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The Fulcrum Focus

Stay in the know with thought leadership, product updates, and latest news on field inspection and data collection topics.

Easy Field Data Collection in the Virgin Islands

Earlier this year, Applied Geographics (AppGeo) and Spatial Focus embarked on a 3 month pilot phase of an address reference system project on St. Croix, St. John, and St. Thomas – the three main islands of the U.S. Virgin Island Territory – for the Office of Lieutenant Governor Gregory R. Francis. 1500 of roughly 120,000 addresses covering the three islands were assigned during the pilot phase. The field crew was faced with having to develop easy procedures that would support a small local team who had limited experience with GIS technology and even more limited access to communication technology. This part of the story took place during the latter part of the pilot project (late May-June 2013), in the second and third pilot study areas in Cruz Bay, St. John and Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas. The Fulcrum app was incorporated into the field data collection process making it possible to develop, deploy, implement and maintain mobile applications quickly and easily.

Photos and Metadata Geotagging

Showing image metadata
Back in July, we added a small but very useful detail to how photos are displayed in the Fulcrum web app; all EXIF data can be shown while viewing a photo. This geotagging information includes device make/model, software, photo dimensions, date, altitude, direction, latitude/longitude, and even distance to record.

CFGIS Workshop Recap

To recap, a couple of weeks ago we attended the Central Florida GIS Workshop in Orlando, a regional event bringing together GIS staff from many Florida city and county agencies, as well as those from consultancies and mapping companies. There was a great lineup of talks and presentations highlighting many local Florida projects.

Modern Civil Engineering: SMEC South Africa

Modern Civil Engineering should include technology! An increasingly rapidly changing digital world demands a furious pace of innovation in our engineering environment. SMEC, or Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation, is one of the leading engineering and development consultancies in the world. Providing multidisciplinary consulting services in engineering, project management, environmental science and development activities, SMEC has been engaged in assignments throughout the world for over 40 years.

Managing Photos in Fulcrum Exports

While Fulcrum photo fields make attaching pictures to records a ‘snap’, the flexibility of having a single field for multiple photos can be somewhat challenging when dealing with exports. In this short blog post I will describe a few techniques I have found for managing this one-to-many relationship challenge.

Building Offline Maps from Hi-Res Imagery

One of the coolest features in Fulcrum is building offline map layers for mobile mapping. Access to a local map tile cache untethers you from the need for network connectivity to get reference map data when in the field. Using the map design software TileMill, along with some geo data or imagery, you can make your own custom map layers to load onto mobile devices for your Fulcrum field teams. In this post, I’ll walk through using some free and open resources to get your own satellite or aerial photo data, build some offline map tilesets, and load them onto your mobile devices for field use.

Ramping Up Fulcrum’s Cloud Infrastructure

We just completed a substantial upgrade to the Fulcrum web platform, making our hosted service even better for our ever-growing global user base. Fulcrum data is now replicated in real time to multiple datacenters in separate geographic regions, increasing redundancy and making data even more safe and secure. As your teams are syncing up data from the field with customized data collection apps, all data is now streamed to several database servers simultaneously. We know how expensive field operations can be, so this level of data safety adds tremendous value to make sure you get the most out of your workforce. Mirrored cloud servers, along with complete data backups guarantee the safety of your valuable collected data.

Field Experimentation with Fulcrum

In our previous post, we talked about our experience this round at JIFX, the experimental event series organized several times a year by the Naval Postgraduate School to bring industry, academia, and government together in a field testing environment out at Camp Roberts, CA. The structure of the JIFX series is unique in its ability to put different technologies (and the engineers that build them) in the field together to simulate field conditions, and to collaborate with one another. Demonstrating success (or failure!) in collaboration and integration is critical for stakeholders to see things in action, plus it allows the engineers to test the limits of their software, hardware, or systems to see what works and what doesn’t. As an engineer and designer of Fulcrum, this collaborative space is incredible to see the tool out in the field, allowing us to relentlessly improve Fulcrum’s capability as a powerful field data collection platform.

