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Matt Sheehan
Matt Sheehan
Matt holds an MSc in Geography and GIS. He has been working with clients solving problems with GIS for over 17 years. Matt founded WebMapSolutions whose mission is to put innovative, intuitive GIS driven applications into the hands of new and existing users.

Thoughts on Tablet and SmartPhone Field Data Collection

February 19th, 2014 by Matt Sheehan

We have spent a chunk of time focused on mobile data collection. Much of our work has leveraged Esri’s ArcGIS Online. In this post we thought it worth providing our thoughts on tablet and smartphone field data collection, based on our experiences.

Tablet and SmartPhone Field Data Collection

Esri’s mobile Collector we like. The two area which were problematic for us were the built in GIS workflows; the folks who are collecting the data are not GIS savvy and lack of disconnected or offline functionality. We ended up developing our own offline editing app.

These are some of our thoughts based on our experiences:

1) Devices – we found tablets (7″ and above) to be the best mobile hardware for data collection. The screen size on smartphones like the iPhone was a major limitation.

2) Data collected – point, line and polygon data, and image attachments. Having the ability to collect all GIS data types was important.

3) Internal GPS proved accurate enough for most use cases. We did use the external Ultimate GPS unit on iPads which helped provide higher accuracy (<2m).

4) All editing was done against feature services hosted in ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Server. Using cloud based services helped simplify the data collection process.

5) Both offline and online editing capabilities were essential. Both in areas with no wi-fi and for those users without 3G/4G activated mobile devices.

6) We built validation into the app to provide a level of field QA/QC.

7) Pushing the data directly to ArcGIS Online made publishing data and retrieval easy. Retrieval of image attachments were somewhat problematic in Esri desktop products.

8) Lessons learned:

a) Offline is essential but adds an extra level of complexity to the app with basemaps stored locally etc.
b) Offline reporting and other related functionality (map annotation) are potentially important additions to data collection.
c) Integrating the mobile data collection app with a cloud based platform (like ArcGIS Online) is important
d) Plenty of non-GIS folk want to collect data. Apps which are intuitive and simple to use are important for these users.
e) Mobile data collection is only slowly replacing pen and paper in the field

Feel free to contact us if you have questions or thoughts.

Related posts:

Categories: ArcGIS Online, cloud GIS, Mobile ArcGIS, Web and mobile GIS

One Response to “Thoughts on Tablet and SmartPhone Field Data Collection”

  1. Menghestab Haile says:

    This is an excellent resource thanks. Is there any good experience of using tablets and mobile GIS for National Populations Census. What specification of tablets should one use.

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