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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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How Smart Technology is Saving Species

Habitat loss, global climate change, poaching and human disruptions have all caused enormous devastation to wildlife biodiversity all over the world.

How can we reverse the damage humans have done? Or prevent future harm to endangered species?

Progressions in technologies, created only in recent times, has redefined our knowledge of how animals live.

By understanding the geographical habits of an animal, we can make more informed decisions that will revolutionise conservation.

satellite technology for wildlifeSmart Maps

In almost real-time, using remote sensors, satellite imagery and GPS tracking, wildlife conservationists now have the ability to follow enigmatic creatures that was once considered impossible.

With the breakthrough in satellite technology and the growing number of satellites, both public and private in nature, allow conservationists to gain an unparalleled perspective on what’s happening around the globe.

Imagery can reveal information about climactic conditions and vegetation type, which can aid in predicting animal movements. Dense colonies like emperor penguins in the Antarctic, can also be tracked and mapped with satellites.

By revealing the world in extraordinary detail and by allowing more people in more places to access this data and technology, we are slowly safeguarding our wildlife.

cheetah smart collarSmart Collars

We’re not just talking about GPS tracking, ‘Smart’ collars collect almost the same amount of data that our wearable fitness bracelets do.

This technology allows wildlife managers to remotely monitor an animal’s movement patterns, when they’re sleeping or how they’re hunting. These collars can tell you practically anything about an animal’s activities.

Researchers anticipate that by visualising and knowing exactly what a species does in a day, they can further understand them, potentially predict behaviour and in turn reduce human conflict.

smart phone mapping wildlifeSmart Phones

Now that we’ve got smart collars and smart maps, what would happen if we were to integrate this collected data into our smart phones?

Mobile technologies have been introduced to make viewing, collecting and sharing data when out in the field to be seamless, efficient and integrated.

Mobile mapping and GIS app, Mappt, is an example of a downloadable phone app that allows users to view satellite imagery or animal movement patterns or GPS tracking, layer by layer.

Mappt allows users to collect new data and add to the mapping visualisation tool. Users can add geotagged photos and create geofences to prevent people out in the field from entering exclusion zones.

This app can be assimilated into any GIS software, importing and exporting any kind of data to your desktop computer. Mappt has been used to map and track cheetah populations in Iran.

Saving The World

Digital location based technology is changing wildlife conservation in more and more profound ways.

Geographical information and the ability to view data anywhere and anytime is a valuable tool for conservationists and wildlife ecologists saving the animals, one location at a time.

Sources

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3 GIS Tools that are Transforming Environmental Field Work

Every year, billions of dollars are invested into industrial projects that can have damaging effects on our environment. It is therefore critical to monitor and understand the effects of human impact on the environment.

Current technologies have not only improved our knowledge and understanding of the environment, but also significantly enhanced the way we collect and capture this information.

In previous years, physical environmental evaluation and surveys were carried out by workers in the field, armed with paper, pencils, large flimsy maps and inaccurate location perceptions.

Today we need just one compact device to navigate, capture and visualise data during environmental field data collection. When combined with Geographic Information Systems (GIS), mobile data collection apps provide a simple yet multifaceted tool that’s revolutionising field work for environmental monitoring and surveying.

fielddatacollection2

Why GIS?

GIS relates to capturing and displaying locational data to easily visualise, analyze and understand patterns within their environments.

By studying factors such as vegetation, soil, fauna and land disturbance, scientists can determine the short and long term impacts of industrial projects and ensure accountability and longevity of our agriculture, infrastructure and mining industries.

Flora surveys are regularly undertaken to gather comprehensive information about an area of vegetation. Although modern technologies such as satellite imagery and drones are effective, manual in-person examination of physical subjects is still essential.

The type of data required can be difficult and time consuming to capture when only equipped with pen and paper. Thankfully, mobile GIS and data collection solutions have renewed this outdated method. Mappt™ is a mobile data collection application that provides several invaluable features for flora and fauna surveying and environmental monitoring.