Testing Fulcrum for FEMA Disaster Recovery Operations

We are back in the office following a great week in California for our second experience at Camp Roberts for Joint Interagency Field Exploration (JIFX).

Managing Permissions with Custom Roles

Many organizations using Fulcrum have requested to ability to have more control over how members can interact with both the web and mobile applications. When we recently reorganized the management and administration portions of the Fulcrum web app, we also added the ability to create custom member roles to do just that.

Fulcrum is a Powerful Tool for County Government

This Friday, Alex and I will be headed to Fort Worth, TX for the 78th Annual National Association of Counties (NACo) Conference and Exposition. We will be exhibiting in booth 728, so if you’re attending, be sure to stop by!

Creating offline map layers for Android

The ability to add offline maps has been one of the many useful customization options of Fulcrum for quite a while. In the last few months we have expanded on this, giving users the ability to add multiple layers on Android devices.

Customized PDF Report Templates

Digital PDF templates
A couple of weeks ago, we showcased Fulcrum’s report-generation capability, enabling users to generate printable, shareable PDF reports either from their desk or from mobile devices in the field. All of the advantages of digital field data collection can be maintained, while still affording organizations the ability to do things like print waybills for proof-of-delivery, leave printed documents with a landlord after a building inspection, or share a PDF copy of a disaster shelter assessment report with a team of decision makers.

FEMA Corps Perspectives on Fulcrum

Last month, FEMA Blue 1 attended a 2013 Joint Interagency Field Exercise (JIFX) hosted by the Naval Postgraduate School in Camp Roberts, California. NPS conducts a biannual RELIEF conference that fosters innovation and cooperation toward disaster response and is attended by representatives from academia; private industry; state, local, and federal government; non-profits; and international organizations.

Using Fulcrum to Map Water & Sanitation in Liberia

Connecting people to safe drinking water in Liberia with Fulcrum
Having recently used Fulcrum to map over 15,000 potential new customers of the water utility in Liberia’s capital Monrovia, the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program is now using the collected data to help connect more people to safe drinking water, and is working on using Fulcrum to improve the customer database of the Liberia Water and Sewerage Corporation (LWSC).

Generating PDF Reports from the Field

Generating reports from anywhere
A couple of months back, we added a feature to the Fulcrum platform that allows you to generate reports from records captured in the field. Using your custom apps created with the Fulcrum app designer in your web account, after collecting data in the field, you can generate a PDF-based report from a record right from the mobile device. Reports can be emailed or printed right on the spot, on the go, whether they’re inspections, asset reports, or door-to-door questionnaire survey results.

Improved Data Visualization on the Web

We recently rolled out several major enhancements to the data view on the web. Among the enhancements are a new improved table view, a split table/map view, and a new record editing interface. We’ve gotten a lot of feedback about improving quality assurance (QA) workflows on the web, and this is the first major step to help you understand, verify, and correct your data as it’s being collected.

Disaster Relief Experiments with FEMA at Camp Roberts

Last week, Tony and I spent the week out at Camp Roberts in California, testing Fulcrum in the field with FEMA for disaster relief needs as part of the RELIEF field experiments.

Creating Bilingual Apps

Fulcrum has enjoyed considerable growth in the past six months and we’re excited about that, considering that we are just getting started and many more innovative features are on the roadmap for 2013 and beyond. What we didn’t anticipate or predict a year ago was the growth of our international user base, especially on the Android OS. A large majority of our current user base resides outside of the United States and English is not their first or even second language, and in some cases, English is not spoken or understood at all. We recognized this at the outset when we started creating Fulcrum in the cloud for a global audience, we needed to enable any language on any device, based on user-driven requirements and we needed to make it simple, elegant and effective.

