A question we often get asked is “What are our best options for collecting and synchronizing GIS field data?
Until recently this was a difficult question to answer, particularly for those with tight budgets. Today there are some a slew of potential solutions available.
Hardware and Software in 2014
Once mobile data collection required high priced Trimble units and complex software such as ArcPad. Though still in use, these technologies now have lower cost, simpler competitors. For hardware, smartphone and tablets are ubiquitous. They are low in price and easy to use. With built in GPS, and optional high accuracy external GPS units, these devices are replacing their more costly mobile rivals and expanding the number of users able to collect location based field data.
For software, developing custom data collection apps has never been quicker or easier. WebMapSolutions have released a mobile online/offline data collection app for Android and iOS targeting non-GIS users. Others, including Esri, are also releasing new mobile data collection and editing apps.
Cloud GIS Solutions = Private or Public Data Sharing
It was once the case that organizations needed expensive geo-spatial server licenses, and the overhead of setting up and hosting these servers to allow access to published data. Those days are gone. New cloud based services have made things cheaper and easier. As an example, Esri’s new cloud based ArcGIS Online platform provides a new way to publish, manage, and control access to geo-data. Its easy now to provide public GIS data such as parks, recreation areas, emergency facilities etc, and protect private data with login or access control mechanisms using Geoserver.
Web and mobile application are also now simpler to build. The Esri concept of the web map means no more overhead of working with multiple ArcGIS server endpoints. Easy access to data for both mobile and Web apps means the range of possibilities are almost endless for the development of GIS solutions. At WebMapSolutions we are now building an increasing number of GIS applications targeting non-GIS users.
Secure Data Solutions
For many organizations data security is a big concern. We have been working with a number of clients who need all their data behind their firewall. For mobile apps this has meant using VPN and accessing data from on-premise versions of ArcGIS Server or ArcGIS Portal; the non-cloud based version of ArcGIS Online. Mobile apps which access secure data as no more complex to build than their cloud based cousins.
Open Source Options
For those with tight budgets there remain many low cost and open source solutions. We are big fans of Geoserver; an excellent open source spatial server. Whether hosted in the cloud or on premise, this solution provides very advanced functionality. Leveraging open source development libraries such as Leaflet we have built a range of advanced geo-spatial solutions for a number of clients using Geoserver.
Field data collection has become considerably easier and cheaper. The methods are being replaced by new more efficient collection, synchronize and collaboration solutions. If you have questions feel free to give us a call or email us, we’d be happy to help.