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  1. Offline GPS Tracking

Mappt is built with offline GPS tracking to record the exact movements of where field workers have travelled. The offline component enables the device to be used in any remote location without internet access. Mappt calculates distances, helps workers to find targeted areas faster and provides evidence of the ground they have covered. GPS tracking also increases transparency to verify that sensitive sites have not been disturbed.

mappt3

  1. Drop Down Forms

The digital revolution is in full swing and the need for paper is diminishing. Environmental workers now have the power to use devices such as tablets or even phones to easily take notes on specific points, draw lines and view this all this information visually on a digital map. Mappt enables users to give attributes to specific points on a map and create detailed descriptions in customisable ‘drop down’ forms.

Field workers can enter detailed or simple descriptions on landforms, soils, vegetation conditions, period since last fire, disturbances or any correlation between vegetation and landform features. Drop down forms remove the need for traditional tables as the data can be pre-populated. The forms have intelligent pre-fill suggestions to reduce repetitive typing and cut down human error. Mappt also allows workers to import and export any kind of GIS data, maps or figures.

  1. Geofencing Quadrats

Quadrats are areas within a marked boundary within which data is collected. Mappt has a geofencing tool which allows users to mark out areas that field workers should not disturb, such as wildlife habitats, heritage land and sensitive sites. Geofencing can also be used to simply mark out the area you should be working in to assess a specific rehabilitation zone.

If a boundary is breached, an alarm will sound and an alert will display to stop you in your tracks. Mappt will also log the event according to date, time and distance.

Mappt has a number of other convenient, efficient and in depth GIS field data collection tools to make environmental monitoring a breeze. Some of these feature include; importing and exporting GIS data; geotagged photos; thematic mapping; cache Google Maps; and WMS and WFS capabilities.

For the full list of features, please visit our Features page or try them for yourself.

geofence

Technology Empowers

Whether you’re conducting a biosecurity risk assessment, collecting entomology data or surveying flora and fauna, mobile GIS data collection has made tackling Earth’s challenges lighter, safer and faster.

Monitoring flora and fauna is not only important for ensuring ecosystems are protected but certifies for the durability of the mining, infrastructure and utility industries. Planning, monitoring and rehabilitating are environmental necessities made more efficient through the emerging technology of mobile data collection and GIS.

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Ssiobhan-profile2iobhan 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

http://www.epa.wa.gov.au/sites/default/files/Policies_and_Guidance/EPA%20Technical%20Guidance%20-%20Flora%20and%20Vegetation%20survey_Dec13.pdf

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5 Ways GIS is Transforming Agriculture and the Environment

What are the major implications of GIS for agriculture, the environment and preserving our earth in 2017?

Geospatial technology is transforming the agriculture industry in unimaginable ways. In only a few short years, the power and accessibility of digital mapping both on and offline has changed the way farmers and agricultural structures are doing their most basic tasks.

Geographic information systems (GIS) allow us to visualise, analyse and understand geographic data. They can show us which crops are thriving, how pollution is hindering and which fertilisers are enhancing.

With this kind of revolutionary technology in full swing, there has never been a better time for farmers, environmentalists, foresters and agriculture specialists to capitalise on productivity.

Agriculture and Farming

GIS has revolutionised a farmer’s work. With the help of expert GIS consultants, farmers are now able to access the latest satellite technology with precision agriculture.

However, there are simpler, cheaper and more accessible ways the power of location can be utilised by farmers themselves.

farmer-880567_960_720

Mobile Devices

Mobile mapping applications have evolved dramatically in the last few years, making paper maps and pens ancient history. Mobile apps work on hand held tablets or smartphones, reducing the need for bulky computers or complicated surveying equipment when out in the field.

Mappt™ is a mobile GIS data collection app which enables users to create, edit, store, and share geospatial information. Farmers can use and handheld device to drop a pin or mark a specific location on a digital map. Using a lightweight, compact device such as a tablet or phone empowers farmers with the capacity to easily collect their own data.

Mappt’s receptive interface allows farmers with minimal training to use drop-down forms at each location point, noting a piece of information or attribute such as the type of fertilizer used, the condition of the crop or the topography of the land.

Some variables farmers may need to collect and analyse include:

  • soil type
  • elevation (topography)
  • crop yield
  • crop quality
  • field boundaries
  • management zones
  • remotely sensed imagery
  • weed and pest locations
  • historical land use

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compact

GPS

Global Positioning Systems or GPS are freely available and built in to most compact devices. A GPS displays your exact location on the earth’s surface by picking up data instantaneously sent from several satellites orbiting the globe.

