Repeatable Fields, One-to-Many Records, & Geodatabases

13 January 2014 by Zac McCormick

Today we’re announcing some major new features in Fulcrum. First, we’ve added a new repeatable field type that enables parent-child (i.e. one-to-many) items within records. A long-requested feature from many of our users, this new capability will enable you to create much more advanced data collection surveys and inspection forms, produce higher-quality data & geodatabases, and streamline the collection process to save time and reduce error from the field. Along with the addition of repeatable data types, we’ve improved the data exporter to support several additional formats, created a brand new advanced data importer, and released major updates to the Android and iOS apps. Together, these new features add significant power to the Fulcrum platform for doing field work. Here’s an overview of each new addition.

Parent-child data

Repeatable Fields

The addition of repeatable fields means you can now capture one-to-many relationships within your Fulcrum apps. Within the App Designer in your Fulcrum account, repeatable sections behave similarly to sections for organizing your form fields: you add the repeatable section and nest individual form elements underneath. This creates a child record that (behind the scenes) has a relationship to its parent record. In practice, you could now have a “Building Inspection Report” survey containing a repeatable section called “Rooms”, and when filling out the form on the mobile, create a new sub-item for each of the rooms in the building. It doesn’t stop there, either – you could nest items as deep as you need to, enabling full-featured, advanced field surveys. We’ll be writing up a full overview of how this works in the coming week.

New Export Formats

PostgreSQL export

To make the most of the new parent-child data relationship capability, we knew we needed data formats to best support this type of data collection. Our exporter needed some additional formats that could contain multiple tables. We’ve now added the ability to export Fulcrum data in these brand new formats, in addition to the standard CSVs and shapefiles:

  • File Geodatabase
  • Excel (XLSX)
  • SQLite
  • SpatiaLite
  • PostGIS / PostgreSQL

These new formats will add significant levels of flexibility for users in the GIS space, and those who want full-featured databases or multi-sheet spreadsheet copies of data.

New Data Importer

With the addition of relational data support in Fulcrum, we’ve also completely retooled the Fulcrum data importer to allow you to get existing databases loaded into your account, for advanced data collection and editing in the field. If you have a database of parcel locations and information, and a list of past inspection reports logged for each of your parcel records, the data can be formatted, packaged, and imported into your account maintaining the relationship between features.

You can also now upload data in either spreadsheet or shapefile format. Just zip up all your files to import, upload, and Fulcrum will figure out the rest so you can map your existing content into your mobile field collection surveys. This also includes the ability to import photos into Fulcrum, something that many of our users have wanted. Now any existing data that you want to be able to deploy to the field for continued maintenance and update can be loaded into Fulcrum, then distributed to your field staff.

Automatic Conflict Resolution & Data Merging

The addition of these new features now makes it possible to conduct complex surveys in the field using multiple collectors and devices to add or edit the same surveys simultaneously. To that end, our new automatic data merging capability allows multiple people to edit the same form at the same time (even offline) then push their reports to the server, and Fulcrum will automatically merge what each user has collected into a single completed record. One user could be filling out the first few sections of information on a survey, and another could be snapping photos for the same survey, and both users can sync to merge their data together – a fantastic capability for multi-user teams.

Batch Report Generation

PDF report generation for Fulcrum is a popular feature with our users. It allows field staff or inspectors to generate reports on-the-fly, then send or email those reports while out and about. To make this even more powerful, we’ve added a new option to the exporter that allows you to batch generate reports for each record when exported.

Android & iOS Updates

To support all of these great new features, today you can also download the latest updates for the iOS and Android mobile versions of Fulcrum to take advantage of them. Download the latest iOS update from the App Store, and the Android update from the Google Play Store.

Wrap Up

We’re excited to be able to add this much-requested and powerful feature set to Fulcrum, and look forward to hearing how it can further improve your field data collection work. Starting today, these features will be available to Small plans and higher. They’re also all available to try by registering for your free 30-day trial. Stay tuned for more updates in the coming days showcasing new ways you can use Fulcrum with advanced data collection needs.

About the author

Zac is our director of engineering. His obsession with craftsmanship and quality means he’s involved with all aspects of the development process.

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