How to choose the right GIS survey application for your needs?

Shaurya Poddar
October 9, 2023
5 mins to read
geographical information system application for accurate geospatial data

A GIS survey application is a software tool that enables users to collect, analyze, and manage geospatial data. Geographical Information System (GIS) technology has revolutionized the way data is collected and utilized in various industries, including environmental management, urban planning, and natural resource exploration.

GIS survey applications help organizations streamline their data collection processes by providing user-friendly interfaces, advanced mapping capabilities, and efficient data management systems. By using these applications, businesses can make informed decisions based on accurate spatial data.

One example of a GIS survey application is Grid. It allows users to create customized surveys with different types of questions, such as multiple choice, text input, and photo capture. It also supports the use of external devices, such as GPS receivers, to enhance the accuracy of collected data.

Another popular GIS survey application is Fulcrum, which offers a range of features for data collection, including offline capabilities, data syncing, and customizable forms. This application is widely used in fieldwork scenarios, such as environmental monitoring, asset management, and disaster response.

What is a GIS Survey Application?

A GIS survey application is specifically designed to collect geospatial data in the field. It allows users to record geographical coordinates, capture photos, and collect attribute data using mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets. The collected data can be stored, analyzed, and visualized using the application's built-in tools.

GIS survey applications are essential for conducting surveys, assessing infrastructure, managing natural resources, and planning development projects. They provide a digital platform for capturing data that can be easily integrated with other GIS software systems and databases for further analysis.

For example, in environmental management, GIS survey applications are used to collect data on species distribution, habitat quality, and pollution levels. This information helps organizations monitor and protect sensitive ecosystems, identify areas of concern, and develop effective conservation strategies.

In urban planning, GIS survey applications are used to gather data on population density, land use patterns, and transportation networks. This data is crucial for designing efficient and sustainable cities, optimizing infrastructure development, and improving quality of life for residents.

Importance of GIS in Data Collection

GIS technology plays a crucial role in data collection by providing a spatial context to various types of information. By capturing data with a geographic reference, organizations can gain insights into spatial patterns, relationships, and trends that would otherwise remain hidden.

Using a GIS survey application allows for more efficient data collection in the field. Users can collect data in real-time, reducing data entry errors and enabling immediate feedback on data quality. Additionally, GIS survey applications often provide offline data collection capabilities, allowing users to work in remote areas without internet connectivity.

Furthermore, GIS technology enables data integration and analysis, allowing organizations to combine geospatial data with other datasets to gain a comprehensive understanding of complex issues. For example, in disaster management, GIS survey applications can be used to collect data on affected areas, assess damages, and coordinate emergency response efforts.

In conclusion, GIS survey applications are powerful tools that enable organizations to collect, analyze, and manage geospatial data effectively. By leveraging the capabilities of these applications, businesses can make informed decisions, improve operational efficiency, and contribute to sustainable development.

Key Features to Look for in a GIS Survey Application

When selecting a GIS survey application, it's essential to consider your specific requirements and the features that will best support your organization's goals. Here are key features to look for:

1. Data Collection and Management

A robust GIS survey application should provide intuitive data collection tools that allow users to capture different types of data, such as points, lines, and polygons. This means that whether you need to collect information about specific locations, draw boundaries, or trace routes, the application should offer the necessary tools to do so.

But data collection is just the beginning. The application should also offer efficient data management capabilities, including the ability to edit, update, and validate data in the field. This means that you should be able to make changes to the collected data, ensuring its accuracy and completeness. Additionally, the application should provide data validation rules, data dictionaries, and data synchronization options to ensure data accuracy and consistency.

Furthermore, the application should support data import and export functionalities for seamless integration with other systems. This means that you should be able to easily bring in data from external sources and export data to be used in other applications or platforms.

2. Mapping and Visualization Capabilities

Mapping and visualization are key components of any GIS survey application. The application should provide interactive mapping tools that allow users to visualize collected data on a map in real-time. This means that you should be able to see the data you have collected represented on a map, giving you a visual understanding of the information.

