GIS on mobile devices has changed how we interact with geography. With a smartphone you can access maps and data for anywhere on any theme, and because the phone can record where you are, you’re now in position to leverage your full GIS capabilities in the field.
With mobile GIS, your GIS maps and apps go with you wherever you go. That’s a big idea. The integration of the smartphone and GIS carries many implications in addition to the ones described here.
You can use your phone to capture geotagged photos and videos, and then use them to tell and share your stories. You can collect data in the field and update your enterprise information. Your phone can also be used to access enterprise information for your current location so that you have deeper knowledge and awareness.
You can track and coordinate with members of your team in the field. You and the team can be guided to the right locations, and away from dangerous or otherwise undesired ones. You can receive triggers and signals when you enter certain zones or are approaching others.
Your phone can access deeper geographic knowledge about any location.
Cities can notify their citizens about road and bridge closures. In turn, citizens can report on problems and issues and provide geotagged comments and feedback about proposals and plans.
You can be guided to exactly where you need to go—and not just along public roads but also private roads—to precisely where equipment is located, for example, and even inside of buildings and across campuses.
Clearly, your users can access, share, and apply a world of information about their location and activities. These come to life on your phone through a series of apps provided by the ArcGIS developer community as well as by Esri and its partners.
During the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, I was part of a team sent by Esri to assist our customers among the several different emergency response agencies that were operating at the scene. The situation was somewhat intense and we were in meetings where a lot of information was flying around—not all of it accurate or timely. Dozens of teams were in the field—to monitor the developing situation, to collect data, and to conduct environmental surveys. The data collection effort was still largely paper-based and coordination among all of the teams was difficult.
The problem wasn’t a lack of maps or GIS. These agencies were already among our most sophisticated users. The problem was in appropriately sharing and keeping each other updated as new information flowed into the operations center. I witnessed how the teams gathering data out on the water and along the shoreline were struggling early on to collect their information and to make it accessible so that it could be acted upon.
Within a week, thanks to a lot of hard work by scores of technologists, emergency response people, and staff from British Petroleum, many of the pieces were falling into place and we saw GIS beginning to be used for mobile data collection and communication. These teams began to share maps, data, videos, and photos, enabling responders to better coordinate with emergency command centers and ensure high levels of situational awareness. As tragic as the event was, I did see how much more effective these teams were by using mobile GIS.
When we returned to Esri, we used this firsthand experience to help guide our product development forward, by applying many of the ideas that came out of those frantic weeks. One idea borne from this initiative became the first generation of our Collector app.
It’s heartening for me to know that these same agencies are now equipped with Collector, among a whole suite of new applications that equip response teams with more efficient rescue and recovery capabilities.
The power of Collector enables organizations to use maps to gather data in the field and to synchronize the results with their enterprise GIS data. With Collector you can update data in the field, log your location, and put the data you capture back into your central GIS database directly from your phone or mobile device. This increases accuracy and helps eliminate recording errors. Fieldworkers are much more efficient and accurate, reducing error and time. And Collector increases the speed at which the information you collect in the field can be put to work throughout your organization.
You can download maps to your device to work offline; use GPS to create and update map data, points, lines, and area features; fill out easy-to-use map-driven forms; find places and get directions; track and report areas you visited—all these are functions of Collector.
Anywhere that you see people doing work in the field there’s a potential for the application of Collector.
It turns out that surveys are among the best ways to gather information from the field, and intelligent surveys are important to that process. Often the answers to one survey question determine additional follow-up questions. This ability to be adaptive is critical for sophisticated information gathering.
Survey123 has been used for intelligent information gathering on the spread of Ebola in West Africa and for recovery operations after the series of devastating Nepal earthquakes in 2015.
Survey123 provides an end-to-end workflow for designing and implementing surveys in the field, conducting them, and ensuring the results are geotagged and synchronized with your enterprise GIS.
Collecting field data in Canada’s northern wilderness, with its abundance of marshes, rivers, rugged terrain, and dense forests, is always a challenge. Doing it using tablets—instead of the traditional paper-and-pen method—is a different kind of challenge altogether, involving transmitting data to the office from a remote region where Internet connection is sporadic.
As part of an environmental impact study on the effects of the construction of a proposed 430-km electric transmission line, three field crews from the study’s lead consultant, Dillon Consulting (Toronto), were sent out to gather information about environmental conditions along the proposed route. Using ArcGIS on mobile hardware allowed the system designers to put aside an antiquated, paper-based data collection process.
Instead of reporting the data when teams return from the field, analysts in the office are able to work with the data as it is being submitted. They can also send information back out to the crews, for example, as new sampling modifications are needed while conducting fieldwork.
Field crews gather data on tablets in three ways: by tagging maps, by entering information in text fields, and by taking photos or videos. The app seamlessly synchronizes this information with their enterprise GIS when Internet connections can be established after teams return from the field.
Sometimes syncing occurs like this: a fieldworker can talk to an analyst on the phone, request a change—such as the color of a feature on a map— synchronize, and instantly see the update on her or his tablet.
Real-time syncing has other benefits, too. Data can be safely stored in the cloud, not just on field crew devices. If a tablet gets damaged during the project, no data will be lost.
With a smartphone, everyone is a potential data sensor. In addition to its workforce applications, this opens a whole area called "VGI" (volunteered geographic information). Think of this as geolocated social media like tweets and blog posts. Even something as simple as a tweet can have location associated with it, and with geolocation, this content becomes part of a larger crowdsourcing effort.
Log into your organization or the trial you started in the previous chapters.
Make a map for data collection by adding an editable layer to a new map. If you don’t have Operations Dashboard for ArcGIS installed, install it from ArcGIS Online.
Note: The app downloaded from ArcGIS Online can be used to connect to your ArcGIS organization on either ArcGIS Online or Portal for ArcGIS. However, your company might require that you, instead, install from your Portal for ArcGIS. To do so, search for Operations Dashboard on your portal, or contact your ArcGIS administrator.
Much like a paper form, the pop-up or digital form provides a structured way for users to enter information.
Share your map to a group to empower others to collect information.
Now that you’re done, sign into Collector and view your map on your smartphone.
Extend the reach of ArcGIS into the field and improve the accuracy and currency of your spatial data. Create and share maps for data collection in a couple of steps.
Fieldwork takes you places without a data connection. Take your maps and data offline, collect data, and get back in sync once reconnected.
Create the data that matters to your organization, from damage reports and service requests to places of historical interest. Easily include images and videos and share your work.
Your industry has its own common datasets. Download templates to create the basic data structure you require and customize it for your particular job.
You’re the GIS specialist for the public works department of Naperville, a midsize Chicago suburb. Part of your job involves managing your field staff’s routine inspections of fire hydrants. Inspections are currently done with pen and paper, so it takes a long time to transfer data to your GIS, and human error is frequent.
In this project, you’ll automate the process. You’ll publish fire hydrant inspection data from ArcMap to ArcGIS Online. Then, you’ll create a web map from the published layer, which you can share with your workforce. Lastly, you will use Collector for ArcGIS to input field observations directly into your web map, automatically updating it with the latest data.