Have you ever returned from a long day of field work, loaded your location sharing layer in ArcGIS Online and noticed sections missing from your route? What happened, you had your tracks turned on all day? Your device may be working against you. There are some settings both in Field Maps and on your device itself that, when configured correctly, can help make sure you aren’t missing any tracks again. Check out the tips for best performance below!
Location sharing is a capability in ArcGIS Field Maps that allows you to record where mobile workers are and where they have been. Whether it is for managing your assets in the field or having real time updates of field worker locations, having live and accurate location information can be a huge benefit, helping you get the most out of your organization. But when you are looking for active workers in the field or you have spent the day in the field and tracks are missing when you get back to the office, it can be frustrating. This data loss could be an issue with your GPS connection however, it is more likely that your device settings are getting in your way. Below are some key tips for configuring your device to keep as much data as possible so you never see recordings like this again:
ArcGIS Field Maps Settings
The first and most obvious culprit of missing tracks is a setting from within the application itself. To help preserve your battery life while in the file ArcGIS Field Maps has added a setting for Battery Optimization. When Battery Optimization is turned on, Field Maps will monitor the motion of the device and collect location information based on whether it is moving or standing still. If it notices the device moving more quickly, it will collect frequent high accuracy location information. If the device is stationary, low-accuracy locations are collected and at less frequent intervals. As a result, you may see less accurate information when you are standing still. This combined with poor GPS signal can result in location points not showing up where expected or points being missing altogether when no motion is registered. If consistent high accuracy data collection is more valuable to you than battery life you may want to turn Battery Optimization off.
To access this setting on both iOS or Android devices open your profile and navigate to Location Sharing & Alerts.
Accessing Battery Optimization on an iOS device:
Accessing Battery Optimization on an Android device:
While it is possible Battery Optimization has been causing data loss for your tracks, it is more likely to be a setting outside of the application itself that is controlled by the device. Let’s look at those together.
When considering location tracking on your device there are three main settings that you should look at if you are experiencing data loss while out in the field: location, power saving and background data usage. Each of these settings can have an impact on the way your phone is collecting location information.
As you have likely seen when opening any application that wants to track your location, your device will ask for permission for this app to collect that information. ArcGIS Field Maps is no exception and when you turn tracks on for the first time, on either iOS or Android devices, you will be prompted to allow your location to be collected by the app. For either device the options here are the same: Ask every time the app is opened, allow access while using the app, or never allow access:
In both cases you will want to select Allow While Using the App. Where this can become an issue is with iOS devices. None of these three options that you are presented with give you the ability to record location information while running Field Maps in the background. This means that if you close field maps to open another application on the device, or just close the screen to save some battery, your tracks will not be recorded. The first time you exit out of the application while recording tracks it should prompt you to change the location tracking setting to Always as you can see in the message below:
However, if you had not “allowed always” in the past and forgotten, or missed this message, you could be out in the field for long periods of time with nothing being recorded. If you are using an iOS device this setting can make or break the quality of your recorded tracks. This is not an option for Android devices so if you have given the app permission to collect your location information it will continue to do so in the background. You will want to confirm what your location configuration is for both iOS and
Android devices before you head out into the field. These settings can be found in the following locations:
For iOS devices open Settings > Field Maps > Location > Always
For Android devices open Settings > Apps > Field Maps > Permissions > Location > Allow only whole using the app
Battery Power Saving
If you have confirmed your location settings are configured correctly but when you open your “my tracks” layer there are still gaps in your collection, the next source of your trouble could be related to your battery, more specifically battery saving. Both iOS and Android devices have a setting that helps to manage the battery usage when power is running low. This can be automatically triggered by a low device power or turned on manually to help get the most out of your battery life. While this setting can help you stay out in the field longer it can also cause problems with the apps running in the background of your device. On both iOS and Android devices these settings restrict apps running in the background from refreshing, so if you have field maps with tracker on and running in the background of your device you are likely to lose large sections of your route. Turning off this setting should return your location collection to normal.
To access Low Power Mode on your iOS device, navigate to Settings > Battery.
To access Power Saving on your Android device, navigate to Settings > Battery and device care > Battery > Power Saving
A note to Android Users:
Many Android devices have an additional setting related to battery saving that can be impacting your location tracking. For each individual application you have the option to set the battery usage mode. The three options are Unrestricted, Optimized, and Restricted. If Field Maps is set to either Optimized or Restricted the app may be limited when running in the background and it is not unexpected that your tracks would stop collecting. To ensure tracks are always collected when you have tracking turned on, set this value to Unrestricted. This setting can be accessed through Settings > Apps > Field Maps > Battery
Background App Refresh
The final setting that can be interfering with your data collection is related to background refresh. Closely associated with battery optimization on your device, background refresh is a big part of what makes things work (or stop working) behind the scenes. This setting is often forgotten because it is generally controlled by the battery settings, when your battery saving settings are turned on most background refresh is turned off and vice versa. However, this setting can be controlled independently of your power saving and when it is turned off you will start to run into some problems. Just as was described with the low power modes for your devices, having background refresh turned off will make it so the application will not be updating when running in the background. This means the device will not check for location updates in Field Maps. So even if the app was not exited and should be running, your tracks will not be collected if not actively open and in use. If you have any plans to have field maps open in the background while out in the field, you will want to make sure this setting is turned on.
To access Background App Refresh in the iOS settings, navigate to Settings > Field Maps > toggle on/off Background App Refresh.
To access background data usage in the Android settings, navigate to Settings > Apps > Field Maps > Mobile data > Allow background data usage.
Just like with everything else GIS, the key to a successful field outing is being prepared. Knowing the settings you need to get the most out of location tracking in ArcGIS Field Maps is a big step to get you there. With everything configured correctly on your device you can ensure you are gathering all the information that your organization needs and never lose data again.
If you have any questions about tracking with field maps don’t hesitate to contact Esri Canada Technical Support to look at these settings together. Happy Mapping!