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Mappt User Story: Protecting African wild cat species in Zambia

Panther's staff use Mappt on a daily basis

Panthera’s staff use Mappt on a daily basis

Dr Jake Overton is with Panthera, an NGO (Non-Governmental Organisation) devoted to the conservation of the world’s 40 wild cat species and their habitats.

The large cat species of Africa (Cheetah, Lion, Leopard, African Golden Cat, Caracal, and Serval) are under constant threat from poaching, illegal game trapping and habitat loss.  Big cat protection must be undertaken in a dynamic environment – the cats are constantly moving while illegal hunters never seem to take a rest.

Protecting large cats in Africa involves managing highly mobile animals over large areas.  Maintaining spatial awareness through mobile GIS systems is what makes Jake’s job more effective and ultimately improves big cat conservation outcomes.

“We use GIS for so many things – from ecological analyses to field planning.”

-Dr Jake Overton, Panthera

However, there were technical boundaries to utilising this GIS information in daily activities.  Panthera went searching for an interactive utility combining GIS and GPS in a portable device.  They found their solution in Mappt.  Prior to using Mappt, Panthera’s field crew had taken laptop-based GIS applications in the field – but crucially they weren’t linked to live positional information.

Panthera field staff now use Mappt on a daily basis for collaring and survey work.  Jake relies heavily on real time positioning available in Mappt for help in navigating remote areas without existing maps.  Another feature Jake has found especially helpful is the ability to load aerial images and cache Google Maps images for use offline in remote areas.

The view from Panthera's front office. Sioma National Park, Zambia

The view from Panthera’s front office. Sioma National Park, Zambia

Having the ‘big picture’ available, in terms of geospatial information, is essential for protecting big cats and their ecosystems.  Panthera’s objective is to protect wild cat species and the the environment that supports them.  Beyond traditional ‘protect and preserve’ practices, Panthera aims to provide thriving ecosystems to help wild cats again reach sustainability levels.

Mappt Mobile GIS is used to assist animal collaring in Sioma NP, Zambia

Mappt Mobile GIS is used to assist animal collaring in Sioma NP, Zambia

by Darren Smith

Mappt has a been game-changer for many organisations who rely on accurate geospatial information to improve efficiency and accuracy.

Try Mappt today by downloading it from the Google Play Store or Apple App Store

Mappt User Story: Researching primitive termite species in outback Australia

We caught up with Nicholas Hart at our offices in Perth this week. Nicholas was the 2017 winner of the “Takor Group prize for GIS” at the University of Western Australia.

Nicholas continued his studies at UWA in the School of Biological Sciences and recently submitted his thesis focusing on  primitive termite species in Australia.

Termites collected from a fallen tree

Termites collected from a fallen tree

We got the lowdown on the objectives of his thesis and how Mappt helped with the extensive field work involved in his research.

Mappt: G’day Nick. So tell us a bit about what you have been doing this past year….

After completing my degree in 2017, I decided to stay at UWA to pursue an Honours degree. The subject that I chose for my thesis was “Population and Landscape Genetics of a Primitive Termite Species” which was something my tutor had some experience with from research he had done decades ago so there was existing data on a broad and fine scale. The goal of my study was to relate genetic patterns in termite populations to spatial patterns in the landscape. In an ancient land like Australia, the landscape is stable so there is a lot of time for genetic patterns to emerge between populations. Extensive field research in 3 disparate outback locations was required so that was another thing that attracted me to the subject.

What locations did you visit for research? I am picturing wide open barren plains – how do you locate a tiny creature like a termite in such a vast landscape?

I spent time in the Pilbara region in Western Australia as well as areas around Darwin and Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. So yes – difficult places to find little insects but once you get used to the landscape and know what to look for, it actually becomes surprisingly easy to pick out the termite colonies – even at distance.

A screenshot from Mappt showing geotagged photos from study sites around Darwin in the Northern Territory, Australia

A screenshot from Mappt showing geotagged photos from study sites around Darwin in the Northern Territory, Australia

Why did you need to use GIS?

