Mobile GIS Changes Game for Field Data Management

Gathering and distributing spatial intelligence from the field traditionally has been a complex, manual and lengthy process. Now, Dudek project managers use a mobile GIS application that makes collection faster and more accurate; updates the project’s central GIS databases instantly, and lets non-GIS staff leverage the power of spatial data for review and analysis.

Dudek project managers use the Kerata solution that integrates a tablet-based mobile GIS app and desktop-based GIS viewer when field projects require collecting and managing large volumes of spatial data points each with multiple attributes. Recent mobile GIS projects included:

  • Dudek GIS staff helped a small wastewater district create a GIS library of its field infrastructure from scratch in a single afternoon by collecting 400 spatial data points on pipelines, manhole covers and other resources. The accuracy of field data collection was monitored in real-time from the office to eliminate the possibility of having to re-deploy staff to collect additional data. Mobile GIS made it affordable for the smalldistrict to step up to GIS to replace its paper-based library.
  • Two Dudek arborists mapped 14,000 trees on 26 separate commercial properties over two weeks and collected each tree’s species, size, condition and maintenance need. The new GIS database replaced the property owner’s tracking spreadsheet. Staff in the field or office can click on a tree’s data point on the urban forestry GIS map to generate maintenance work orders, prioritize tree planting, analyze species diversity, and plan pruning cycles, pest treatment, and tree removal.
  • The City of Rocklin doubled the number of sites visited in one day to collect MS4 stormwater quality data, and to monitor the city-wide results in real-time as data streamed in from the field. The improved data collection efficiency stemmed from the system’s “intelligent” forms that prompt field monitors to collect only the data relevant to the survey.

Here are Dudek project managers’ tips for executing effective field data management with real-time mobile GIS data collection and reporting:

1. Prep, Prep, Prep

Upfront preparation for large-scale field data collection can save a lot of time on the back end. Subject matter experts must be involved on survey structure to comprehensively identify the data to be collected and to design data collection forms. Anticipating issues can avoid costly redeployment of field staff because data was missed or not correctly collected.

2. Use “Intelligent” Forms

Intelligent forms are designed to collect the correct spatial data by interpreting the data just entered and automatically prompting the field monitor for the relevant data that should be entered next. It is vital to involve the subject-matter experts mentioned above when setting up intelligent forms.

3. Integrate Mobile GIS Effectively

Mobile data collection systems integrate the intelligence of the GIS database and data models to provide tools (drop lists, date picker, and attach photos and documents, for example) to eliminate the mistakes associated with free-form data entry.

For data interaction, systems must include easy-to-use analytical tools for non-GIS staffers to do things such as measure, create bookmarks, create buffers, perform network traces, and more.

4. Stream Spatial Data Live from the Field to the Central GIS Database

This capability improves data accuracy, keeps project databases current, and allows for real-time data analysis. When field-collected data is physically brought back to the office for data entry, delays and inaccuracies creep in as the data pass through several hands. Those problems are eliminated with streaming field data directly to the project database.

Real-time data streaming provides two other important capabilities. First, GIS staff in the office can monitor data collection in real time for quality control to make the most of field staff’s time. Second, project stakeholders—regardless of where they are located—have immediate access on any Web-connected device to real-time information on time-sensitive field developments, such as an unanticipated archaeological resource discovery on a construction site.

Mobile systems are most efficient when the field data streams seamlessly as collected into the project’s central database. Some systems add the extra manual step of “post-processing” field data in order to make it compatible with the central database.

5. Allow Disconnected Editing

When a project site is too remote for Internet access, the mobile field data system must be able to collect forms and GIS data in the “disconnected environment” so data can stream to the centralized database when an Internet connection becomes available.

6. Integrate Visual Reporting/Analysis

The most productive systems are those that turn data into effective information. Field data collection apps should include Web-based visual dashboards that consolidate information in graphical and tabular formats, and be able to update in real time as data flows in from the field.


To learn about the mobile field data management system Dudek project managers use, please visit
For more information on mobile field data technology, contact Lisa Lubeley, Dudek technology group manager, at or 760.479.4273.