Tell us a little about your background and some of the field work you’ve been involved in over the years.
Over the past few years I have been involved with data collection field work on many types of projects. Almost every type - from the creation of as built floor plan on site, to the mapping of sites from the building, sidewalks, streets, fencing all the way down to the utility connections. I’m also involved in the interview processes of clients for requirement analysis.
What are the challenges of field data collection when you don’t have access to a cellular or wireless network?
One of the biggest challenges when disconnected is getting and staying prepared for what may come. For all field work, I like to have as much information stored on my field machine that I can get my hands on and it also helps to keep hard copy information just in case. This way if I need to look up standards, tables, or detailed information, we have access to it. It is also great to have preloaded templates set up for a project or data fields - this way the collection goes smoother. One of the greatest challenges comes when you want to process data or start post processing for QA/QC or delivery to the home office during the collection cycle to insure what is being captured meets requirements.
You’re in the middle of the desert and have to map a military base the size of Rhode Island, without cellular coverage, wifi or any other connectivity. What technologies are you using to capture precise and complex data?
I mainly use GoRPM, AutoCAD, ESRI GIS products, Microsoft Office, and PDF for software platforms. For hardware I have used Dell convertible laptops, Motion rugged tablets, as well as iPads, Trimble GPS units, laser distance meters and even digital/analog measuring wheels. The software and hardware gives us the capability to capture data in a disconnected environment and then connect up later for post processing.
Where do you see technology evolving in field data collection and how will that enable you to work smarter, faster and more efficiently?
Over the past few years I have found the hardware is getting lighter and faster with a lot more storage capability. Battery life for the devices has also increased. For some devices the batteries last a full day in the field without having to charge. This, of course, makes it nice not to have to carry multiple batteries, car chargers, and power bricks. I have also found that more companies are offering customizable solutions for data collection. At times even the field crews can customize and/or configure the software on the fly and disconnected without having to get with programmers or IT staff to configure machines or software during the field visit. The prices for hardware and software have decreased as well, or at least there are more options available than a few years back. Makes it nice to be able to go out and collect data with more reliable equipment and customizable software without it being cost prohibitive.
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About Charles Saunders
Charles is an Assistant Director at R&K with 23 years’ experience in Real Property Facility and Site Surveys; Space Utilization Studies; Real Property Master Plan Components; Real Property Validation; Condition Assessments; GIS; and CADD. He has worked on several projects with the primary responsibility being the development of finalized vectorized derivable products and site survey lead. His responsibilities include coordination of project work efforts, data and file management, project status reporting, and scope change assessment. Additionally, he assists with the development of project specifications, documentation of methodologies and procedures, design of data collection and analysis procedures for various GIS data conversion projects. Charles spent thirteen years working with utility data conversion as well as land-base manipulation as a Project Support Analyst, GIS Project Lead and a GIS Technician prior to joining R&K in 2007.