GPS/GIS in a Windows CE Environment
Comparing Esri’s ArcPad, Trimble’s TerraSync And Tripod Data Systems’ Solo CE
Window’s CE Software
As budgets shrink and workloads increase, employees are expected to be more efficient and multi-task in the workplace. Why should we not expect the same of our Windows CE software/hardware? Gone are the days of purchasing a GPS unit that allows for only GPS field data collection.
Because of Windows CE’s open architecture multiple Windows CE software products can be used on one CE device. Tasks ranging from GPS data collection, to editing shapefiles, doing GPS/GIS data maintenance, to working with spreadsheets and emailing data, etc. can all be performed on one piece of equipment.
Esri’s ArcPad, Trimble’s TerraSync software and Tripod Data System’s Solo CE are three software packages that run in a Windows CE environment. The differences and commonalities of these software products will be compared. Windows CE hardware options, both rugged and non-rugged, will also be evaluated.
ArcPad is a lightweight GIS product for mobile computing. This software caused quite a stir because of its low cost, customization options, similarity in look and feel to ArcView, and ability to work with GPS for navigation and data capture/data update in the field. It supports a multi-layer environment with industry-standard vector map and raster image themes, similar to ArcView.
ArcPad works directly in shapefile format and allows one to use customized data entry forms designed in ArcPad Studio to control data flow in the field by adding drop-down menus, radio boxes, required fields, etc. ArcPad also features user-controlled symbology, which can be exported from ArcView or ArcGIS. For taking GIS data back out in the field for orientation, viewing, and attribute update, ArcPad is a great tool. If you are familiar with ArcView, you will feel right at home with ArcPad. The multi-layer environment and ability to change symbology like ArcView, makes it useful in most any field data collection situation. ArcPad will interface with any GPS unit that outputs the NMEA, TSIP (Trimble Standard Interface Protocol) and Earthmate formats.
Shapefiles collected in ArcPad 6.0, in conjunction with a Trimble GPS receiver, can be post-processed using the Trimble network of base stations by a product that Trimble and Esri partnered to produce, GPScorrect. This product also offers mission planning capability from your CE device, in the field, to check for ideal data collection times, 12 hours in advance. GPScorrect also allows the user to post-process data previously collected in real-time for even higher data accuracy.
Trimble’s TerraSync Professional for Windows CE is a data collection and data maintenance software package designed to work seamlessly with Trimble’s ProXR/XRS, Pro XL, Pocket, Power GeoExplorer CE receivers and Pathfinder Office desktop software. TerraSync Professional uses Trimble’s SuperCorrect technology, which allows users to collect accurate data in less favorable conditions. This product supports laser rangefinder input when performing GPS offsets and allows for other external sensor input. Time saving tools such as repeating features, collecting multiple features (point, line and polygons) at the same time and log now/log later options will add to efficient data collection. Trimble also offers a lower priced version of TerraSync (Standard edition), which can be used for collecting new GIS data. For those who already own Trimble receivers and Pathfinder Office software and have built complex data dictionaries, TerraSync Professional is a nice Windows CE software option.
Tripod Data System’s Solo CE is a versatile GIS/mapping software application capable of gathering accurate position data and creating customized data collection forms with no additional software required. Select position input from multiple devices: GPS, laser rangefinder or touch screen. User defined symbology is also supported by Solo CE, as well as user defined menu, toolbar, and map display options. Solo CE contains additional tools such as enhanced grid generation, measuring and calculating tools, and numerous exporting formats. Solo CE supports multiple background layers and the ability to mix basemap file formats to display together (.shp and .mif, etc.) in the Map View. Solo CE is a stand-alone software product with no office software required.
Just as there are several choices for Windows CE software, there are many CE hardware options available. Choices range from rugged units, complete with a full keyboard and number pad to non-rugged smaller systems. Three options will be highlighted: the Juniper System’s Allegro CE, Trimble’s TSCe and the Compaq iPAQ.
The Allegro CE unit features the Intel StrongARM 206 MHz processor, a large high visibility monochrome display that utilizes an on-board screen heater for operation in cold conditions. A full number pad and keyboard on the Allegro allow for data entry with gloved hands, if needed. Memory and data storage options range from 32 MB of RAM/32 MB of data storage to 64 MB RAM/256 MB of data storage. A PC card slot is also available for expanded memory storage. The Allegro CE is rugged and 100% sealed against water submersion and dust. This unit is expandable with pods that can be attached permanently to it. The GPS pod uses a Trimble Lassen receiver and offers 2-5 meter accuracy with no external cables to get in the way. The Allegro can also be cabled to Trimble sub-meter systems when higher GPS accuracy is required. Dual COM ports make it possible to use sub-meter GPS systems and external sensors at the same time.
Trimble’s TSCe is another rugged datalogger to use in conjunction with Windows CE software. The TSCe uses the Intel Strong ARM processor and offers a color touch screen, and 30 hours of usage on one battery charge. Memory capacity on the TSCe includes 128 MB of data storage and 64 MR RAM. The TSCe is rugged and sealed against water and dust and temporary immersion.
The Compaq iPAQ is a non-rugged CE device. The iPAQ uses an Intel Strong ARM processor and has a high visibility color display. Optional accessories include the PC card expansion pack to boost storage capability. Data can be entered into the iPAQ using a virtual keyboard, character recognition or via voice recording.
The tasks that need to be accomplished in the field will dictate the kind of Windows CE hardware/software that are suitable to use. The beauty of Windows CE is just that - choice. One Windows CE software product can be used or, a combination of different Windows CE hardware and software packages used together, to aid in field data collection. So, the choice is yours. Will you continue to use one device to do one job or will you use Windows CE?