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Fulcrum for City Government Data Collection

March 26, 2012

Before getting hired at Spatial Networks, I worked as an intern for several months in local government doing various GIS related tasks. Now that I know about Fulcrum, I can say that it would be a wonderful tool for use in municipalities, especially for projects similar to those I worked on. It simplifies every aspect of data collection and costs less than most GPS equipment.

One of my assignments was collecting fire hydrant data using a handheld Trimble unit. The department I worked in does not have any sort of equipment for GPS collection. The Trimble I used was brought to City Hall from the utilities campus. Since my supervisor was not familiar with the equipment, a utilities worker was the one who instructed me on how to use it. The device is simple, but I had to build the data forms in the unit, which is not as user friendly as typing up the forms on a computer like with Fulcrum. Collecting the data in the field with the Trimble is not as simplified and intuitive as it is with Fulcrum. The Trimble unit I used had a designated laptop with specific software for exporting and preparing the data for import into ArcMap. Hooking up the equipment and running the program is more complicated and takes longer than Fulcrum’s export process does. With Fulcrum you don’t have to tow around a special laptop so that you can actually use the data you collected. You just need your phone and any computer. No wires, no expensive software to learn, and the advantage of having everything stored in the cloud.

Historic Building Preservation

Shortly before I left the internship, the department was preparing to do a survey of the historic buildings in the city. I had to do some of the preparation for the project. This required me to use ArcCatalog to build ‘forms’ (tables) for the survey, which is a frustrating process because one does not simply move columns, change titles, etc in the tables. From my understanding, the plan was to take a laptop into the field to fill out the tables, while separately collecting GPS points of each building. After this, the information would be merged together when back in the office. Fulcrum does all of that at the same time and with pictures, which would be very useful in a historical buildings survey. Plus you don’t have to mess around with table creation in ArcCatalog!

It is important to note that not everyone in the office has an iPhone. I would say a majority of the employees with smartphones had Androids. This is why a Fulcrum release on Android is important and on the horizon. With Fulcrum, every department can have the ability to collect data. When data is needed, city employees won’t always have to depend on a county GIS department, unpaid interns, or outsourcing data collection projects to private companies; they can easily collect it for themselves.

Update: Fulcrum for Android was released in the summer of 2012. Be sure to check out the latest features for both iOS / iPhone and Android OS.