Visitors to the Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) in Virginia can now use a  GPS-enabled mobile app to locate gravesites of loved ones -- a feature that's enhancing the visitor's experience.

The app, called ANC Explorer, is based on an Army-designed geospatial mapping system used to create a unified database of grave records and manage cemetery operations.

“Having access to all this information provides two distinct advantages,” Ryan Heitz, GISi federal program manager for the Army, told smartblogs.com. “First, it helps those in the cemetery really increase their understanding of the history and be more aware of the memorials around them. Second, if you’re not able to visit the cemetery in person, you can actually experience some of it through the website.”

The free app launched on Oct. 22, 2012, and can be used through either a web browser or an Android, BlackBerry or iOS-based smartphone. Visitors can search for specific gravesites using known information about the buried soldier or physical location on the cemetery.

“This is just the beginning. In the future, ANC Explorer will offer features such as emergency and event notifications, restroom and water fountain locations, shuttle stops, and self-guided tours,” said Maj. Nicholas R. Miller, Arlington National Cemetery Chief Information Officer, in a press release.

As part of the accountability effort, the Army photographed 259,978 gravesites, niches and markers using a custom-built smart phone application and instituted a rigorous process to review each headstone photo with existing cemetery records and other historical documents. The end result was the creation of a single, verifiable and authoritative database of all those laid to rest at Arlington that is linked to the Arlington’s digital mapping system.

The app can be downloaded from the ANC website.

Photo courtesy of spirit of america / Shutterstock.com