Field Day

For those of us stuck behind a computer, it is always nice to get out in the field every now and then.

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the North Bay GIS User Group‘s Field Day meeting where four great companies featured their data collection (and dissemination) tools. I thought I’d do a recap just so that I would remember all the cool products and stuff I learned.

There were four presenters at this year’s Field Day: Mapistry, Canogle, Sonoma Land Trust, and TopCon/Engineering Supply Company.


mapistryI met Ryan Janoch, CEO of Mapistry, a new cloud based mapping software. He said he started his company for one reason: so you could do one thing: make a simple map – quickly.

Now, while I have tons of experience making quick, meaningful maps with sophisticated software like ESRI’s ArcMap, others do not. Nor might they have access to that fancy software and a ready database.

No, instead, project managers, specialists, report writers, whomever often have to rely on that one GIS Specialist who’s endlessly busy and pulled in a thousand directions to make their map happen. If you have me on call (which you can, you know, call me), then you have nothing to worry about. I’ll take care of all your mapping needs. But if you don’t have me and all you want is to create a simply map with a few points on it, check out Mapistry’s online service. At the moment, it is free and it just might meet your needs. Plus, you can use it to collect data out in the field.


For those of you on a tight budget, Canogle might be a service out of your league. However, as part of an integrated trail interpretive project, this might just be the thing you are looking for.

Have you ever been walking along a trail and reached one of those wooden boxes that are supposed to contain some interesting facts and/or history on a place only to find that it’s empty or a pack-rat has taken all the brochures and turned it into a nest? Cute critters but you’re out that information. While I’m often left feeling richer after a hike, leaving one of those interpretive sites without the information always makes me feel like I’ve missed out on something.

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could pull out your phone, click a button, and the voice of information fills you in on all you might have missed?

Well, that’s what Canoge can do for any trail. If you manage the interpretive programs for a park, reserve, or any land with interpretative trails, check out what Canogle can do to augment all your great interpretative programs. They provide a service and mobile application that will integrate a map and interpretative information, either on the go or pre-downloaded so all your tech-savvy hikers will never miss a single fact.

Open Data Kit

Joseph Kinyon, GIS Manager for the Sonoma Land Trust, came out to show off all that he’s done with the Open Data Kit (or ODK) suite of mobile mapping tools. Anyone with a bit of time can customize this free software to create data collection forms, upload it to a mobile device for on-the-go data collection, and aggregate the collected data on a server.

The major advantage to this open source software is that it is free. You can use it on any device and you can create data entry forms that are meaningful and pertinent to your project.

The biggest draw back?

It’s not exactly (low-tech) user friendly. If you have some coding experience, you can be up and running in a week. If not, then you are not likely to try this. But for the adventurous (and broke), this is a tool you might want to consider if you are willing to accept the variable accuracy of whatever mobile device you load it on to.

Mr. Kinyon’s example of recording roadkill (yeah, there’s meaningful data in roadkills!), I was impressed with the complexity and ease of use of the tool. I might be using it myself in future projects.

TopCon – Engineering Supply Company

Last, but not least we had a representative from Engineering Supply Company come out to show off a few of TopCon‘s latest GPS/data collection products.

Yes, I drooled.

GMS_2_webI’ve long wanted to upgrade my 10+ year old Trimble Pro XRS unit (a great unit, but it is just too big and heavy for my current needs). And though I’ve drooled over some of Trimble’s latest offerings, their sticker price has often squashed my appetite for a new unit. I figured since TopCon provided pretty much the same great GPS product (almost the same color!), I thought their prices were the same. I wasn’t given a definite price on the spot, but it seems TopCon’s price ranges sounded a lot more palatable than I had previously thought.

I especially liked the GMS-2, a small, handheld, meter-level accuracy GPS unit. It has an integrated photo capture tool and the on-board firmware seemed much more intuitive than TerraSync. Might Christmas come early for Digital Mapping Solutions?


If you have any questions about any of the products featured, please ask or click through the links above to visit each vendor.

Thanks for reading.