The rapid evolution of geospatial technologies brings to mind a Yogi Berra quote: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Berra made the remark while giving directions to his home—either choice would take you to Berra’s home in the same amount of time. Like many “Yogi-isms” that blended wisdom and counterintuitive logic, this quote carried a deeper message: Seemingly divergent paths can lead to the same result.
Berra’s advice especially strikes a chord with geospatial data collection, where GIS and other positioning professionals can choose from a pair of approaches to gathering data in the field. Purpose-built data collection devices, which have been the norm for a decade or more, are now sharing the stage with Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) solutions such as consumer-grade smartphones and tablets.
Both are good options. The happy dilemma lies in determining which approach provides the best route to the objective: efficiently gathering accurate information that can be quickly provided to the people who need and use it.
There are convincing arguments both for BYOD and commercial data collection solutions. On the commercial side, specialized field hardware such as the Trimble® Geo7 series GNSS handheld is rugged and well suited for operation in challenging environments. The displays and keyboards provide good visibility in sunlight and perform well under difficult conditions. The devices can run task-specific software provided by manufacturers such as Trimble and Esri. Alternatively, software development kits (SDKs) and application programming interfaces (APIs) enable third-party developers to create their own specialized applications for the rugged units.