Mobile Data Collection: Fulcrum

Feb 11, 2015 | Fulcrum, GIS

To quote Archimedes: “Give me a fulcrum, and I shall move the world.”

I talk about QGIS a lot…I talk about a lot of software. Fulcrum is one of those things I talk about – but don’t talk about much up here.

There are a lot of Mobile Apps out and about. I’m an old ArcPad user from way back. It’s been way back since I’ve even touched it also. I bought it in my early days of business. I should most likely sell it and the Juno SB as a historical piece.

Anyway, You can read more about Fulcrum here and NRGS’s history with it. 

I haven’t used the ArcGIS Collector App. As you can read from my blog posts I’m a bit all over the place these days. Some ArcGIS, lots of QGIS, and probably more PostGIS entries are in the future. I answered a question the other day on a GIS users list about mobile data collection. There was a debate as to what you should use for data collection with two theories being software from one vendor. My belief in software these days is the more varied the better. I’ve seen a lot of information about mobile apps – so I thought I would talk about this one. I could go into an whole discussion on accuracy of data and phones. I won’t. Yet. This blog post was born out of the email back to the person with the question.

The great thing about Fulcrum is flexibility. Fulcrum is two parts total – one piece for the phone/tablet and one piece on the server. They have a free trial at Fulcrumapp.com so try it out.

They have a laundry list of pre-designed apps ready for use. If I just randomly click and look around: Damage Reports, Oil and Gas Scouting, Boat Launch Sites, and Dam Inspection. Maybe you want a custom app. It’s a Drag and Drop away. You build the apps on the server.

fulcrum

Once you sign into the app on your mobile device you can deploy any menu you want to it. Multiple menus/projects if you wish. Right now I have three or four. When you have one built on the server,  sync your Fulcrum App on the phone/tablet and you have the data application you just built (or picked). Collect data with it. It runs offline if you have no internet connection. You can even upload custom base maps (if you have them) to your phone/tablet.

A few months back I built an app to help with my OSM data collection. I decided I wanted to collect churches. Not for some overly religious reason. Churches denote neighborhoods. Neighborhoods tell me something about the area. I built an app and in between work and everything else if I happen to be near a church I’ll pull up my church app and save the name, street, zip, denomination, and if I want a picture of the sign out front.

I can jump online and work with the data. You can see I’ve not been super busy collecting churches. Life gets in the way. I can edit attributes from here if I want. I can manage my data collection. I can manage everything from a web browser.

fulcrum_table

You can read if you want about the USVI work in one of the links above. For a behind the scenes story: We had a license for 5 users and we ended up with 3 or 4 field personnel and one person in the office. At one point we had a problem with data collection (truth be told we didn’t entirely have a solid plan at the beginning). We would work. Call back to the office. Changes were made to the menu. We sync’d and tested the new menu. This happened a lot over the course of one day. We ended up with a solid mobile app plus someone watching data collection as it was happening.  At one point one of the guys on the field crew wanted to collect data. He had a boost mobile phone with a cracked screen. We loaded fulcrum and he collected data. Flexible.

Once I’m done collecting data – I export the data out of Fulcrum. I peeked at the documentation and there’s 9 options: CSV, shapefiles, ESRI’s file based geodatabase, spatialite, sql, etc. Like I said – Flexible.  In the islands we pulled the data down from Fulcrum and worked it over in QGIS/PostGIS. At another point ArcGIS was used.

I’ll be talking more about this piece of software over time. I’ve not been using it as much as I would like. I use it for demos and I use it as component in the spatial connect process I’ve talked about. I have no affiliation with Spatial Networks other than I like the software. It’s good. Flexible. Simple. Fun.

Check it out. Having another tool in the GIS toolbox can’t ever be a bad thing.

Intro to QGIS class is now online! 

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