Advanced mapping capabilities can greatly enhance data analysis and decision-making. Look for features such as custom basemaps, layer transparency, and thematic mapping. Custom basemaps allow you to choose the underlying map imagery that best suits your needs, while layer transparency allows you to adjust the visibility of different layers on the map. Thematic mapping enables you to represent data using different colors or symbols, making it easier to identify patterns or trends.

Furthermore, the application should support spatial query and analysis functionalities. This means that you should be able to perform operations such as distance calculation, buffer zone creation, and overlay operations. These tools enable users to extract meaningful insights from their geospatial data, allowing for more informed decision-making.

3. Integration with Other Systems

Consider whether the GIS survey application seamlessly integrates with your organization's existing GIS software systems and databases. Integration capabilities are crucial for data exchange and interoperability.

The application should support common data formats, such as shapefiles and geodatabases, making it easier to work with data from different sources. Additionally, it should provide options for direct integration with popular GIS platforms, such as ArcGIS and QGIS. This means that you should be able to easily connect the survey application with your existing GIS software, allowing for a smooth workflow and data sharing between the two systems.

Furthermore, the application should offer APIs or web services for easy integration with other business systems, such as asset management or customer relationship management (CRM) applications. This means that you should be able to connect the survey application with other software used in your organization, enabling data exchange and collaboration across different departments or teams.

By considering these key features, you can ensure that the GIS survey application you choose meets your organization's specific needs and supports your goals effectively.

Assessing Your Specific Needs

Before choosing a GIS survey application, it's important to assess your specific needs and requirements. Consider the following factors:

1. Identifying Your Project Requirements

Determining your project requirements is crucial to find a GIS survey application that meets your specific needs. Consider the type of data you need to collect, the level of accuracy required, and any specialized tools or workflows that your project demands.

For example, if you're conducting a wildlife survey, you may need an application that supports tracking animal movements or has built-in habitat modeling capabilities. On the other hand, if you're conducting a utility mapping project, you may require an application that supports capturing attributes for pipes or cables.

Additionally, it's important to consider the scale of your project. Are you working on a small-scale project that only requires basic data collection and analysis, or do you need a more robust application that can handle large-scale projects with complex data integration and analysis requirements?

2. Evaluating Your Budget

When selecting a GIS survey application, it's important to consider your budget. The cost of GIS survey applications varies depending on the features and functionalities they offer. There are both free and paid options available, each with their own set of limitations and capabilities.

Consider not only the upfront cost but also any ongoing fees, such as licensing or subscription costs. It's important to strike a balance between your budget constraints and the features that are critical to your project's success.

Furthermore, it's worth exploring if there are any open-source GIS survey applications available that can meet your needs. Open-source software can often provide cost-effective solutions without compromising on functionality.

3. Considering Your Team's Technical Skills

Analyze your team's technical skills and expertise when choosing a GIS survey application. Ensure that the application you select is user-friendly and provides adequate support and training resources.

If your team is already familiar with a specific GIS software platform, choosing an application that aligns with that platform can minimize the learning curve and increase overall productivity. However, if your team is new to GIS, it may be beneficial to choose an application that offers comprehensive training materials and support to help them quickly get up to speed.

Additionally, consider the compatibility of the GIS survey application with your team's existing hardware and software infrastructure. It's important to ensure that the application can seamlessly integrate with your current systems to avoid any compatibility issues or data transfer challenges.

By carefully assessing your specific needs, evaluating your budget, and considering your team's technical skills, you can make an informed decision when choosing a GIS survey application that best suits your project requirements.

Comparing Different GIS Survey Applications

Once you have assessed your needs and requirements, it's important to compare different GIS survey applications to find the best fit for your organization. Consider the following factors:

1. Reviewing User Ratings and Reviews

Research user ratings and reviews to gauge the satisfaction and usability of different GIS survey applications. Online platforms and forums dedicated to GIS technology, such as Geospatial World or GIS Stack Exchange, often provide insights from users who have firsthand experience with various applications.

