Although we do not yet have our own platform for field data collection, the Map Mavin sales team has taken the time to review a variety of mobile data collection platforms to pick the one that works best with our system. After several weeks of reviewing a multitude of apps, we narrowed it down to our four favorites: iFormBuilder, MapIt GIS, SW Maps and Fulcrum. Below you will find a review of each of these mobile apps as well as our Editor’s Choice with directions on exporting spatial data from the app to Map Mavin.
Cost: Free with limited features, $6,000 for base subscription, $10,000 for full subscription
Pros: With iFormBuilder users can collect field data offline or where there is spotty cell coverage. They can also cache data locally and use webhooks to auto-send data to other systems and/or services. iFormBuilder allows you to create custom data collection forms (even adding in your company logo) with embedded business logic and calculations. Its long list of features include advanced form building; database, API, software and hardware integration; white label customization (i.e. branding); and barcode scanning. Data can be exported directly from the app or via the cloud in a variety of formats (i.e. shapefile, Json, CSV and Excel), however users must pay to access this feature. iFormBuilder is also available in multiple languages and is usable on both iOS and Android platforms.
Cons: The major downside of iFormBuilder is the cost as you must pay for the full version to access all its features. In addition, the pricing structure is unclear and seems to be outlandishly expensive compared to other similar applications. On top of an unclear product activation process, the consensus among reviewers is that iFormBuilder is not user friendly. Many people claimed it never fully functioned for them and was full of bugs, plus data loss seemed to be quite common.
Cost: Free with limited features, $14.99 for a pro extension
Pros: This application can export data directly from your mobile device, as well as access MapBox basemaps when offline. Export formats include shapefile, CSV, KML, GeoJson, DXF, GPX and ArcGISJson, as well as an option to export directly to Dropbox. MapIt GIS supports four different methods of data collection: GPS location, map cursor location, tracking and point projection using angle and distance. Grouping data into layers and modifying attributes is relatively simple in the app; as is recording multiple points, lines or polygons in one layer and creating clusters. Available basemaps include Google, Bing, Open Street Maps and MapBox. Overall MapIt GIS performs well and seems stable.
Cons: The number one MapIt GIS user complaint (including mine) is cost, in that you must pay $14.99 for the pro extension to use many of its features, including data export; use of offline maps; access to different data collection forms; creation of polygons; and much more. Although the application was apparently translated to several languages, it is unclear how to change between them. In addition, it is not obvious that you can only save basic points and lines in the free version. This application is unfortunately only available for Android devices.
Cost: Completely Free!
Pros: SW Maps allows users to add multiple WMTS, TMS, XYZ or WMS base layers and cache tiles for offline use. You can export and easily share recorded data or features that you have drawn as a CSV, KMZ or shapefile, as well as attach photos to KMZs. With SW Maps, users can record location data and metadata in order to create specific site surveys; it is also easy to draw features, measure distances and add labels to a map. You are able to view shapefiles within the application. SW Maps is relatively easy to use to draw features and export them, however its core functionality does not extend far beyond this. A huge bonus of SW Maps is the price, and that even comes without having to view advertisements as most free apps force you into.
Cons: When I tried to export data directly from SW Maps, the application did not give me any option of where to save the file, so I was unable to locate it on my smart phone. This may be an issue only for the Pixel 3, however I was still able to export the files by sharing them via email. There are only two available base maps, Google Maps and Open Street Maps; and SW Maps can only be downloaded on Android devices. A huge downside of SW Maps is that the data collection attribute fields are limited and there is no way to download or create specific survey forms to fill out.
Fulcrum [The Editor’s Choice]
Cost: $28/month for 20GB storage, $38/month for 100GB storage
Pros: Our Editor’s Choice for a mobile data collection app is Fulcrum as it not only has a variety of useful features, but it is also easy to use and is well liked by reviewers. To start, it functions well as a tool for offline data collection, and has efficient import and export options that are integrated with a web-based application. Data collection in Fulcrum is very flexible as users can pick from pre-made forms supporting a wide variety of applications, such as tree health and air pollution surveys. Fulcrum also works on iOS, Android and even in a browser. The app has a variety of impressive features including monitoring of contributor productivity; creating data events and custom survey forms; choosing team roles; real-time tracking; API integration; secure data storage; and much more.
Cons: When it comes to functionality there is little to complain about with Fulcrum. The app does lack a variety of base maps as it is limited to Google Maps. Also, users cannot export directly from their mobile device, instead they must login to the web application in order to access the files. But as most users are exporting their data for use on a computer, it makes almost no difference that the files must be accessed in a browser. While you have to pay to use all of Fulcrum’s features, you are able to at least test them out during the free trial.
Exporting Spatial Data From Fulcrum: Fulcrum is praised in its reviews for its versatility and efficiency, and we could not agree more! Hence we have decided to make it our Editor’s Choice for mobile data collection and subsequent integration with Map Mavin. You can follow these four steps to export spatial data collected with Fulcrum into Map Mavin:
- Choose an application/form to record your spatial data and attributes.
- Now capture the data, save it, and click the refresh circle at the top of your mobile device’s screen to upload it to the web application.
- Login on to https://web.fulcrumapp.com/ and either go to your exports page, export directly from the button next to your application, or click download data from the application’s dashboard view. You can then choose from various download formats that include CSV, Excel, shapefile, KMZ and GeoJson. Map Mavin accepts shapefile, KMZ and GeoJson so we suggest using one of these formats.
- Once you have exported your data from Fulcrum, zip up those layers and load them into your Map Mavin account!
Videos of Fulcrum In Action
With Fulcrum, it’s easy to capture spatial data in the field and add in survey notes.
In this video, we show you how to use the Fulcrum web application to download data you captured in the field.
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