Mobile Survey apps: Android

No need to buy specialised and expensive equipment for surveying. Android phones and tablets have all the features you need – even a way to get accurate GPS (see below).

OTISS provides a set of mobile survey apps for on-site data collection – look for them in the Google Play Store. First you login to the OTISS website to setup and configure the sites and surveys, then download these to the survey apps on your phone or tablet. Use the app for on-site data collection and sync the results with our secure website where you can amend the data and prepare reports and maps.

  • The OTISS survey apps run on all Android devices – with Android release 4.0 and above.
  • At present, our survey apps do not run on iPhone or iPad devices. But many OTISS customers use their iPhone together with an Android tablet for on-site surveys – see below for more details.

 

Which Android?

  • For small surveys and ad-hoc inspections, your phone has all you need.
  • For larger surveys, a tablet with a larger screen is often more convenient.
    • I think the 7” tablets fit in my hand more conveniently than the larger models.
    • But when fitted with a cover with a hand strap, the larger tablets are also very comfortable.
  • A number of manufacturers are now producing rugged Android tablets for harsher conditions (e.g. Trimble, Panisonic, Motorola, etc).
  • I would suggest going for mid-range or good quality models. We know our customers are using a range of models from Samsung, Motorola, Google and Sony.

Features:

  • OTISS apps must have a data connection to the Internet – see below.
  • Our apps do not require an extremely powerful processor but make sure the device has at least 1GB RAM.
  • Check the phone/tablet has GPS – a few if very cheap tablets don’t have an internal GPS. In many of cases, the phone/tablet’s GPS is accurate enough when combined with online maps and your own maps and plans. But for greater accuracy, you can use an external GPS device – have a read of getting the best out of your GPS…
  • Check that the brightness can be turned up to make the display readable in sunlight.

Also consider:

  • An in-car charger is recommended so you can recharge it when driving to/from sites and while you are having a break.
  • If you are doing a lot of surveying, then an extra battery or USB power pack is a useful accessory.
  • An external Bluetooth GPS will provide more accurate location, but it will also greatly extend the battery life (up to 40% longer) because the internal GPS is not used.
  • Most Android devices are small enough to fit inside the wet weather folders/covers that you normally use for surveying. Alternatively, there are several companies selling rugged and waterproof cases for the most popular phones and tablets – for example, do a web search for ‘Otter case for’ and/or ‘Griffin case for’.
If you are looking to buy a tablet, there are lots to choose from – and more and more being produced by different manufacturers. For example, see this review of latest top tablets.

Android Tablets  – with Internet Connections

The Oiphone-personal-hotspotTISS survey apps must have a data connection to the Internet. This is not a problem for smart phones (with 3G/4G). But most tablets only have Wifi, so they need help to get a connection to the internet when you are away from the office/home.

A standard featue of Wifi-only Android tablets is to share the internet connection provided by your smart phone via a Wifi Hotspot. Hotspots allow the phone to share its data contract with all your laptops and tablets.

  • While in the office or at home, the Android tablet uses is own Wifi to connect to the Internet and the OTISS server.
  • While on-site, turn on the phone’s Wifi Hotspot and put the phone in your pocket or bag. The phone allows your tablet to access the maps and data on the OTISS server.
  • There are other options available for Wifi-only tablets, read more about Mobile Broadband and 3G/4G Tablets.

Android Tablets – with iPhones

At present, our survey apps do not run on iPhone or iPad devices. But many OTISS customers use their iPhone together with an Android tablet for on-site surveys. Android tablets come in a range of shapes and sizes and tend to be less expensive than the iPad equivalents – also cheaper to replace if accidents happen on-site.

  • Download our data collection survey apps to the Android tablet.
  • While in the office or at home, the Android tablet uses is own Wifi to connect to the Internet and the OTISS server.
  • While on-site, turn on the iPhone’s “Personal Hotspot” feature and put the iPhone in your pocket or bag. The phone allows your tablet to access the maps and data on the OTISS server.

 Useful Apps

Around the world, peoples’ imagination have been fired by the possibilities that these smart phones can offer. They have created many useful, intriguing and entertaining apps. Here are some that we have found useful for monitoring trees and outdoor furniture.

  • A small torch for peering into crevices and dark places.
  • A spirit level and inclinometer.
  • Clocks, alarms, stop watches, etc.
  • Voice input when filling in forms, your words are converted into text on the screen.
  • The inbuilt cameras are invaluable for recording and reporting incidents, vandalism, storm damage, accidents, wear and tear, etc. An on-the-spot photo can save a lot of time and explanations.
  • Tree identification guides and keys.
  • Fungus identification guides and keys.
  • Bluetooth GPS app – Getting the best out of your GPS.
  • This list will grow and grow…

OTISS does not sell phones, tablets or phone contracts – you can get them at the usual phone and electronic retail places.

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