Pay attention to user feedback regarding data collection efficiency, feature stability, customer support, and overall user experience. This information can help you narrow down your options and identify the applications that align with your requirements.

For example, one user on Geospatial World praised a certain GIS survey application for its intuitive interface and robust data analysis capabilities. They mentioned that the application's customer support team was responsive and helpful in resolving any issues that arose during their project. On the other hand, a user on GIS Stack Exchange expressed frustration with another application's limited customization options and slow performance when dealing with large datasets.

2. Understanding the Pros and Cons of Each Application

Every GIS survey application has its own strengths and weaknesses. Understanding the pros and cons of each option is crucial in making an informed decision.

Consider the scalability of the application, as well as its ability to handle large datasets or high user loads. Assess the application's performance on mobile devices, ensuring it is optimized for the operating system and hardware you are using.

For instance, one GIS survey application may excel in its ability to handle massive datasets, making it ideal for organizations dealing with extensive geospatial data. However, this same application may have a steeper learning curve compared to others, requiring more training for users to fully utilize its advanced features.

On the other hand, another GIS survey application may have a user-friendly interface and be more accessible to users with limited technical expertise. However, it may lack certain advanced functionalities that are crucial for specific projects or industries.

Furthermore, consider the compatibility of each application with other software and systems your organization uses. Integration with existing tools and workflows can significantly streamline your data collection and analysis processes.

By thoroughly understanding the pros and cons of each GIS survey application, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your organization's needs and goals.

Making the Final Decision

After comparing all the available options, it's time to make the final decision. Consider the following factors:

1. Testing the Application

Before committing to a GIS survey application, perform a trial or pilot project to test its functionalities, user interface, and overall performance. This will enable you to evaluate whether the application meets your expectations and aligns with your project requirements.

Consider involving key stakeholders and potential end-users in the testing process to gather their feedback and ensure buy-in from all parties.

2. Considering Long-Term Support and Updates

When selecting a GIS survey application, evaluate the provider's track record in terms of customer support, product updates, and enhancements. Ensure that the provider offers ongoing technical support, documentation, and access to training resources that will assist your team throughout the project's lifecycle.

Additionally, inquire about the frequency of software updates and whether they address user feedback and industry trends. Up-to-date software ensures that your organization remains at the forefront of GIS technology.

3. Making a Cost-Benefit Analysis

Finally, conduct a cost-benefit analysis to assess the overall value of the GIS survey application. Consider the return on investment (ROI) and long-term benefits that the application will provide to your organization.

Take into account factors such as increased data accuracy, improved efficiency, and the potential for cost savings or revenue generation. By weighing the benefits against the costs, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your organization's goals and budget.

In conclusion, choosing the right GIS survey application requires careful consideration of your specific needs, evaluating key features, comparing different options, and conducting thorough testing. By following these steps, you can select an application that empowers your organization to collect accurate geospatial data, make informed decisions, and achieve your project objectives.

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Shaurya Poddar
Helping miners and explorers be efficient | Founder @ WorkOnGrid, talks about #growthmindset, #nocodelowcode, #enterprisetech, and #operationsmanagement‍
“Using Grid to track drill program progress and day to day expenditures has allowed VR Resources to make better decisions more quickly. The highly customizable and elegant interface allows me to track and manage all aspects of our field work and it’s clear after just a few weeks that the possibilities are nearly endless. Cost tracking estimates were consistently within expected variance of invoices received giving me further confidence in managing agile drill programs. Further the development team and customer support have been top notch!”
Justin J. Daley
PGeo, MSc, Vice President Exploration
VR Resources
VR Resources
“Grid has been extremely helpful in changing the course of multiple operations, here at U-Solar. We started with one module for Materials Management, and have now adopted Grid for 3-4 more processes, all of which have been smooth and quick to implement.”
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