Another Option for Field Data Collection: ESRI’s Collector Application

By: Eric Wilson

As a follow up to a previous post entitled, “Efficient and Powerful Field Data Collection through Open Source,” I would like to highlight another tool that KCI utilizes for field data collection. This product is Collector for ArcGIS produced by ESRI. This off the shelf product is freely available with an ArcGIS Online subscription. It is designed to make field data collection extremely easy and efficient in addition to allowing users to capture data either online or offline, while also being tailored to a specific set of data.

Collector provides a number of great features that make accurate data collection simple and effective. The application allows for the creation of custom entry forms to capture specific details about your data points. These items can either be free form data entry items or they can be restricted to a list of specific values to limit data entry error. The Collector application can collect GPS locations using the internal GPS capability of the tablet it runs on, or the application can be tied directly to an external GPS via Bluetooth technology, which will allow the GPS locations to be captured at the accuracy provided by the external GPS, often of a much better quality.

Mt. Hope Cemetary HeadstoneKCI has utilized this application a number of times for a variety of different purposes but for this blog post we will use the case study of the Mt. Hope Cemetery project in Raleigh to review the basic functionality. For the Mt. Hope project, KCI used the Collector application to capture data about those interred at the cemetery based on the information included on each headstone in the historic section. In addition to the headstone details the Collector application was used to capture location information using an external GPS and photographs for each interred individual.

Setup for the project was very simple using ArcGIS Desktop to configure a map layer that would be filled with the headstone point data. Once the design of the layer was complete the map layer was published and the Geospatial team created a simple interactive map for the project which included the cemetery map layer.

The Collector application allows for a tablet computer to connect to the online map and fill the GIS layer with data. For the Mt. Hope project, the KCI field team used an Android tablet, and therefore, the Collector application was downloaded and installed from the Google Play store. After installation, the field crew was able to log in and see the newly published Mt. Hope Cemetery map and the map layer for the headstones.

Each day the field team would connect to the online map in the morning and synchronize the map layer to receive the latest updates and then proceed to collect a day’s worth of headstone data. When an internet connection was available (usually upon return to the office) the data captured on the tablet was synchronized back to the online map and a new complete version of the headstone data was made available to both the client and the project manager. When the project was completed, the client received a highly accurate inventory of the headstones along with a photograph for each one.

Collector for ArcGIS can be used for a variety of project types within the water industry as well. While the application does not provide the level of workflow control the way the previously discussed ODK application does, it is a great option for simple field data collection efforts such as capturing locations of invasive species, specimen trees, or even where pictures are taken. Please contact me for more information on how ArcGIS Collector might enhance your project! To learn more about the Mt. Hope project, review the presentation delivered earlier this year at the State Geographic Users Conference.