Mobile Survey apps: Android only

OTISS provides a set of Android mobile survey apps for on-site data collection – look for them in the Google Play Store.

These are only used for on-site data collection. The website is used for initial setup and configuration of the surveys, maps, etc. Use the app for on-site data collection and sync the results. Use the website again to check/amend the data, and prepare reports and maps.

 

iPhone

  • At present, our mobile survey apps do not run on iPhones or iPads. But many OTISS customers use their iPhone together with an Android tablet for on-site surveys – see below for more details.

 

  Which Android?

Phone

  • For small surveys and ad-hoc inspections, your phone has all you need – 4G/3G, WiFi, camera and GPS.
  • Many phones now have quite big screens.
  • Use the in-built GPS, or use with a more accurate Bluetooth GPS receiver (see below).

Tablet

with 3G/4G/SIM or
along with your phone or iPhone

  • For larger surveys, a tablet with a larger screen is often more convenient. I think the 8” tablets fit in my hand more conveniently. But when fitted with a cover and hand strap, the larger tablets are also very comfortable.
  • Use the in-built GPS, or use with a more accurate Bluetooth GPS receiver (see below).
  • Some tablets have 3G/4G/SIM as well as Wifi, and can connect to the internet where-ever you are (just like your phone).
  • NB: But most tablets have no 3G/4G/SIM – these are ‘Wifi-only’. When on site, it is recommended that Wifi-only tablets be connected to the internet via a Wifi hotspot on your phone or iPhone (see below – its very easy to set up!).

Rugged

  • Rugged Android phones/tablets designed for outdoor GIS data collecting.
  • These usually have 4G/3G, WiFi, camera and a very accurate GPS/GNSS.
  • They are also waterproof, shockproof, brighter screens, better battery life, etc.
  • More expensive – but ideal for use with OTISS (see below).

In all cases, 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, Sony, Trimble, MobileMapper.

Important Features

  • The OTISS survey apps run on phones/tablets with Android release 4.0 and above.
  • Our apps do not require an extremely powerful processor but make sure the device has at least 1GB RAM.
  • At least 16Gbytes of storage is recommended for keeping the survey data and photos.
  • Check the phone/tablet has GPS – a few very cheap tablets don’t have an internal GPS.
  • Good photos may reduce the need to provide detailed descriptions, and so speed up the survey process. But you don’t need a very high resolution.
  • Check that the brightness can be turned up to make the display readable in sunlight.
  • OTISS apps must have a data connection to the Internet – either a direct 3G/4G or via Wifi – see below.

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.
  • 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.

Using external Bluetooth GPS – with 2.5+ metre accuracy

Good quality phones/tablets can typically achieve 3-5 metre accuracy in the right conditions – but not always!  In many of cases, the phone/tablet’s GPS is accurate enough when combined with online maps and your own site plans.

But for greater accuracy, special purpose GPS devices are designed for much greater precision. At least 2.5 metres or better is considered most good practice for tree surveying. It is now very easy to link a very accurate external Bluetooth GPS device to your phone/tablet and benefit from the improved accuracy. Once the external GPS is configured to your phone, the OTISS survey apps (and all the other apps on your phone) simply use the ‘better’ position data provided from the external GPS rather than from the internal GPS. The OTISS survey apps show a red cross indicates the reported GPS position, and a red circle gives a rough idea of the ‘accuracy’.

An added benefit is that it will also greatly extend the phone/tablet’s battery life (up to 40% longer). This is because the phone’s/tablet’s internal GPS is not used.

To purchase one of these devices, type “Bluetooth GPS receiver” into a search engine. They are available from lots of good quality manufactures – but always check that they are compatible with Android phones/tablets. The positional accuracy is reflected in the cost – expect to pay £100-£300 for 2.5/3m accuracy (e.g. Garmin GLO, Dual XGPS), but £600-£2000 (and more!) for metre and sub-metre accuracy (e.g. SX Blue, Trimble, EOS Arrow).

For more details read Getting the best out of your GPS.

Rugged Androids – with very accurate GPS/GNSS

Although these are more expensive than the normal phones and tablets – they are ideal for use in outdoor environments. They are waterproof (IP67), rugged construction, bright display screens and bigger batteries. If you are going to invest, then make the device includes; built-in 4G/SIM, very accurate GPS/GNSS location and a camera.

There are several manufacturers for rugged Androids – do a web search for ‘rugged android’ or ‘android GIS data collector’.

We found a good review article “Best Android Rugged Tablets For Outdoor Use in 2018“.

 

Wifi-only 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 or tablets with 3G/4G. But most tablets only have Wifi, so they need help to get a connection to the internet when you are on-site or away from the office/home. The OTISS survey apps can work most of the time without an internet connection – its only for when you need to Sync the survey data or need to access more maps from the OTISS servers.

  • NB: When on site, it is recommended that Wifi-only tablets be connected to the internet via a WiFi hotspot on your phone or iPhone (its very easy to set up!).

A standard feature 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.

Wifi-only 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.

 Other Useful Apps

Android app ‘GPS Test’ by Chartcross Ltd.

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.
  • GPS Test – shows how good is the GPS salelite signals?
  • 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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