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Navigation and mapping with Locus Map

August 17, 2020

One of our favorite mobile mapping apps is Locus Map, a “utility belt” mapping app for Android that’s feature-packed and robust for all sorts of outdoor and recreational mapping needs. It lets you load offline trail maps, record GPS tracks, drop waypoints, and more.

Locus map screenshot - Navigation and mapping with Locus Map feature

For navigation and general data GPS data capture, Locus Map has a utility for almost anything you need for personal use. I found it to have a slight learning curve to get adjusted to where all the features are, how to change specific settings, and it took me a few minutes to get things set up the first time I opened it up to record some tracks.

Base Maps

The app has dozens of online base map sources to pick from, including various versions of OpenStreetMap data, USGS topographic maps, and quite a selection of European providers’ maps, as well. To this you can add your own map layers using WMS services, your own custom MBTiles maps, and any of the maps from the Locus online store for download.

Creating GPS Tracks

The feature I’ve used the most in Locus Map is its ability to record tracks using the GPS. The recording capabilities of this app are fantastic. It supports creating waypoints, recording tracks, and also manually drawing tracks right on your device.

Locus map screenshot - Navigation and mapping with Locus Map feature

When you record a track, first you can set the profile for type of movement: walking, cycling, or vehicle. Each of these profiles can have specific recording behavior to change how often the app logs points, since you typically need fewer points with speed. Tracks are available for export in various formats like GPX, CSV, and KML. If you record a closed track, like walking around a pond or property boundary, you can also calculate the total area.

You can also manually draw tracks in order to calculate measurements or create geometry to export out and view in Google Earth or view in ArcGIS. Here’s a video sample showing what that looks like.

Overlaying Fulcrum Data

There’s also a neat capability in Locus Map to even overlay field-collected data from Fulcrum on the map while you’re recording GPS tracks. With a data share enabled on one of your apps, you can add the KML file URL and it’ll load in your Fulcrum data as a map overlay that you can tap on and view while in the field doing other data work with Locus.

I’ve copied the KML URL path and added it as a ‘remote file’ in view-only mode. The Fulcrum app holds fire hydrant asset points and associated form data from the field. Using this feature in Locus allows access to this data on mobile devices. This is useful while recording tracks or making measurements between asset points. It also aids in referencing other data, like custom satellite imagery. As shown in the video, photos of the hydrant appear directly inline.

Custom Maps and Interactivity

Just like with Fulcrum’s offline layers feature, Locus also supports loading your own MBTiles format base maps to use when disconnected. You can create maps using imagery or your own map files, including overlays. I created a map using MBTiles interactivity support, which allows you to overlay some GIS data and make it tappable, so in the field you can press on a given feature and display additional info. In this example, I’ve put together an offline layer of parcel data and embedded some of the GIS dataset’s parcel information in the interactivity settings. When hovering over and tapping on a parcel boundary, Locus will display some additional detail about the property, like its value, owner information, and more (this is customizable in TileMill).

I took this functionality a step further using Fulcrum’s ability to open remote links using URL actions. I created a custom link for the parcels that will open a new Property Appraisal survey in Fulcrum for the property using a Fulcrum app I created – and it passes over relevant data including the owner name, details about the home, and value information and pre-populates my Fulcrum survey with all that info.

OpenStreetMap integration

Aside from the fact that you can view OSM base maps including the standard cartography, OpenCycleMap (useful for cycle paths, lanes, parking, other amenities), transport layer, OpenSeaMap, and even OpenSnowMap (for the skiers out there (Closed)), Locus even supports overlay and adding of map notes. This lets you see problems reported with OSM while in the field and allows you to login to your OSM account for logging notes yourself when out and about.

OSM allows mappers to upload their own GPS tracks to the website for other contributors to use for tracing. Locus Map’s OSM integration lets you upload your recorded tracks straight to your OSM account.

Other cool stuff

Locus offers many features for power users. One key feature is Dropbox integration. It simplifies loading map files onto your device. Additionally, it facilitates exporting files to the cloud. This makes access and sharing easier for users. Below is a list of other impressive capabilities built into Locus:

  • WMS layers
  • Integration with Bluetooth – for external GPS devices
  • ANT+ device integration – for reading data from cadence sensors, heart rate monitors, and other devices
  • Geocaching features
  • UI customization

Download Locus Map on the Google Play store and check it out. We highly recommend it for personal mapping and recreational use. There’s a bit of a learning curve to it, but well worth it for mapping enthusiasts.