GIS was important as each data point has genetic information and it all had to be related to landscape features.

What type of landscape features are we talking about?

I needed to look at termite populations that were genetically distinct and see if there was a landscape feature separating the populations. Examples of landscape features are elevated areas which would have acted as refuges during ancient sea-level rises, big rivers with floodplains or even deep cracking clay soils.

So basically anything that would have separated one termite population from another for varying periods of time?

Correct. I found that the scale of the genetic patterns was related to the scale of the landscape variables that defined them.

Overview of some termite populations (yellow icons) separated by a landscape feature (in red)

Overview of some termite populations (yellow icons) separated by a landscape feature (in red)

Why did you need Mappt?

I needed something to assist with the collection of samples in the offline environment. I wanted something that would be an alternative to pen & paper, and swapping between a hand-held GPS and a digital camera. Mappt facilitated all of this in one device.

We often get asked about hardware so I’d be interested to hear what device were you using.

I used my HTC One Android smartphone.

So a pretty small screen then?

Yes but I found it usable for my purposes.

What Mappt features did you find most useful in the field?

I used the GPS tracking tool for orientation & navigation around the study sites. I created custom forms for collecting attribute data at each study site. I had some reference spatial data for some of the study sites which I loaded in to Mappt. I also captured a lot of spatial data – mostly as points – and took a lot of geotagged photos. Keeping a photographic record of the study site was important for investigating how the disturbance of the habitat affected the population and to relate the fine-level data collection with the broad-scale landscape features and thus identify populations for comparison. All the spatial data was exported to shapefile and I conducted analysis on the data using QGIS and R in the office.

A termite-infested tree in Western Australia

A termite-infested tree in Western Australia

Summing up then – would you recommend Mappt to others?

Yes definitely. For zoological and botanical field work, it is a definite advantage. There is less equipment and “stuff” to carry.  Everything is stored together – spatial points, geotagged photos, attributes, navigation & orientation – so there is less administration whilst at the study site. When it comes to planning, it is a definite time-saver and I also found it was easier to adapt with Mappt to changing conditions when in the field.

A custom data collection form template for the termite population study

A custom data collection form template for the termite population study

That’s great feedback. So what’s next for you?

Well I submitted my thesis this week. Yesterday, in fact. It’s been pretty hectic to get to this point so I am looking forward to a break. But there is plenty of potential for further work in this area so I am considering more academia in the future. But first a break.

Thank you for your time, Nick and all the best in the future.

by Ciaran Doyle

Mappt is a mobile GIS and data collection app for smartphones and tablets. It enables field operators to easily map and capture data offline in remote areas using their GPS-enabled tablet or mobile phone.

Try Mappt today by downloading it from the Google Play Store or Apple App Store

 

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Why Geospatial Technology is set to explode in 2017

When we think of the term ‘geospatial’ what springs to mind? Maps? Satellites? Space?
Of course those subjects are relevant, however, geospatial refers to all things related to location.

Data, drones, maps, cameras, sensors, cars, infrastructure and your mobile phone. The rapid expansion of this industry is happening right now, so why is this so important for us in 2017?

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) have the ability to integrate into every aspect of our lives. The recent and rapid increase in technology has enabled this integration, and it’s up to us to decide how we want to proceed. With more data and connectivity than ever before, humans have the power to solve real life problems.

So, let’s take a look at what’s in store for us this year.

Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT is the massive network of connected devices and sensors that transmit messages back to us in real time. Yes, ‘smart’ devices. Smart homes, smart phones, smart cars and smart cities.

Cisco estimates the IoT market will be worth US$19 trillion within the next 10 years, and by 2020 the internet will have over 50 billion connected devices! Google and Apple have already built networks with over 5 million developers.

The geospatial enablement of these connected devices play a pivotal role in the IoT marketplace. Smart cities, for example, have the capacity to solve traffic congestion, improve waste management and help make our cities safer.