Mappt’s GPS can be used to track a job out in the field. It’s ideal for remote locations as it works completely offline, can be paused and restarted at any time, and runs in the background while you collect other data. For example, a farmer may use GPS to pinpoint designated positions in the field to collect soil samples. This information can be logged in a handheld device before, during and after samples are collected, whilst tracking a person’s every move.

Geotagging

Another benefit of using a hand-held device with an inbuilt camera is being able to capture photographic evidence. Geotagging images collected in the field to their exact location provides farmers with additional information and offers a reference for future crop analysis and comparison. Thus, improving overall accuracy and efficiencies.

Geofencing

There are disasters to avoid in agricultural planning that can have a detrimental effect if inaccuracy occurs: droughts, drainage, roads, insects and floods. Their heavy impacts can be avoided through GIS assisted strategic planning.

Mapping is used to examine and evaluate these attributes to ensure maximum accuracy when identifying new areas to plant crops or make existing yields more efficient.

When working in the field, separating zones is also crucial as it’s not always clear where your boundaries end and your neighbours’ begins.

Mappt™ allows you to not only draw lines and polygons, but colour code areas and set warning visual and audio alarms. Once a geofence is created, a farmer will be alerted with an alarm notification if a boundary is breached. This ensures you do not disturb land that doesn’t belong to you or plant crops in a restricted area.

geofence

GIS for Climate Change

We know conservation and environmental management is imperative for the sustainability of the earth, especially in today’s rapidly evolving technological world.

Recent history has taught us that human impact can have a dramatic effect on the environment as well as shifting global climates. This is creating complex challenges for businesses in every industry – particularly agriculture.

According to the World Wildlife Federation, agricultural practices are responsible for around 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions, with contributing factors including fertilisers, livestock, burning of savanna and agricultural residues, and ploughing.

Farming our food does not always give back to the earth.

Climate change is anticipated to affect crop production in several ways, but most impedingly, precipitation and temperature changes. Rainfall and temperatures may shorten or lengthen the growing season or cause an increase in droughts and flooding. Because of these environmental changes, crop prices could skew and become economically nonviable.

GIS plays a fundamental role in the ongoing challenge to reduce and cope with the effects of climate change, specifically determining what crops we sow and where to maximise land efficiency.

Below are some of the ways GIS can assist with plotting relief:

  • Ensure accurate reporting with improved data collection
  • Improve decision making
  • Increase productivity with streamlined work processes
  • Provide better data analysis and presentation options
  • Model dynamic environmental phenomena
  • Create predictive scenarios for environmental impact studies
  • Automate regulatory compliance processes
  • Disseminate maps and share map data across the internet

Accumulating data on the problem and adjusting relief and contingency methods in accordance to this data, is how GIS can play a major role in shaping a solution.

crop-drought

What does it mean for our future?

In the past, it was difficult for farmers to know how and which farming methods were working efficiently due to the continuous variations and irregularities across the land.

Today, technological innovations such as GIS and mobile mapping have transformed common agricultural systems and revolutionised field efficiency and productivity.

With this kind of technology in our pockets, mobile GIS will expectantly continue to improve production for farmers in a way that is sustainable in the future and hopefully provide a reliable source of food for all.

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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

http://www.environmentalscience.org/agriculture-science-gis

http://www.sugarresearch.com.au/icms_docs/178430_GIS_and_Precision_Agriculture_IS14015.pdf

http://www.americansentinel.edu/blog/2012/03/14/farmers-use-gis-technology-for-a-growing-world/

http://www.hitachi.com/rev/pdf/2009/r2009_06_106.pdf

http://www.gps.gov/applications/agriculture/

http://www.pitneybowes.com/us/location-intelligence/case-studies/use-location-intelligence-to-turn-big-data-into-business-insight.html

http://www.gpsalliance.org/agriculture.aspx

https://theconversation.com/farmers-of-the-future-will-utilize-drones-robots-and-gps-37739

 

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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.

drone-1142182_960_720

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.

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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”