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External GPS sources for Mappt Part 2: Mapping in the Field with RTK GNSS (survey-grade GPS)

In our last post we covered how to configure your tablet or phone to receive an external GPS signal via Bluetooth.  Here we share our experience of linking up Mappt with survey-grade RTK GNSS (Real Time Kinematic Global Navigation Satellite System) to achieve centimetre-level positional accuracy.

Utilising RTK GNSS and Mappt for centimetre-level positional accuracy

Utilising RTK GNSS and Mappt for centimetre-level positional accuracy

Achieving Survey-Grade Positional Accuracy with Mappt

Joe user asks, “Hey how can I achieve high positional accuracy with Mappt?

The short answer is, “Bluetooth to an RTK GNSS to achieve centimetre level accuracy“.

What’s GNSS?

GNSS, is the collective term for all satellite positioning systems which includes GPS (USA), BeiDou (China), GLONASS (Russia), Galileo (Europe), IRNSS (India), and QZSS (Japan).  Phones, tablets, and survey-grade systems use satellites from multiple positioning systems, thus we’re referring to these systems as GNSS (rather than GPS).

The Benefits of Using Mappt in conjunction with RTK GNSS

Mappt’s flexibility and onboard functionality helps users achieve the full benefits of high accuracy RTK GNSS while in the field.  For example when using Mappt in conjunction with RTK GNSS, users have in-field access to these mapping tools;

  • Locate and save point features with unlimited attributes
  • Thematic Mapping gives users the ability to colour code mapped information while in the field
  • Layering of data types to achieve hierarchal data structure and visualisation
  • Interactive functionality (exclusion & inclusion zone warnings) improving field safety
  • The ability to display web-based aerial/satellite imagery and other GIS information such as WMS, WMTS, & WFS
    • With a data connection, this data is continuously updated as you move to new areas
  • Offline display of high resolution aerial and satellite images (ECW, JP2)
  • Multi-user data capture & updates using MapptAir.

RTK GNSS Gear

In our previous post we detailed how to configure your mobile device to receive location information via Bluetooth.  Thanks to Mangoesmapping and Ascon Surveys both for their technical support and equipment (on loan) used to complete our trial.  We found the Emlid Reach RS RTK GNSS units (available from Mangoesmapping) suitable for this trial.

Our Field Experience

The following data was acquired in less than one hour (including setup and pack down of the RTK base unit and survey pole mounted rover unit).  Data collection in this small urban bushland was on-the-fly as point types were added as deemed necessary.  Points types collected included kerb locations, footpath limits and walking tracks.  Point types were added to our field form as necessary thus the list of point types was added to as new elements were observed.  *To save time, a dropdown list of point ID’s can be created prior to leaving for the site.  In the limited time spent onsite, three point IDs were all that was necessary.  We also utilised the geotracking utility to map in the trails crossing the site as well as to create a geofenced area at the park’s centre.  Lastly we tested Mappt’s geofence alerts feature by entering and exiting our geofenced area.  Have a look at this video showing how it works.

Mappt mobile GIS data gathering using RTK GNSS at Signal Hill, Belmont, WA

Mappt mobile GIS data gathering using RTK GNSS at Signal Hill, Belmont, WA

What we took away from the experience.

It was a simple step to download all data gathered to shape files and import them into QGIS.  We mapped in such features as the back of kerb, footpath limits, and bush tracks.  RTK GNSS units have the ability to validate/qualify positional information with an audible “Fixed” to indicate that positional information is within your specified accuracy.  Likewise when the positional information is below spec an audio warning “Float” will alert users that possibly more time at that location is needed to gain a fixed position or that trees or buildings are hampering satellite reception.  Our recommendation is to have this activated on your RTK GNSS receivers to eliminate collecting data of low positional uncertainty (occurs in areas of high tree cover and when adjacent to tall buildings) .

QGIS map showing GIS data gathered using RTK GNSS and Mappt

QGIS map showing GIS data gathered using RTK GNSS and Mappt

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External GPS sources for Mappt. Part 1: Configuration

gis_manAre you looking to improve your positional accuracy in Mappt?  

Connecting to an external Bluetooth GPS can help!

