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ArcGIS Field Apps Seminar: Your Questions Answered Part 1: ArcGIS Field Maps

See questions and answers from Part 1 of our “ArcGIS Field Apps: Take the Power of Location Anywhere” seminar.  In this first post, we cover questions about offline use, tracking and data collection. 

Thank you for joining us for the “ArcGIS Field Apps: Take the Power of Location Anywhere” seminar on June 2 and for sending in so many questions – there was close to 200 of them! While we are not able to answer them all, in a three-part blog series I’ll address the most popular ones and provide you with resources about the ArcGIS mobile apps we showed during our seminar.

Let’s get started… I’ve grouped the questions into categories to make them easier to manage. This blog answers questions about ArcGIS Field Maps data collection including offline use, tracking and high accuracy data collection. Questions around using Arcade in the web map, Field Maps smart forms and the road ahead, Survey123, QuickCapture as well as mobile app integration will be answered in parts 2 and 3. You may re-watch the seminar recordings.

As many similar questions were asked during our "Flying Solo with ArcGIS Field Maps" webinar back in March, check my Q&A blog for answers around licensing and system requirements.

Collector Equivalent Workflows

Q: Is there support coming for Field Maps on Windows 10?

A: This was a popular question! While we are not developing Field Maps for Windows, you may continue to use the Collector Classic app on Windows 10. Though we are not doing any further development on this product, it is still available from the Microsoft Store along with Explorer for Windows 10. You may view the status of support for Collector Classic on Windows 10 on the product lifecycle page.

As Field Maps does not provide a "Back End" app to perform data collection on a desktop, there are other options to explore if you need to collect data on a Windows device.

ArcGIS Pro, our professional desktop GIS, at release 2.7 supports mobile data collection. Pro provides a set of editing tools that work with a connected GNSS to collect and update your data in the field on Windows. Additionally, mobile geodatabases – stored in an SQLite database, the same format used when you go offline with Field Maps – can directly be read by ArcGIS Pro 2.7. 

Also, take a look at Survey123 and QuickCapture, as these apps also provide a lot of capabilities that may meet your needs for Windows-based field data collection.

Q: Do I need to update my maps used with Collector and Explorer to work with Field Maps?

A: No – your existing web maps can work without any modification in the Field Maps mobile app. The Field Maps web app provides options to further configure the map and allows you to take advantage of new capabilities such as the web map smart form and map settings that can only be enabled here.

If your mobile users worked with offline as well as with live maps, they will need to re-download or directly copy the offline areas into the Field Maps Map Packages folder on the device.

The migration guide is a good resource to consult.

Data Collection capabilities of the Field Maps mobile app

Q. What type of feature geometry can I collect with Field Maps?

A. Field Maps supports collection of polygons, points and lines as well as data in related tables. You can work with maps including data hosted in an ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise as well as in an ArcGIS Server environment that is published with ArcGIS Enterprise, for full requirements see the documentation.

Q: Are you able to add rows to existing tables/related tables not just to layers with geometry using Field Maps?

A: For data in related tables you can edit existing records or add a new one. One-to-one and one-to-many relationships up to three levels deep are supported. By default, the Field Maps mobile app enforces the integrity of the relationship.

 Screenshot of the Field Map mobile app, demonstrating inspection history within the app.

Select related records from the restaurant Inspection history then edit or create a new related record. Tip: you can create smart forms for editing tables as well as any editable feature layers.

Q: Can Field Maps collect video?

A: Yes – while you are editing the Attach button allows you to take a photo, record audio, or take a video using your device, or chose a photo, video or file to attach to your feature. These are saved as attachments so make sure you have enabled them for your layer.

Q: If there is more than one field inspector working on same issue in different locations, how is the edited/updated data synchronized on the shared map/feature layer?

A: When working with a connected web map, the layer refresh interval keeps them in sync with the latest data while the map is open. For hosted feature layers, the valid range is 0.5 minutes (30 seconds) to 1440 minutes (1 day) and you need to set this in your web map. Currently you can only do this in the Map Viewer Classic but support is coming to a future release of the new Map Viewer.

To help keep offline edits in sync in Field Maps mobile the auto-sync option is checked on by default under the mobile app settings to ensure sync occurs whenever a connection is available (every 15 minutes, or you can sync on demand as well).

Q: If two inspectors edit the same place at a similar time, is there any conflict issue resolution in Field Maps?

The way sync is handled depends on how the data is stored. For hosted feature layers and archive-enabled, non-versioned data in an ArcGIS Server feature service, the last edit synced is preserved. For versioned data in an ArcGIS Server feature service, the database administrator manages conflicting changes through reconciling and posting. If you are concerned about managing multiple mobile workers editing the same data, you can use versioned data in an ArcGIS Server feature service.

