Tag Archives: iPhone

Planning a Field Trip Using ArcGIS Online

I was invited to give a keynote address at the 2011 GI-Forum at the University of Salzburg, and as it was my first trip to Austria, I wanted to maximize my time there by creating a map in ArcGIS Online. I have always used maps as the central planning tool for any trips that I take for a conference or to gather data with students, but my old method was to print an online map of the area I was interested in, and draw points with pen on that map that I was interested in visiting.

The ArcGIS Online method has several clear advantages. First, I can save the map and later add content to my map after my trip has already begun, as long as I can connect to the Internet. Second, I can hyperlink images, videos, or informative text to each point, line, or area that I create. Third, I can switch between different basemaps such as topographic, street, imagery, and others, or add content such as real-time weather, geology, soils, or other layers. Fourth, I can change the scale that I wish to examine the area with, and I can also change the symbols for the content I am adding. Fifth, I can share that map with others at the conference or students I am working with in the field. Sixth, I can always print these maps if I wanted to take them with me in the field, but even better, I can access these maps on my smartphone using the ArcGIS Online app that I have already downloaded.

You can find my map by accessing http://esriurl.com/giforumsalzburg. The rich basemap content included buildings, which made it easy for me to add the points I needed. I also added a few lines and areas representing additional places I want to visit if I have the time.

Part of the map for the GI-Forum that I created on ArcGIS Online.

The ArcGIS Online map as it appears on my smartphone.

How might you use ArcGIS Online to plan your next field trip to a conference or to collect data?

- Joseph Kerski, Education Manager

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Comparing a GPS vs. SmartPhone, Part 2 of 2

Recently, I wrote about my comparison of the horizontal position obtained from a consumer-grade GPS receiver versus that obtained on a SmartPhone. Specifically, I compared a Garmin GPS 76 to an iPhone 4. The position recorded on my iPhone was consistently tens-of-meters off from the position recorded with my GPS receiver. Thus far, it appeared that my position as recorded by my GPS receiver is far more accurate than that from my iPhone. However, this was not the end of the story.

In the field, I switched to the map view on my phone, and the blue dot marking my current position was not hundreds of meters away, but just a few meters from where I was standing. I took a photograph here and emailed it to my PicasaWeb account using the procedures I wrote about in a previous blog column.

This photograph was geotagged at 39.680000 north latitude, 104.962667 west longitude, which turned out to be only 6.21 meters away (this time to the southwest) from my position as recorded by the GPS receiver. Interesting! This means that the SmartPhone was indeed recording an accurate position, but perhaps the app used to capture that position may have compromised that position.

The map I created from ArcGIS Explorer Online below shows my hyperlinked photograph very near to the position where I conducted the experiment, and several blocks to the northwest is the position recorded by the default compass utility in my phone.

Zooming in, Pushpin A at the end of the green line points to where I stood at the brick wall on campus. Pushpin B, 5.23 meters north-northwest, is the position recorded with my GPS receiver, and Pushpin C, 6.21 meters to the west-southwest, is the geotagged position recorded in the photograph I took at that spot.

Your results will vary with the tools, including the types of WebGIS, GPS, and SmartPhone used. For example, a higher-end GPS such as a Trimble or TopCon will surely provide better horizontal accuracy. Also, would my iPhone position have been any better if I had used a GPS app instead of the default compass tool in my phone?

All of these technologies will continue to undergo rapid change, providing ample opportunity for further experiments. These types of experiments connect mathematics, GIScience (including discussion on datums, coordinate systems, and data quality), and geography. How might you turn these activities into teachable moments and activities?

- Joseph Kerski, Education Manager

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Map Your Photos With ArcGIS Explorer Online—Automating the Process

Hyperlinking photographs, text, and video to locations where field data is collected in a GIS environment is becoming easier than ever. In an earlier blog column, I discussed a method of emailing photographs to myself from my smartphone and then uploading them to an online archive such as PicasaWeb, Flickr, or WindowsLive. Then I hyperlinked these images using maps created with ArcGIS Explorer Online (http://explorer.arcgis.com). This method eliminated the step of cabling the photographs from a camera to the computer and then transferring them to a designated folder on the computer’s hard disk, saving valuable instructional time by automating the process for everyone in class.

However, this method requires me to physically go to my computer and transfer the photographs I had emailed to myself to the online archive. Can the process be fully automated so that you can email your photographs directly to a website while you are in the field, and then once in the lab, link to that website inside ArcGIS Explorer Online? Absolutely!

