A masters in urban planning will get your foot in the door of your dream profession, but after than it's up to you to ensure that you have the best tools to get the job done. And ESRI ArcGIS is one that no urban planner should go without.