Next Steps, Modernizing Sign Inventory (with Collector for ArcGIS), Part One


The Gannett Fleming Sign Inventory team has years of experience gathering sign and road field data, and analyzing it to help clients manage and plan their work. For years, the team has relied on Esri® ArcPad's solution for field work due to its high level of customization, and familiarity our staff has with the application.

Pictured: A Gannett Fleming team member out in the field using Collector.

Pictured: A Gannett Fleming team member out in the field using Collector.

After an inventory last year, GeoDecisions’ Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, GIS staff began to question whether ArcPad was still an appropriate solution for their data collection. Reflecting our team’s curiosity to seek appropriate alternative resources that best suite our goal of providing reliable and quality products, we explored potential alternatives to best accommodate our needs.

Reviewing our Existing Solution

The first step our team took, when considering a new solution for gathering field data, was to outline ArcPad’s pros and cons to compare with newly released mobile collection solutions. There were two key areas we felt that our current ArcPad solution had that we wanted to solve with a new solution; reducing the setup and deployment time for newer inventories and being able to use a smart phone or tablet devices instead of the cumbersome hardware we were currently using.

Migration from ArcPad to Collector for ArcGIS

From our initial research and testing, we felt that Collector for ArcGIS was our best solution because it leveraged existing Esri technology we were familiar with, and had the ability to easily setup and deploy forms for in field use. As we started migrating our forms over, we realized one of the largest benefits of Collector was also one of its biggest limitations - its reliance on ArcGIS Online/Portal and lack of customization. Forms were easily prepared; however, customized functionally that the sign inventory team previously had with ArcPad, was no longer available.

One of the biggest advantages of ArcPad was being able to have responses from one question control behavior of subsequent fields, which is typical in most intelligent forms with conditional/cascading fields. For example, if a user selects a square sign shape, they will enter only its height because width is automatically populated with the same value. Collector possesses limited functionality when it comes to conditional fields, so we designed the forms to accordingly.

Screen shot from Collector App.

Since Collector inherits most functions of a file geodatabase, the use of subtypes allows one level of conditional fields. By assigning subtype fields, it allowed default values and domains to be controlled by a single field. Although this did not allow the same level of detail as ArcPad, it provided us with a framework to work within.

Moving Forward With Collector

By leveraging subtypes, teaching users to follow a new workflow and relying more on post-processing, we were able to reduce concerns with Collector for ArcGIS. We were then able to finalize choosing to move forward with Collector for ArcGIS for field collection.

Stay tuned for Part Two -  we will go over modifications we made with Collector, and what we learned about regarding how to change it for our specific needs!...