First, choose a photo and video archiving service that allows you to email photographs directly into a folder that allows public access. Second, access your service and make your email “dropbox” folder public. Third, find a direct link to your photo that you can use for your hyperlink. In the example below, I used the feature available in most smart phones—the geotagged latitude-longitude coordinates—assigned to the photograph I took at Mt Kilimanjaro.

I accessed ArcGIS Explorer Online (http://explorer.arcgis.com), used the search tool to find the latitude and longitude, and added a pushpin and note at that point. I added a hyperlink to the photograph I had taken there, stored in my PicasaWeb dropbox.

I then saved my ArcGIS Explorer Online map so that I could access it from any computer, anytime, and shared it so that you can access it too! This entire process took only a few minutes.

This process can be automated even further by using a tool that automatically reads the latitude-longitude coordinates embedded in the header of your photographs and maps them at their correct locations on the map. The landscape of using imagery and video within online and desktop GIS is changing by the month—even by the week. The best way to keep up to date with the latest tools and methods in geotagging is to visit my colleague Tom Baker’s geotagging blog (http://edgis.org/geotag).

Choose methods that are most appropriate for your instructional goals and the technologies at your disposal. How might you be able to effectively use geotagging and GIS hyperlinking in your own instruction?

- Joseph Kerski, ESRI Education Manager

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Fun with GIS #73: iPad-iving into Ecoregions [#iPad #scichat]

A key concept for students of nature is a bioregion, or ecological region. Youth hoping for any job in the outdoors relating to nature (wildlife biologist, forester, park ranger, oceanographer, etc) must dive into the concept. The Wikipedia description — “an ecologically and geographically defined area smaller than an ecozone and larger than an ecosystem” — can be a challenge to grasp for youth with limited experience in biodiversity, landscapes, and principles of geography. But students can build knowledge digitally, thanks to data from the USDA Forest Service posted on ArcGIS Online. (Shown here is an iPad, but any device with a web browser would work.)

In the search bar of ArcGIS Online, type “USA Ecological Subregions” (or just click here). Several interesting looking results appear, but look for one which includes the descriptor “MAP SERVICE,” and click “Details” (or just click here). After reading the description, click the thumbnail to open the map in ArcGIS.com, and click the Legend button.

One of the most powerful concepts of geography is “scale,” and by zooming in, you can see the “ecological divisions” resolving into more finely grained “provinces,” “sections,” and “subsections.” Using the Identify tool, you can click on a feature and find out about the feature under investigation. (Move the mouse up and down in the popup window to highlight the identified region.)

But how do you keep track of where you are? Clicking the “Show Contents” button, you could toggle the checkmark off and on, but adjusting the layer transparency lets you wander the map more freely.

Each of these geographies has characteristic flora and fauna, influenced by an array of factors. Students of nature working in a given geography need to see the different resolutions of regions, investigate what distinguishes one area from another, and use this knowledge to help ensure appropriate activities in appropriate places while conserving and supporting critical biodiversity. Such wisdom can begin to grow even at a young age with understanding of these geographic patterns. As conditions change globally and regionally, this will remain a critical channel of STEM education for years to come.

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, Co-Manager, Esri Schools Program

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Fun With GIS #56: Getting Started with ArcGIS.com on an iPhone

My last column walked users thru the new ArcGIS.com mapping environment on a simple web browser. Users of the ArcGIS for iOS application on Apple’s app store can use this on an iPhone or iPad. There’s one key trick with this little app. To discover it, let’s use the same package of map layers from my last column: 10 layers of US demographics.

Open your ArcGIS for iOS app. If you’re signed in to your ArcGIS.com account, great; if not, no problem, because I have shared the map to be visible to anyone, and it can only be found with a search.

My directions asked users of the browser-based ArcGIS.com to do a generic search for “usa demographics schools”. But where do you do a generic search in the iPhone app? It’s that little magnifying glass in the upper right that opens the world of ArcGIS.com to you. Tap the magnifying glass, then type in “usa demographics schools”. You’ll get one result:

Tap the map, and you’ll open up a miniature version of the same map series as in my last column. Now you can explore on your iPhone, using the little circled “i” in the lower right corner to switch layers, as described last time.

The iPhone may not be the perfect hardware device for teaching in a classroom setting, but it’s handy having something powerful to look at wherever you go. With some careful planning, you can engage students with specific data and help them think analytically about a vast array of topics, at scales global to micro. This can even help the many iOS-using fans of STEM education to understand that STEM content typically has a geographic context within which it can be understood.

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, Co-Manager, Esri Schools Program

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