Offline Data collection workflows

Q: Any plans for the same web map within Field Maps to allow data collection both while connected or disconnected? This was once possible with Collector Classic. Our workaround is to have two web connected & one for disconnected use.

A: At this time, you require two web maps to support this workflow. One map for working while connected that can also be used for ad-hoc download (the mobile user must sync edits and remove the offline area from the device in order to work with the live map again), and a second with pre-planned offline areas.

You are not the only one with this thought – consider adding your requirements to this suggestion on Field Maps ideas!

Q: When working in areas without internet access and not being able to sync to ArcGIS Online how do you backup the data captured – as we are working in the bush for a month?

A: If you are disconnected for long periods of time, an option is to copy your mobile geodatabase from the Field Maps folder on your device directly to your laptop. While you will still need to sync all field edits from the map through the Field Maps mobile app sync capability to update your feature layers, saving a copy of the SQLite database on your laptop can act as a backup for those long periods of time offline. We have plans to greater support your workflows between ArcGIS Pro and mobile apps in the future so stay tuned!

This support article was written for Collector, but the steps to access offline edits apply for Field Maps – just look for the Field Maps folder on your device instead of Collector.

Q: What are my options for working with basemaps? Does Field Maps support use of tile packages?

A: You have a number of choices for your web map basemap to work both while connected as well as offline. A basemap is required for each map, and Esri raster basemaps as well as Esri vector basemaps are automatically enabled for offline use. If you use another basemap, it must have the “Export Tiles” function enabled. You can also prepare your basemap as a map tile package (.tpk or .tpkx file) or vector tile package (.vtpk file) to download or copy directly to devices.

If you wish to go offline with ArcGIS Enterprise and use the Esri basemaps you need to enable their use from ArcGIS Online. This blog post provides a lot of good tips for working offline with Enterprise.

Q: How can I enable a custom basemap linked to a map used Collector Classic for use with Field Maps?

A: You can add different types of data to your map as a basemap or as non-editable reference data including feature layers and tile layers hosted on ArcGIS Online or Enterprise, ArcGIS Image services, tile layers, WMS and KML data. See the data requirements for more details.

Q: Can my mobile users copy basemaps directly to their device to avoid downloading them for large areas?

A: Yes - you can copy a basemap directly to the mobile worker's device (this process is called sideloading) and reuse it across multiple maps, as long as you reference it to use with the map. You can do this from the Offline Advanced options from the web map item details page or from the Offline Settings using the Field Maps web app. Mobile users either download a copy of a map tile package (.tpk or .tpkx) or vector tile package (.vtpk) from their ArcGIS Organization or directly copy it to the device or SD card.

 A screenshot of the Field Maps web app showing a user how to associate a tile package for the offline basemap.

Associate a tile package for the offline basemap.

While this blog post was written for Collector, the steps are the same for Field Maps.

See the help topic on preparing maps for download as well as the best practices in the offline guide.

High Accuracy Data Collection

Q: What type of GNSS receivers are supported by Field Maps?

A: Field Maps supports internal GPS receivers and external GPS receivers that output NMEA sentences. See Choose a receiver for a list of NMEA sentences that Field Maps can read and a list of GPS receivers that can be used.

Q: Is Field Maps able to be used on other field devices such as Trimble?

A: While Field Maps supports working with various Trimble GNSS units for higher accuracy, the mobile app itself must be installed on a connected iOS or Android device.

Field Maps integration of ArcGIS Tracker

Q: Is there a way to save tracks recorded and then use the tracks in other maps? For example, the field crew wants to see tracks from previous years to follow the same route that was monitored.

A: Field Maps supports location tracking once it is enabled for your ArcGIS Organization by your administrator. The Field Maps mobile user just needs to turn on location tracking from the maps page or from the GPS banner when within the map. From the Layers list turn My Tracks on or off but this only displays the mobile user’s own tracks up to 72 hours.

Screenshot from the Field Maps mobile app showing users how to use the Track My Location function. 

Options for recording your own tracks in Field Maps mobile.

The period of time that tracks are kept in your ArcGIS organization varies – in ArcGIS Online the maximum retention period is 30 days while in Enterprise you may store them indefinitely (remember they do use storage). To keep track data for longer you may export the tracks. While tracks in ArcGIS Online can only be exported as shapefiles or CSV files, you may publish these as hosted feature layers to share for viewing or further analysis. For this example, you could make tracks from previous years available as a layer in your web map.

Stay tuned for more of your Field Maps questions answered in Part 2, coming soon!

This post was translated to French and can be viewed here.


About the Author

Sue Enyedy is Esri Canada’s GeoMobility Advocate. She promotes the effective adoption of Esri’s mobile solutions to help organizations connect and optimize their field and office operations using GIS. Sue has worked at the Region of Halton and at Geomatics International during her GIS career. Her passion for geography and GIS started at McMaster University, where she completed bachelor and master of science degrees.

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