Using Smart Phones for Data Collection

Because of their ubiquity, GPS-equipped smart phones are more often being used to collect all types of data as part of business-oriented workflows. When the location accuracy from smart phones is “good enough”, using the native location service, no special hardware is required to conduct asset and service tracking, inventory control, installations, repairs, and geotagging. These are a few of the possible uses that location-aware smart phones can be applied. The following graphic shows native data ingest methods, which can add data value to any business process:


If better location accuracy is required from high-precision sensors such as survey/commercial class GPS receivers, laser scopes/meters, and RFID tags, if equipped with Bluetooth communications link, they can transfer data to any Android or Apple smart phone.

One necessary consideration of relying on a smart phone-based data collection system is choosing the apps that support the workflow. Factors to consider include the initial cost of the app (many are free) and the web-based storage infrastructure required.  For many commercial data collection systems, the app is free, but the server access has a cost, often based on the amount of storage required.  To enable mobile handheld access to GIS Servers, middleware is required to provide the link.  Known as a gateway service, the middleware translates user requests from mobile devices to GIS servers and formats the output back to the devices.  The following screenshot shows how data is often displayed for a specific location that originates from a GIS Server and formatted by the gateway service middleware:


With these hardware and software components working together, mobile GIS enables mobility, real-time connectivity, and broadened usage. Traditional GIS assumes a fixed location for the workstation performing GIS functions and the user’s current location doesn’t factor into geographic data. Mobile GIS allows data to be captured, stored, and managed in remote locations. Information can be uploaded and downloaded between mobile devices and central servers via wireless link. This cellular or Wi-Fi communications allows for real-time connectivity, which makes interactive services possible with dynamic updates.  Mobile GIS provide functionalities to a wider public with no GIS professional knowledge.  Viewing maps, finding nearest facilities, way-finding, delivering location-related messages, and mobile games are just some of the applications possible.