Publication Date

Summer 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Geography and Global Studies


Richard Taketa


Accuracy, Collection, Data, GPS, Mobile, Smartphone

Subject Areas

Geography; Computer science


Mobile field spatial data collection is the act of gathering attribute data, including spatial position, about features in a study area. A common method of field data collection is to use a handheld computing device attached to a global navigation satellite system in which attribute data are directly inputted into a database table. The market for mobile data collection systems was formerly dominated by bulky positioning systems and highly specialized software. However, recent years have seen the emergence and widespread adoption of highly customizable and user-friendly mobile smartphones and tablets. In this research, smartphone devices and smartphone data collection applications were tested and compared to a conventional survey-grade field data collection system to compare the capabilities and possible use cases of each. The test consisted of an evaluation of the accuracy and precision of several mobile devices, followed by a usability analysis of several contemporary data collection applications for the Android operating system. The results of the experiment showed that mobile devices and applications are still less powerful than dedicated conventional data collection systems. However, the performance gap is shrinking over time. The use cases for mobile devices as data collection systems are currently limited to general use and small to mid-size projects, but future development promises expanding capability.