Mobile GIS Tablet PC

(Using the Motion F5 w/ built in bar code scanner, ArcPad, Water Meter Asset Collection. A slight red tinge on the bar code represents the bar code scanner in action.)

I have been testing a tablet pc from Motion Computing, F5 model,the last couple of days for some asset management we are doing for the City of Sacramento. So far, I love this thing. I have ArcPad loaded with a GIS layer that we are going to maintain through tapping the screen to log the location, then click the integrated bar code scanner button to log 2 different bar code values into two separate data fields. Works like a charm! Most of the common bar code format types are supported. Also built in to this little 3lb machine is an RFID reader and digital camera. Uses pen and Tablet PC technology. Pictures to come shortly.

We started looking at high-end GPS (see Topcon v. Trimble below). This is not going to work because of all of the overhead obstructions, plus we can get closer 99% of the time with just tapping the ArcPad screen. Although we have an option to use GIS Server, we don't have the proper licensing to build an editable GIS web app and serve up our GIS data and do data entry real-time. hand held PDAs were too small (visual real-estate).

Our other working alternative will be to use a tablet pc and a separate wireless bar code scanner (two gizmos rather than one).

1. Motion F5 using ArcPad
2. ArcPad shown with Water Meter number filled in from using built-in bar code scanner
3. Second image showing Motion F5 and ArcPad
4. Motion F5 docking station


Semi-rugged (not for dropping!)
Intel Centrino, 1.2 Ghz, 2 Gb RAM
35 Gb of hard disk space
Windows Tablet XP, SP 2
ArcPad 7.0 or later (not included, separate purchase)

Retail ($2600-$5200, depending on configuration)

Optional docking station (probably will need), includes 3 USB ports, Network port, Serial port for external monitor
Optional keyboard (probably will need if you also want a desktop system
Optional battery


Light weight
Can change screen orientations (landscape, portrait right handed, portrait left handed)
most of the tabular/text data entry is done through hand writing using the pen. For the most part accurate and easy to change mis written words.


Bar Code Scanner
Digital Camera
Finger print reader
Blue Tooth


A little difficult to use in bright sunny areas (can change the screen brightness)

I used this outside with air photos in the background which made it difficult to plot my points. If I turned the photos off, I could plot my points with other reference information (parcel boundaries, street centerlines, ROW lines, address points).

No external USB ports, but it does have BlueTooth. The only external port is a power port.

Laser Range Finder and GPS

This is a supplement to my previous post on high-end GPS. One possible solution for high end GPS in obstructed environments is the use of a Laser Range Finder (LRF). The latest versions of LRF offer blue tooth connections and can be hand held type binocular type devices or can be a "laser gun" typically mounted on a survey pole with a yoke. This is a good solution if you are going to be doing data collection day in/day out for thousands of assets (objects). If you are just going to conduct sporadic data collection or need a LRF for part of an overall asset collection, then it might be worth just renting a LRF (and/or the GPS unit as well).

The City of Sacramento uses Trimble GPS, LaserCraft LRF, GPS Analyst, GPS Correct and synchronizes with a transactional ArcSDE enterprise database. The City paid ~$13,000 for the hardware/sofwtare. The city uses these devices for:

Street Sign Inventory ~150,000 assets
Urban Forest ~150,000 (initial collection is contracted out). On going data management will use
GPS and ArcPad.

If you want to buy a GPS/LRF set up for use with GPS expect to pay for the following:


High-end GPS (~$4500-5000) [Trimble/TopCon]
LRF - ~$3000-4000, the City of Sacramento uses LaserCraft Contour (gun)
pole - $200
yoke - $100
GPS pole mounting bracket - $50

Software (Assuming ESRI shop)

ArcPad $500
GPS Correct $500
GPS Analyst $2000



Pathfinder Office $1500
TerraSync $1000

If the Trimble solution is used, the it will be more difficult to manage data collected by multiple users and to synchronize changes to a central GIS database.


FAST $2000 - form builder for TopCon units. Can integrate with ArcPad, but you can only see the current feature collected. Will need TopPad for a more integrated solution with ESRI.

TopPad $500, TopCons custom ArcPad for use with TopCon units

The software/hardware will have on-going maintenance and licensing fees. Be sure to add this to your budget.

If you want to purchase such a set up, here are some things to think about.

1. Budget for hardware/software
2. Skilled GIS staff (that can set up GPS, fully understands GPS issues, and can manipulate data and back end processing)
3. How many assets are going to be collected
4. Available staff to conduct collection and on-going data maintenance
5. Work out and test a data collection workflow. If this is done ad hoc, then you can waste time, hardware/software expenses, and data management time. This will lead to the data either difficult to use or not used.


EU GPS Satellite Launch

Check out the link for the latest GPS satellite to be launched from the EU. Supposed to rival US GPS satellite sources.


Opticks - Open Source Remote Sensing Software - Ball AeroSpace

Opticks is my new endeavor for developing an open source image processing software that I can provide to my Remote Sensing students at American River College. I am getting set up to begin plug-in development for Opticks hopefully to expand some functionality of the out-of-the-box Opticks.

Opticks has been the cleanest open source image processing softwares I have seen lately...so much so I am foregoing my Python Image Processing endeavor. In addition, it seems Opticks has a hyperspectral slant to it as well, definitely something that will be up and coming in the near future.

I will continue to update based on my findings so that others have an idea of what it will take to develop themselves and use the Opticks software.

Some of the things I would like to be able to add to Opticks is:

1. Various band raios. This looks pretty straight forward with using their Map Algebra tool and you can create your own "custom" band calculations.

2. Image processing using a moving window (edge detectors, specialized filters)

3. Add RADAR image processing such as slant-to-ground range correction and texture processing.

4. Image Classification. This may be a little tricky to do since it require spectral signatures. I need to check more on this.