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Collecting and Mapping Data via Mobile Devices


Collecting and mapping data via mobile devices


There is a need for simple data collecting in the field, I will outline two methods of allowing people in the field to easily collect data and add it to a map. The first method is simple to implement and requires little technical knowledge and no coding. The second method requires a small amount of time from someone proficient with coding, however the final product is significantly better. Both methods make heavy use of Google products, they are flexible, powerful, and free.


The simple method is to use the combination of My Track and Fusion Tables. The former is a app used to track journeys, the latter is a tool for data organization and visualization.


The first step is to make sure you have a Google account, if you do not have one then go to Google and create one. Once you do then you will need to install Fusion Tables. To do that go to the chrome store and install the Fusion Tables App. Then go into Fusion Tables and set up a new table for the map that you will drop all the data into. Once that is set up you need to get the mobile devices wet up, My Tracks is the suggested tracking tool but any app that exports in the KML format will work, this guide will assume you are using My Tracks.


Once everything is set up actually using the system is fairly simple. At the start of the day go to the My Tracks app and hit the record button. From then on whenever you are somewhere you want to record just drop a marker. At the end of the day hit the stop recording button, then export the map to Google Drive. At this point you have to download the KML file to your computer, decompress it from a KMZ file into a KML file, and then go into the Fusion Table and import it from your hard drive. Unfortunately to my knowledge there is no easy way to import it directly from drive.


Once you have done all this the data should be automatically uploaded


The second method is more work but strongly recommended if you can find the hours to get someone with the know how to set it up. This set up uses Google Forms, Google Sheets, and Fusion Tables. The advantages to using this method include saving time in the field, not having to do as much post processing on the data, the same interface works on any device, more data can be collected, and with the Sheet it’s easier to do other things with the data.


Basically what you do is set up a Google form that takes whatever data the user enters along with the geolocation of their devices and drops it into a Sheet that is synced to a Fusion Table. Here is some excellent information on Synchronizing Fusion Tables with Google Forms and Geolocation. Here is a good idea on to format Google Forms on a Smartphone.


As you can see Fusion Tables automatically drops the points onto the map.


Here you can see the row view where you can see each item as a line entry. Here I’ve opened one up to look at and edit the details.