Appsheet for Archaeology

Hello,

I am an archaeologist working for a municipal land management agency in the Western United States and I am considering using AppSheet to collect data during an upcoming inventory. AppSheet is attractive to me because I have an existing set of Google forms that I use to collect data that can be easily ingested by AppSheet and then provide me with the ability to record data offline.

My question has to do with the source of GPS data for recording location information. Our agency has devices such as the EOS Arrow and Trimble R1 that connect to Android and IOS smart-devices via Bluetooth and stream location data from a high-accuracy GPS receiver instead of using the stock GPS receiver in the smart-device. Does AppSheet have the ability to record location data using these types of devices as a GPS source on IOS and Android, and if so, what type of setup is necessary?

Thanks!

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Hey Archeo,

I’m a civil engineer from Canada and am familiar with high accuracy survey / trimble equipment. I have been a surveyor in a past life, and currently manage the UAV / drone survey program for our offices.

I have tried some setups like what you are thinking about a 1-2 years ago: once using a Juniper Mesa 2 tablet running Windows 10, and once on a rugged android tablet with a paired GNSS receiver. I had limited success with the windows 10 tablet - although the issue was with the chrome browser, not AppSheet specifically. Basically, the windows 10 tablet had two methods for getting GPS coordinates - through the cellular network, or the installed precision GPS hardware / COM Port. Unfortunately, the only browser that would read from the COM port was internet explorer (barf). The android tablet worked, but required additional steps prior to taking GPS readings as the GNSS reciever would go to sleep after some amount of inactivity.

Basically, expect to encounter headaches on the hardware side of things and definitely do some testing prior to purchasing anything.

Now, with respect to AppSheet specifically:

  • AppSheets reported accuracy seems to cap at 3m in the horizontal, even if the hardware is getting better than that. So, you can’t really trust it in these sorts of setups
  • AppSheet only records the horizontal plane - no elevation
  • AppSheet saves lat/long to 6 decimal places on the horizontal - this can provide you 10cm of precision… But if you need to be this precise, you likely also want elevation data.

With all the above said, my conclusion is do not attempt this sort of setup currently with AppSheet. Even if you managed to get it working, AS simply does not provide enough reassurance that your GPS signal is true and accurate. If you are really needing sub-meter or better accuracy, then I would look into ESRI options for building forms such as Survey123 or ArcGIS Online. These products are tailored to GIS / surveying workflows and requirements.

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Thanks so much for the detailed info, it helps a lot!

I think you are right, probably cant rely on AS for mapping. That fine with me as I was already using a separate GPS app for mapping, I was just hoping that I could move Mapping into AS for simplicity’s sake. For the record, I am still going to use AS anyway for the offline functionality.

I too have encountered the problem with GNSS units going to sleep on Android. The way that I work around it is that I turn on track-logging while I am in the field and that seems to keep the receiver active. However, the app that I am using is a relatively full-featured GPS app called Oruxmaps, and it has fairly robust support for external receivers already, so that may be a factor.

Thanks again!

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