A recent example is the waste management app Bigbelly. The app uses cloud computing to transmit data specifying which rubbish bin locations are full and need to be collected. This has already begun to radically improve waste management systems in over 45 countries and will, in turn, reduce pollution as a global effect.

iot

Satellites

The latest stats from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) suggest there are currently 1,419 active satellites in orbit as of 30 June 2016, with thousands more under construction.

Interestingly, government-funded platforms are in decline, and privately funded micro-satellites are on the rise – costing a fraction of the price. This shift in operations will not only make satellite imagery more available, but cheaper and more abundant.

In 2015, Earth Observation Systems (EOS) alone contributed AUD$496 million in direct economic benefit to Australia and generated around 9000 new jobs.

In a bid to make internet accessible in lesser developed countries, Google has teamed up with O3B and Elon Musk’s SpaceX to deliver the internet via satellite. One solution, known as Project Loon, involves a high-altitude balloon network floating in the stratosphere.

Loon has been tested in multiple countries, and is currently operating in Sri Lanka, making it the first country to have universal internet access via the helium balloon system.

a-train_satellites

Drones

Drones: arguably the most exciting devices zipping around today! Remotely Piloted Aerial Systems (RPAS), known to many as drones, are cultivating crop yields, filming Hollywood blockbusters and delivering pizza straight to your door.

Drones are dominating a market that’s forecasted to skyrocket by more than 6,000% by 2020. ABI Research estimates the small drone market will surpass US$8.4 billion by the end of 2017.

According to Dan Kara, Practice Director of Robotics at ABI Research, the commercial RPAS sector is where the market’s thriving, with revenues expected to exceed US$5.1 billion by 2019.

The capabilities of drones are still being recognised. Dangerous human jobs like wind turbine inspections, the mapping of collapsed buildings or oil spills during emergency situations are some of the exciting applications serving major benefit throughout the world.

Accessibility and affordability is also becoming mainstream, with drones available to anyone over the counter and online.

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Wearable devices

While wearable technologies may seem ultra-futuristic, these types of devices are not far away from the masses.

The market for wearable devices is predicted to grow at 99% Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) between 2015 and 2020.

Fitness tracking bracelets only scratch the surface of the wearable device market, as Virtual Reality (VR) headsets are cropping up in a variety of industries.

In the field of geospatial, Topcon is working with DAQRI to create wearable technology (smart helmets) for surveying, construction, engineering and mining professionals.

Their aim is to make work safer through augmented reality and give users a hands-free tool that can be used onsite. Affordability is also becoming crucial.

With the help of our smartphones, VR headsets are available for as little as AUD$35. Although not fully revolutionised, it is estimated that more than 26 million VR headsets will be distributed by 2020.

DAQRI Smart Helmet

DAQRI Smart Helmet – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCAShzXhBCI

GIS (Geographic Information System)

When explaining what a GIS is, National Geographic sums it up nicely:

“A GIS is a computer system for capturing, storing, checking, and displaying data related to positions on Earth’s surface. GIS can show many different kinds of data on one map. This enables people to more easily see, analyze, and understand patterns and relationships. ”

Gone are the days when only qualified specialists could navigate a GIS and in specialist industries like remote sensing. Nowadays various GIS are used across a range of industries from real estate and agriculture, to local government authorities and educational institutes.

Mobile GIS devices are particularly beneficial as they enable anyone to create and gather location-based data on the go.

Our mobile GIS application Mappt allows you to create, edit, store and share geospatial information with your fingertips.

We differ from other GIS platforms because of our easy to use features, mobile and tablet integration, offline capability and our very affordable licenses. This makes Mappt the perfect GIS for beginners, and an easy to use advanced mapping tool for veterans; this is why businesses in over 130 countries use our software.

