Develop GPS/GIS enabled Tablet Applications to Modernize Resources and Monitor Facility Condition

Project ID: 9652
Principal Investigator: Erin Bell
Research Topic: Condition Assessment
Funded Fiscal Years: 2016
Keywords: None

Research Question

Currently mobile devices have the ability to access and leverage detailed spatial mapping and engineering data.
Can these capabilities add efficiency to our field inspection processes?
Several utility companies and other resource management agencies use mobile applications, such as the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers (MICA), on tablets and smartphones to conduct a variety of field monitoring and data
collection activities. Imagine how useful it would be to access and update data at anytime while out in the field!
Most field data are locations specific, so it would make sense to create and use a simple GIS application on a
GPS-enabled tablet or smartphone to find locations, link site photos, record measurements, report findings, and
other similar activities while out in the field.
Two years ago, the Research Jam winner served as a great testimonial to the potential tablet use within
Reclamation. It has become more obvious that Reclamation needs more program-supported projects to develop
and pilot several tablet applications that would help modernize and enhance many of Reclamation's field-based
workflows (ex: facility reviews, weed management, recreation reviews, etc.)

Need and Benefit

Reclamation is responsible for operating and maintaining a water delivery infrastructure for irrigated agriculture
in the western US. Much of the current infrastructure was originally constructed more than 50 years ago, and the
field inspection process is critical to the overall health and efficient operation of the water delivery network. For
the most part, current business practices concerning the inspection processes are paper-based and input
manually. They do not capture the spatial nature of the infrastructure or the geographical location relevance of
the associated facilities, and do not preserve and store the data in relational databases for discovery and re-use.
Current mobile technologies, when coupled with GIS/GPS capabilities can enable our field crews to efficiently
capture new data, complete inspection check lists, query and compare previous inspections, and take
photographs. Increased efficiency often leads to reducing cost required for performing the activity. While the
scope of this project is intended for the
inspection processes for operations and maintenance engineering, once validated the mobile technologies can be
applied to other Reclamation mission areas that require field data collection and validation, including but not
limited to cultural resources management, environmental monitoring and assessment, and water delivery
management. The cost of mobile devices continues to decrease, as the capability and usefulness of the associated
mobile technologies increases. In addition to the reduced time for completing inspection report information, the
mobile device coupled with GPS allow for more efficient and thorough planning of site visits for inspection and
data collection.

Contributing Partners

Contact the Principal Investigator for information about partners.

Research Products

Bureau of Reclamation Review

The following documents were reviewed by experts in fields relating to this project's study and findings. The results were determined to be achieved using valid means.

Develop GPS/GIS enabled Tablet Applications to Modernize Resources and Monitor Facility Condition (final, PDF, 1.8MB)
By Erin Bell
Publication completed on September 30, 2016

Two types of GPS-enabled mobile devices were tested in the field to see which type would be more efficient and cost-effective for Reclamation field employees to use. Cost, ease of use, and accuracy in the field were evaluated for each device, including a Trimble GeoXT 6000 series (running Trimble TerraSync software) and an Apple iPad Air 2 (running the Collector for ArcGIS application). The results found that a GPS-enabled tablet, such as the Apple iPad Air 2, is the most suitable mobile device for a majority of field data collection. The large user-friendly touch screen, the ability to attach photos to collected data, and the lower price tag make the iPad a practical investment compared to the very expensive Trimble GPS units available. To increase the accuracy of the iPad, an external GPS receiver such as the Bad Elf Surveyor, would also be recommended.

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Last Updated: 6/22/20