Mapping Revolutionizes Field Data Collection

Aug 18, 2015 · 6 min read

Eight Ways Collector for ArcGIS is Being Used to Improve Data Collection and Make Better Decisions

The Collector for ArcGIS app lets you easily and quickly collect and update data in the field. Here’s how eight organizations are successfully using Collector for ArcGIS to put mapping in the hands of their field work force, improving the accuracy and currency of data and supporting more timely and informed decisions.

Combating the Elements

The City of Karlstad, a midsize city in southern Sweden with 87,000 residents, faced a challenge: to identify, repair, and replace light poles before they could become public hazards. Using the Collector for ArcGIS app on an Apple iPad, the city dispatched a summer intern to navigate the city and collect information about every light pole in it.

After a few weeks of data collection, the city was able to create a complete digital inventory of its light poles for the first time. This new process has saved the city thousands of dollars and person-hours in proactive maintenance and replacement. The information has also helped the city better plan and justify its maintenance budget to elected officials. Read the story.

Managing Urban Forestry

The trees that populate roadsides and homes endure a surprising onslaught of natural and moral evil. Ice storms topple them, beetles infect them with disease, and troubled youth vandalize them. Some homeowners even remove them without getting the proper permissions. The perpetual assault on trees requires taking a detailed inventory of urban forests to ensure they thrive.

Between 2006 and 2013, the Washington D.C. Department of Transportation’s Urban Forestry Administration (UFA) used a typical PDA-based field collection method. In 2014, the administration decided to use ArcGIS Online and the Collector for ArcGIS mobile app to monitor the condition of DC’s urban forest in real time and automatically merge individual worker’s collected data. Esri also enabled UFA to share information internally and externally and discover the true extent of illegal tree removal in the city. Read the story.

Cutting Costs by $400,000

Austin Water Utility (AWU) serves more than 850,000 wholesale water and wastewater customers. Caught in a several-year drought, the utility wanted a stronger, less time-consuming way of issuing water restriction violations. Previously, conservation inspectors had collected violation information and photos on paper and with digital cameras. The data was later entered manually into a tracking system by staff on overtime and temporary personnel.

In May 2013, AWU staff deployed the Collector for ArcGIS app to the company’s conservation inspection team to start collecting violation data digitally. Using tablets, the inspectors identify water use violations based on field access to GIS data. In the office, personnel access this information in real time through their ArcGIS Online organizational account. The violation data, now standardized and instantly available, has become easy to transfer into the AWU Conservation Division in-house tracking system. Read the story.

Helping Farmers See the Big Picture

A nonprofit organization in Malawi uses GIS to apply sustainable farming practices that can improve crop yields for smallholder farms in this southeast African country.

In 2013–2014, researchers at Kusamala explored how field arrangements impact climate-smart agriculture (CSA) adoption by smallholder farmers. The Esri Collector for ArcGIS app was used on a tablet to collect GPS data for 10 farmers’ households, fields, and gardens in a rural community near Lilongwe, Malawi. Maps created from the GPS data illustrate the intentional scattering of farmers’ fields across the landscape. Read the story.

Utility Management Energized

Flathead Electric Cooperative, which manages more than 4,500 miles of overhead and underground power lines in Montana, has eliminated yellow notepads and hours of data input in its system surveying procedure.

An ArcGIS Online update released in 2014 allowed Collector for ArcGIS to be used offline — a transformative capability in rural areas without Wi-Fi access or data plans, such as the service area covered by Flathead Electric Cooperative. Read the story.

Getting the Power Back On

Iberdrola USA companies New York State Electric & Gas (NYSEG) and Rochester Gas and Electric (RG&E) serve nearly three million electricity and natural gas customers in upstate New York. In the after-event review of Superstorm Sandy response, the Iberdrola USA companies saw an opportunity to improve data gathering for response planning.

Using Esri’s Collector for ArcGIS app on iPad minis, Iberdrola USA field staff can now report broken poles, downed wires, and damaged transformers in real time using online and offline editing modes. Read the story.

Asset Inspection Goes Mobile

Scenic, rural Coweta County sits in the greater Atlanta metro area in Georgia. In the past 20 years, the county population has doubled to nearly 130,000 — adding demand to more than 15,000 aging assets. Becoming part of the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District in 2004 meant Coweta County had to comply with new, stricter annual inspections for those assets. The county previously had relied on cumbersome devices that required a manual sync to update the central GIS.

In 2013, Coweta County staff set up an ArcGIS Online organizational account. GIS analyst Clint Richmond configured Esri’s Collector for ArcGIS app for asset inspections. He got the idea to use an iPad from an Esri article. Through his Collector configuration for iPad, which worked on or offline, Richmond was able to equip the county’s sole field inspector with an asset-inspection tool that automatically updated the central GIS. Read the story.

Total Access from the Office or Field

In 2009, Pierce County Road Operations staff inspected drainage features. The inspections showed that a lack of field access to map data had left some catch basins in need of cleaning. To remedy this, the county staff increased assessments and cleanings. However, by 2010, the cost of assessing and cleaning peaked at $120 per catch basin.

In 2013, seeking ways to increase efficiency, Road Operations staff replaced laptops and a manual database-reconcile process with iPads using Esri ArcGIS Online. Staff deployed the Collector for ArcGIS app for field- workers and over a dozen operational dashboards for supervisors. Now, teams can access over 200,000 drainage features via ArcGIS Online. Read the story.

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