GET MY FREE MAPPT TRIAL

mappt

Let’s wrap it up

With nearly half of the world’s population (that’s 3.4 billion people) connected to the internet, and a ‘space race’ to connect the other half, Location-Based Services (LBS) and the geospatial realm will continue to experience explosive growth over the next couple of years. Whilst leading technology companies like Google are in the lead, emerging smaller businesses are setting exciting standards.

As technology moves forward there is an exciting ambiguity as to how much digital transformation will shape and improve our lives.

Through rapidly growing modernisations such as the Internet of Things, satellites, drones or even virtual reality headsets, humans have never been more connected – geospatially or otherwise.

Although there are pressing matters like privacy and security, the opportunities for powerful geospatial innovations are endless.

If you want more than today’s slice of information, please refer to the CRCSI Global Outlook 2016: Spatial Information Industry report.

 

siobhan-profile2Siobhan Herne
Marketing and Communications

Siobhan has no background in GIS, she’s a beginner, just like you. Follow her stories for an easier digest of all things geospatial.

 

Sources

Coppa, I., Woodgate, P. W., and Mohamed-Ghouse Z.S. (2016), ‘Global Outlook 2016: Spatial Information Industry’. Published by the Australia and New Zealand Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial Information.

http://www. sciencealert.com/google-s-internet-balloons-will-soon-connect-all-of-sri-lanka-with-wifi

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-05-09/world-drone-market-seen-nearing-127-billion-in-2020-pwc-says

ABIResearch, “Small Unmanned Aerial Systems Market Exceeds US$8.4 Billion by 2019”, abiresearch.com

CISCO, “Industry Perspective: Understanding the Internet of Everything”

 

5 of the Best GIS Open Data Sources

A fundamental step of conducting a GIS analysis is obtaining good source of data. Without reliable data, we can’t produce a reliable analysis – in other words, it’s “trash in, trash out” – so here is a round up of some of the best GIS open data sources we’ve found.

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1.  Humanitarian Data Exchange

The Humanitarian Data Exchange (HDX) is an open platform for sharing humanitarian data. They define humanitarian data as:

  • data about the context in which a humanitarian crisis is occurring (such as baseline/development data, damage assessments, and geospatial data)
  • data about the people affected by the crisis and their needs
  • data about the response by organisations and people seeking to help those in need of assistance

The HDX is the ideal place to go if you’re looking for a dataset on current events.

2. Natural Earth

Natural Earth has a collection of raster and vector map data for Earth’s physical features. The data is available at multiple levels of detail and includes coastline, land, glaciated areas, and bathymetry.

3. DIVA-GIS

If you’re after human geography data on individual countries, check out DIVA-GIS.

Simply select a country from their drop down list, then all the data associated with that country can be downloaded as a zip file. Their data includes administrative areas, roads, elevation, land cover, and population.

DIVA-GIS is probably the best place to go if you want a simple set of data for a specific country.

4. NASA Lansat

If you’re not familiar with NASA’s Landsat images, you’re either new to the field of GIS or have been working under a rock.

Most satellite images you find online would have came from Landsat, so getting your data from this source gives you direct access to the data. However, bear in mind that there’s no instant access, you have to request the data you want first.

5. Free GIS Data

Finally, the list of all lists: Free GIS Data. Free GIS Data is an aggregated list of, you guess it, all the free GIS data out there!

The list was created by Robin Wilson, a researcher at the University of Southampton. You can find a variety of physical geography, human geography, and country-specific data – it’s an absolute goldmine!

6. Mappt Elements

Yes our new free iOS mapping app, available on your iPhone has access to live weather feeds, Spookfish imagery, random shape files, vector and raster data, 330,000 USGS GeoPDfs and more. The app has in-app purchases so you only pay for the maps you need.

Mappt Elements goal is to eventually become a place where people go for maps and geographic data of any kind.

Try Mappt Elements today.

 

The best part about these sources is you can load all the datasets straight into Mappt, and take them offline into the field! 

We hope this helps you with your search for good data. If you’d like us to create more in-depth reviews of specific data sources, let us know in the comment box below.

Download your free trial of Mappt today!

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