We’re often asked about improving the positional accuracy information used by Mappt.  As you may know, Mappt uses the onboard GPS from your mobile phone/tablet.  While the on-board GPS accuracy may be sufficient for some types of mapping, others require higher accuracy.  To achieve this Mappt can utilise an external Bluetooth GPS feed.  GPS devices capable of streaming positional information via Bluetooth in the NMEA format are suitable for Mappt.

As phones and tablets are designed to utilise their own integral GPS hardware, Mappt users will need to utilise a third-party application to incorporate an external Bluetooth GPS feed.  These external Bluetooth GPS streams serve to oreplace the internal GPS service to thus provide higher positional accuracy.  Android refers to these apps as Mock Location Providers since app developers often need a GPS feed for coding and testing.  One Bluetooth streaming app compatible with Mappt is Bluetooth GPS (on Google Play).

bluetooth-gps

Bluetooth GPS is available on the Google Play Store

After installing Bluetooth GPS it’s necessary to enable Developer Options, accessed via the Settings on your device.  Developer Options can be enabled by first finding the Build Number (for our device* it’s under Settings-About Tablet-Software Information) and tapping Build Number seven times.  A notification will appear to inform you that Developer Options have been enabled.  Afterwards in Developer Options (Settings-Developer Options-Debugging), users need to select Bluetooth GPS as the Mock Location Provider.

Link to Youtube Video: Settings to Enable Bluetooth

Settings to Enable Bluetooth GPS for Mappt

Then connect to the external device via Bluetooth and start Bluetooth GPS on the tablet.  From the Select Paired GPS device and connect list, choose the device and tap CONNECT.  The screen will be updated with new location parameters.  You’re now receiving location information via Bluetooth! Check out this video showing how to enable an external Bluetooth GPS for Mappt

* The configuration can vary depending on your tablet or phone.

 

 

 

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Our Sony Xperia Z2 Tablets

Our first batch of the new SONY Xperia Z2 Tablets have arrived!

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The SONY Tower

These brilliant tablets were ordered for our friends at Raindance, who will be pairing up the Z2 with Mappt to help them plan and deploy their aerial incendiary devices.

Stay tuned as we’ll be taking a closer look at how Raindance is incorporating Mappt into their pipeline to form a complete solution in a future post.

Want to know more about the SONY Xperia Z2 tablets? Check out our Z2 summary here.

Top 3 Tablets for using Mappt

When using Mappt in the field there are two main requirements.

1: Mappt

2: Awesome Android tablet

Mappt we can provide, but you will have to take care of the Tablet part. This is in fact the harder of the two tasks as there are hundreds of Android tablets to choose from. If you are like most people they will all look pretty similar so in the end it will come down to price. The cost of the device is a major factor in it being selected, but you should take a good close look before you buy. In this article we will try to aid you in this task. To select a tablet not only on it’s looks or price but also by the many other factors such as available accessories, stability, size, weight and most importantly durability for field use.

Tablet 1

Nexus 7 (gen 2)

The Nexus 7 is the third Android tablet in the Nexus line and co-developed by Google and ASUS. It’s a very powerful small form tablet with a lot of accessories.

Mappt_Google-Nexus-7-2nd-Generation-2013

The New Google / ASUS Nexus 7 gen 2

Tablet 2

Sony Xperia Z

In February 2013 SONY unveiled it’s new tablet the Xperia Tablet Z. A 10 inch tablet that is light, weighing just under half a kilogram and less than 7mm thick.  It’s the worlds thinnest 10 inch tablet not to mention it’s IP55 and IP57 (Ingress Protection) rating making it dust proof, scratch resistant and water proof up to 1 meter for up to 30 minutes.

The Xperia Tablet Z's ports are all well covered and protected against dust and water ingress.

The Xperia Tablet Z’s ports are all well covered and protected against dust and water ingress.

Tablet 3

Panasonic Toughpad FZ-A1

Our final contender is the Panasonic Toughpad FZ-A1. The ultimate field partner. It’s Military spec all weather proof at IP65 and drop proof at 4 feet making it virtually indestructible as far as tablets are concerned. Unfortunately this is also reflected in the price tag.

Mappt-panasonic-fz-A1-ports

All ports are covered and locked away from the elements making this tablet an impregnable bunker.