Disaster Planning in Uganda with the Red Cross

Humanitarian aid and assistance agencies are working all over the world to help developing nations prepare for and respond to disasters. We are proud to share that Fulcrum is actively being used by such organizations.

Fulcrum for Android: The Next Generation

When we released the first generation of Fulcrum for Android nearly a year ago, we had no idea that it would quickly become the primary platform for our users. It became clear that our Android client needed to be the best it could in order to enable our users to collect data easily and efficiently. Since its initial debut on July 31st of 2012, we have released 32 updates to the client, adding new features and increasing performance and stability. Today marks a big milestone in that trend.

Fulcrum Tips and Tricks

Fulcrum is an extremely powerful tool for mobile data collection, especially since you do not need to have any knowledge of or experience with GIS or data collection to be able to effectively use it. It is very easy to learn how to use Fulcrum, but with the limitless customization possibilities, we understand it may be overwhelming for a new user. We advise everyone, especially new users, to check out the new user walkthrough and help. In the mean time, here are a few quick tips and tricks.

Fulcrum for Harmful Algae Blooms

Harmful algae blooms have become an increasingly public issue along the entire Gulf Coast. Each year Florida’s open coastal waters and estuaries are blighted by these microscopic plant-like cells in seawater, brackish water, and also freshwater. Most notably is the red tide, causing massive population kills in fish, invertebrates, shellfish, and birds. Not only does red tide impact our natural resources, coastal economies, but also public health. Human respiratory problems and the consumption of contaminated seafood brought on by red tide pose human health risks.

User Highlight: Brandon Freeman of TREKK Design Group

We love hearing feedback from our users, and were very pleased to see Brandon Freeman’s excitement about Fulcrum when he reached out on Twitter. Brandon is a Civil Engineer with TREKK Design Group, and has been using Fulcrum for multiple projects.

Using Record Assignment to Control Field Operation Workflow

In our latest round of updates, we introduced the ability for administrators to control and assign records to users within the operation workflow of their organization. When a record is assigned to a user, only that user will be able to download and modify the record on their mobile device. This can be useful for ensuring that each team member is doing their job, divide work between users, or to ensure that confidential data is only seen by qualified users.

Signatures, PDF Reports, and Workflow Assignment

Over the past month you have probably noticed a few updates to Fulcrum. Our dev team has been working hard to bring you new features and improved functionality to make Fulcrum an even more powerful toolkit for mobile data collection. Check out what’s new…

Web App UI Improvements

Earlier this year we rolled out a complete redesign of our website with a new look & feel, cleaner interface, and more comprehensive App Gallery. Once that endeavor went live, we immediately took aim at doing the same thing for our web app.

Editing Parcel Data With Fulcrum

Our environment and the infrastructure that lies within is ever changing making it a challenge to keep GIS data current and veracious. Decision makers rely on up-to-date input of data to make evaluations that could have profound impacts on people, communities, businesses, etc. Fulcrum provides a collection and editing tool for data collection for field technicians up the chain of command to administrators behind the desk. Whether your interest is in adding information to your database or just verifying what already exists, Fulcrum is the solution.

Using iTunes File Sharing to Add Custom Maps

One of the powerful features of Fulcrum is the ability to go completely offline and still be able to collect data. To augment this capability, we wanted to be able to access offline tile basemaps to use as reference when collecting data in the field. Using the MBTiles map format for Fulcrum offline maps lets users create their own custom base layers to use as a backdrop, and the format is portable, fast, and gaining traction as an industry standard. MBTiles maps can be generated using TileMill, a free map design studio app created by our friends at Mapbox. They provide excellent documentation on how to build gorgeous maps.

Creating Offline Maps for Fulcrum using MOBAC

When we started building Fulcrum, offline capability was one of the core features we built into the software. We’ve put a lot of work into making the mobile app work completely offline, including offline basemaps, a feature I’d like to discuss in this post. Creating offline basemaps is a complex subject and worthy of several blog posts on it’s own, but I wanted to talk about MOBAC — a tool that allows you to create Fulcrum-compatible MBTiles basemaps from some common online sources like MapQuest Open, [OpenStreetMap],(http://www.openstreetmap.org/) and CloudMade.

