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Mobile GIS? Really?

March 19, 2012

Field data collection is really expensive in every sense of the word.  In fact, it is one of the most expensive aspects of any GIS project or other geospatial activity.   Being in the field requires considerable resources relative to churning out maps and analysis in an office environment.  It’s puzzling to me then why so many solution providers insist on pushing the notion that the functionality enjoyed on the desktop or enterprise GIS application should or even could be deployed on mobile devices for field work.

When you call AAA for road-side assistance, they have a singular focus – get the job done in the field in the most efficient and effective manner possible for a reasonable cost.  This means that they can change a flat tire for you, tow you if needed, jump a dead battery or other field-related services but that’s it.  They bring only the tools needed to render effective service at the point of need (your vehicle) but if you are in need of more complicated diagnostics or extensive repairs or service, they will bring you to a proper service station equipped with a more comprehensive capability.  Could AAA bring an entire service & diagnostic center to the field in response to every call – yes, of course. It would be a financial disaster to do so since no consumer (and few businesses) would ever be able to pay the price to have that level of service and nor would the majority of AAA members ever need it.

Fulcrum Data Collection Screenshot

So why put the power of a GIS in the hands of field data collectors when all that is needed for a vast majority of users is a simple, efficient and cost-effective means of collecting (updating is still collection) data in the field? There are only a handful of use-cases where actual analysis is required on-location (the field), and even then, meaningful analysis requires more thorough tools, time and process than in-situ under field conditions.  The costs imposed on Mobile GIS users adds a financial burden that actually diminishes the amount of field data collected instead of increasing it, decreasing the actual ROI over time.

Field data collection solutions should focus on doing just that, collecting data in the field, nothing more, nothing less.  Getting that data to a map or analytical engine in the most efficient manner possible is the objective of any field work and traditional Mobile GIS solutions fall far short in accomplishing this task.  We think about data collection differently and have built Fulcrum from the ground up to be the very best at one thing; field data collection, anywhere, anytime in real-time and on-demand.  We’ll have more in the coming weeks on field data collection and how Fulcrum is different from anything else on the market today, including the ability to design, create, customize, deploy, collect and visualize data in a matter of minutes (vs. days, weeks or months), offline mapping capabilities and many other aspects that make Fulcrum the fastest growing data collection platform available.