Geospatial Data Begins in the Field
By Alex Lange, Solutions Engineer, Pro-West & Associates
With January in the rear view mirror, February 2023 is a big month for GIS, with the first of three major updates coming to ArcGIS Online and other Esri web and software products.
Not to be outdone, this includes all mobile applications currently available: Field Maps, Survey123, QuickCapture, Workforce and Navigator. All of these apps have configurable options to allow for data collection in the field in some fashion.
But what do they all do and what value do they bring to an organization?
ArcGIS Field Maps
For those who didn't already know, ArcGIS Collector, ArcGIS Tracker and ArcGIS Explorer are no more. The capabilities of each were rolled into what is now a flagship mobile data collection application, Field Maps. This is a map-centric field app that allows mobile workers to collect any number of point, line and polygon features as set up in ArcGIS Online (AGO). There have also been great enhancements to note, including:
- Field Maps Web App – a companion to the mobile version for map authoring and collection settings
- Smart Forms – lightweight digital web form using Arcade to build out functionality in collection or inspection record workflows
- Geofences – leverage spatial data to prompt and track field workers based on nearby features or focus areas
This approach has always been available in mobile data collection, and Field Maps takes it to the next level. A final note, Workforce and Navigator are slated to be added to Field Maps and not continue as solo apps. Work assignment and navigation will become a part of an already function-packed application.
Want to digitize cumbersome and inefficient paper forms into web forms accessible in the field and a browser? Look to one of Esri's most mature applications, ArcGIS Survey123. Survey123 can be utilized in many ways:
- Web – build and author web forms all within ArcGIS Online, creating a feature layer while building the form structure
- Connect – use configurable XLS forms to create dynamic and responsive forms to publish for existing feature layers
- Mobile – access and download web forms based on a login that is unique to your organization
Web and Connect are both designers that allow for the creation and updates to web forms in creating any number of workflows from internal maintenance logs or public permit submission. These designers also allow for functional logic to be built in, meaning that based on answers other questions appear or are pre-populated for the user.
In the Web version, all of this takes place in an online interface to build not only the form but also an underlying data layer. While in the Connect (Desktop) version we use a special XLS form to either build a brand-new layer or connect to an existing dataset. This is all rounded off with a downloadable mobile app which allows users to sign in and submit your organization’s forms shared with them.
ROI, or ‘return on investment’, is a major consideration in organizations' decision-making. When related to GIS, capturing a brand-new asset can be prohibitive.
Enter QuickCapture, the ‘big button’ collection solution that is designed for efficient and rapid spatial data entry. Using a designer interface in AGO, map authors can build out buttons to allow data capture and the configuration of functions such as:
- Project User Inputs – set up to 3 fields to be defined and applied to all project captures
- Button User Inputs – populate up to 3 fields upon the pressing of a button
- Device Variables – assign device variables to field in the data to be populated upon collection
- Other Key Features – Exclusivity Groups, Oriented Imagery, Input Masks and Location Sharing
The goal, again, is rapid data collection, so this downloadable app is configurable to capture as much data as possible but not hinder the mobile worker in moving to the next feature. The stand-out feature is the ability to capture multiple assets at a time, such as walking a hiking trail and logging signs and other points of interest while also capturing the route. Pairing that with data-driven buttons allows for high ROI and a great option to build out an initial inventory of features.
Field apps are not just way of collecting data and then moving on. They allow for maintenance and a better overall workflow in an organization. Stay tuned as the February ArcGIS Online update drops and new features are added to these apps to continue to transform data collection in the field.
Additionally, for those wanting more in-depth information on these field apps we are planning more content to give a more in depth look on Field Operations, no matter the app chosen!