Fulcrum 1.4 Update for iOS

Fulcrum 1.4 for iOS is now live on the App Store, and it includes some nice updates to make it even more powerful for field data collection applications.

Using the Fulcrum Ruby API gem

In the last few months we’ve had a lot of interest from developers wanting to build connectors and integrations from their own apps to the Fulcrum platform — to do things like publishing maps from data collected in their Fulcrum accounts, and import data from their own databases to update in the field. We just published our Fulcrum Ruby API gem on GitHub, giving Ruby developers an easy set of tools for interacting with the Fulcrum API in their applications. We’re currently using this gem in some of our own apps and projects, and thought it would be great to open it up to other developers.

Fulcrum for Android released

We’re excited to announce that Fulcrum for Android is now available on the Google Play store. This fantastic platform for creating your own custom mobile data collection apps is now open to a much wider market of data collectors.

Fulcrum for iPad and Some New Features

Over the last few months, we’ve had a lot of inquiries about building an iPad version of Fulcrum, so that data collection teams can make efficient use of the larger form-factor displays for more involved mobile data collection projects, instead of being limited by the iPhone’s small size and interface.

The Fulcrum developer API

Fulcrum API public release
We just wrapped up the first public release of our API, opening up the Fulcrum platform and mobile app to developers that want to integrate Fulcrum into their own platforms or databases. The API has existed from the beginning of Fulcrum’s development as a communication endpoint for the mobile app, and we’ve added some new functionality to allow complete writing and reading of data to and from your Fulcrum account via the API. We’ve also extended the documentation pages to cover the API endpoints, with examples and descriptions of how to use each. All that’s required to get started on hacking with the API is to login with your Fulcrum account and go to your user profile page. You’ll see a link at the bottom to the settings where you can generate an API key.

There’s an app for that!

Mobile apps have had profound impacts on the lives of users and consumers. Smartphone and tablet apps have become the social norm for accessing news, social network feeds, and essentially tethering individuals to their interests. Businesses today, driven by competition, pour enormous investments into the development of mobile apps to be operational on the frontier of the possible. It is expected that by 2014, more than 30 billion application downloads would occur and result to nearly $40 billion annual revenue.

Fulcrum for City Government Data Collection

During my tenure as an intern within a local government entity, I was engaged in numerous Geographic Information System (GIS) tasks, laying the groundwork for my appreciation of efficient government data collection tools. Reflecting on this experience, I recognize the potential impact of a platform like Fulcrum for municipal operations, particularly for enhancing projects akin to those I contributed to. Fulcrum stands out as a transformative tool, streamlining the entirety of data gathering processes while also being more cost-effective compared to traditional GPS equipment.

Fulcrum 1.2 for iPhone

Our latest version of Fulcrum for iPhone has just gone live on the App Store, and it’s bringing some great new functionality to the product. We’ve been making big strides to get Fulcrum to the place where it’ll be a fantastic data collection platform for teams working on gathering customized data out in the field.

Fulcrum as a Platform

We’re making rapid progress in all areas of developing on Fulcrum and we are excited to see the level of interest from around the world.  We’ve got potential partners wanting to develop private-label apps powered by Fulcrum as well as a growing collection of DIY users taking the power of Fulcrum in directions we had not imagined just a few months ago.  This is all very exciting.  On top of that, we’re rolling out the latest iPhone version later this month (the iOS Universal edition as well).  We’re a tad behind on Android but I’m confident it will be at parity with iOS by mid-year 2012.

Fulcrum at the Esri Federal GIS Conference

Later this week we’ll be at the Esri Federal GIS Conference showcasing Fulcrum, along with some other Spatial Networks capabilities and data to a host of federal agency representatives, NGOs, GIS professionals, and others.

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