Below is a table that compares the three tablets as well as a short review based on Mappt use.

Top three Mappt Field Companion Android Tablets, and why.

Top three Mappt Field Companion Android Tablets, and why.

The Mappt Advantage

Nexus 7 gen 2 (4G LTE)

Being the lightest of the three tablets this is in itself a big advantage. Not to mention that it’s fast, powerful and has a highrez display with very good battery life.The price is also very enticing, although you will need to get some very necessary accessories, such as a tough case, matte screen protector, car charger, etc.

Using Mappt on this tablet you are able to conduct all your usual tasks at a very acceptable speed, even with the smaller form factor. This is actually one of its biggest advantages.

An excellent compact Mappt companion that won’t hurt your pocket and fits right in it.

Sony Xperia Tablet Z  (4G + WIFI 16gig)

The new Sony Xperia tablet Z has taken the world by storm with its very durable shell, water proof for 30 minutes, dust proof and only 6.9mm thin. A very well rounded tablet with plenty of available accessories, not that you would need any to start off except perhaps a car charger. Perfect as a Mappt companion.

Mappt moves very fast on this device. Information loads lightning fast on the 4G LTE or WIFI. Navigation is a breeze with the clean shatterproof, sensitive, matte screen. Only down side is that it’s a little hard to see the screen in a well sun lit environment. This may be a big issue for some scenarios.

A very well priced and durable tablet. Perfect for almost all you every day Mappt field use.

Panasonic Toughpad FZ-A1

If you ignore the huge price tag on this beast then this is hands down the tablet you want with you in the field. Its military spec hardware and case make it literary indestructible (figuratively). You can drop this guy from a height of 2 metres into an ice filled lake and have it sit on the mud lake floor (shallow lake), pick it up moments later and continue working on it.

Mappt works very well on this device even though it runs Android version 4. It has powerful 4G and WIFI connections and a GPS that will never fail. This tablet also comes with a stylus which can help when in the field, so you don’t have to get dirty hands on the screen and have to continuously wipe it.

What it falls short on, which are not vital for Mappt field use, are the cameras and lack of ultra highres display. Also be aware that buying accessories for the Toughpad FZ-A1 will also set you back a bit, as most of the accessories match the higher price of the device.

A tablet for very serious Mappt users who perhaps plan to trek into the caldera of an active volcano.

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Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 and Mappt – Android 4.1 in Australia

A couple of our Australian users have had issues with the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1” running Mappt out of the box.

The problem is that in Australia, the Android 4.1 (Jellybean) update has not been universally applied as yet, unlike in many countries overseas. You can’t update to Jellybean using the Samsung Kies software or natively from the Tab2 Settings. However, we do have some lucky Tab 2 users in Australia. As far as we understand, Galaxay tab 2 users will probably get Android 4.3 Jellybean when it’s available.

GALAXY-Tab-2-10.1-Product-Image-1

However, some telco tied tabs (e.g. Vodafone, Telstra) have 4.1 available but Samsung Australia is behind the times for Tab 2 users not shackled to one of these plans.

So what is the solution?

There really isn’t an ideal one, but there are two three things you can do:

  • You can “root” your device (not what you probably think if you are an Aussie); or
  • You can try a workaround.

Neither is ideal (or recommended by Mappt as there are real risks that something goes wrong). Both of these options will likely void your warranty and rooting your device can turn it into an expensive paperweight (yes we will apply that meaning of rooted here).

Alternately you can wait for Samsung to release a 4.1 Android update or (option 3)

  • Go for a different tablet!

Have we tried Mappt on overseas and rooted Galaxy Tab 2s?

Yes and it works on Tab2 with Jellybean (those outside Aus) and on rooted Tab2s as well.

Yours truly went down the rooting process with their Galaxy Tab 2 using CyanogenMod 10.1 and I don’t have many issues other than the limits of the Tab2 dealing with bigger files.

But I did it at my own risk and a *LOT* or research and stuffing about (took me quite a few hours of  finding everything I needed to know) and only took me a few goes to get it right once I “knew” what to do.

I consider myself pretty good at these things and it took me a lot of effort to find the right combo to work. So be warned, rooting your device might cost you more in your time than buying a new tablet!