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How mobile phones can change the way of surveying and mapping

Earlier pencil and paper were considered as the preferred tools for field data collection in many industries, but with the expansion in advanced technology mobile phones have replaced the antediluvian method of mapping and surveying. The smartphones have now come into the field with land Surveyors because of which application developers, service providers and hardware manufacturers are bringing geospatial technologies and users together.

How GPS technology enables smartphones for mapping

GPS first appeared on a mobile phone in 1999 and since then it has opened the floodgates for new ways to use geographic data. As applications developers embraced the new capabilities, the concept of location-based services quickly took hold.

Today, there are thousands of smartphones and tablet apps that use location data supplied by a radio chip that allows them to receive signals from satellite navigation systems and determine their location. The quality of the chips used in smartphones may vary, and data accuracy and performance could vary as well. Devices with GPS chips can work autonomously, off the grid, and without an Internet connection, while devices marked with “A-GPS only” (Assisted GPS) requires a network data connection to work in a proper manner. A-GPS data can help autonomous GPS chips perform better by pre-caching data for better performance. For most mapping applications to work as expected, the user is assumed to have a smartphone with an autonomous GPS chip.

Process of using GPS technology through smartphones

Today, even a common man can use GPS system through its smartphone for mapping as smartphones nowadays are used as GPS surveying tools sometimes with its antenna receiver that have preset control points of previously verified and surveyed locations.  A person can use them to create a grid and include this in its measurement of the survey point they are measuring.

After that he can site the instrument to locate the receiver from his control GPS unit, measure and plot the survey using the system, adjusting or calibrating if necessary. Then he can move the receiver to the next plot point, and so on, to complete its survey, depending on the area he need to cover and the number of points he is including in his survey.

There are a lot of mapping applications available for most smartphones in the market that enables a user to carry out a detailed and accurate survey like Stellar Data Recovery, Survey-It Pro, Survey in the field, Land Surveyor, Land Surveying tool etc.

However, location apps cannot fulfill all the requirements of professional users like land Surveyors and high accuracy is there biggest and foremost drawback. Even in good condition, consistently achieving accuracy of better than a few meters is beyond the reach of these apps, installed in smartphones. A user or developer who knows how accuracy can increase the performance can easily understand this problem. So, they move towards GNSS technology which is far more capable and convenient.

GNSS technology for accurate surveying

GNSS technology has played an impactful role through smartphone in collecting data digitally. Trimble keeps on introducing new application for field surveying and GIS data collection. Likewise, it introduced a software-defined GNSS receiver in 2016 with a name Trimble Catalyst, that works with selected Android mobile handhelds, smartphones and tablets. The software-defined GNSS solutions include software running on the handheld, a small digital antenna and a subscription to the Catalyst service. The use of Catalyst is very effective as with it, users can obtain positions in real time with accuracy ranging from meter-level down to centimeters.

The Trimble Penmap is another application to address the needs of organizations that require a value-packed, flexible survey system.  It provides professional surveyors and field workers with an easy-to-use map-based interface to manage features and attributes for high-accuracy GIS and complete survey documentation. Some organizations are already taking experience of this new technology.

Prominent Examples of companies using GNSS Technology

The most suitable example is of a New Zealand based firm Augview which is going a step beyond GIS data collection. The organization is blending positioning with 3D modeling to produce infield augmented reality. But accuracy is very important in augmented reality as it places digital objects into the view of the physical world. So, the chance to spot any errors or inconsistency increases automatically.

Another example is of the Bluesky which has completed the research project for capturing accurate 3D spatial information to innovate UK.

So, by looking these examples one can assume that in coming days mapping and surveying will be proceeded by smartphones as through various distinguished apps a user can measures distance with remarkable accuracy choosing variety of units including feet, meters and miles also in less cost and time.

Also Read: Trimble’s role in the changing face of surveying