BY TRACY THORLEIFSON

Have you ever heard the phrase, “there’s an app for that”? Who hasn’t?

Times are changing, we hear phrases like this, or even just “maps and apps,” but what does it all mean, how can we use these apps to our advantage?  Recently, we have seen an influx of mobile devices into our world, so what can we do with this technology we already have at hand?  Well, it turns out there are lots of things we can do!

In this three part series I will cover the basics of GIS Data Collection, and cover five different methods for utilizing existing and emerging technology to collect data in the field, store it in the central GIS, and return it to the field.

Current methods for GIS Data Collection can often times leave you with the feeling of wanting more!

Fortunately, there are several ways to avoid this, and even come out of the process with a good feeling!

In the GIS world, data is our life blood, but many times we are not the true owners of the data, merely the stewards.  It is our job to actively direct the affairs of the system, to ensure that the data is well kept, always available, stored in an efficient manner, and delivered to the subject matter experts and the users.  It is very easy to fall into the trap of trying to make the data “perfect” before distributing it, and therefore not releasing it in a timely manner or at all! Boy do I have news for you!

It’s never going to be perfect!

That can be hard to hear, but there are many ways to work on and with the data. The most important activity is getting the raw data from the people who know it, and returning the finished product back to them quickly.  There are many different types of GIS Data Collection that can help you achieve this, some of them better suited than others, but more on that later.

Often times, GIS environments fail because they “hoard” the data in the central office, creating a “black hole” where data goes in, and never comes out. When designing a GIS and its implementation, always be conscious of the true owners of the data, and how and when they will get the data back.

There are several ways to approach solving this problem, you can:

  1. Provide a web portal where users can log in and search for events and submit changes to their attributes.
  2. Provide high accuracy GPS devices for users to review and collect data while in the field.
  3. Provide “lite-weight” applications for laptops or tablet computers to view, edit and collect data.
  4. Provide simple applications on smart phones to view, edit and collect data.
  5. Provide data editing and collection by leveraging Smart Alignment Sheets.

This blog series will focus on each of these items and provide the pros and cons of each. Check back next week for the next posting!P