Halfway around the world from me scientists use smartphones to take photos and collect specific information on crops, management practices and land use. I, on the other hand, am comfortable in my office watching their progress on a web-based map, drinking a warm cup of coffee and writing this article.
With the arrival of the smartphone, technology became increasingly more accessible and commonplace in our everyday lives. The sheer fact we can collect information remotely using smartphones is an amazing advancement in technology. The number of mobile applications has skyrocketed and now reaches upwards of 100,000 within a few years of the release of the first-generation Apple® iPhone in 2007. Waterborne utilizes mobile applications and now creates them with very little effort and custom programming on our end.
Several years ago, ESRI released a new mobile platform, Survey123. This application allows users to setup a survey, associated maps, and use mobile platforms (e.g., iOS®, Android®, Windows®) to collect information in the field. There are several advantages to this technology. Surveys can be created using a spreadsheet for data collection. The application also contains standardized menus, support for various media (e.g., photos or drone videos), and support for multiple languages. All information can then be streamed to a central location. Others can then view the information, live, on a web-map or dashboard and follow the progress in the field.
The use of smartphones and other commonly used mobile devices has the advantage of a small learning curve for software and usability. Furthermore, since smartphones are used ubiquitously, you can tap into the local users base to collect the information you need. This provides significant cost savings on any project and reduces the amount of time spent collecting information.
Gerco Hoogeweg, PhD.
Chief Operations Officer, Geospatial Scientist