The Forestry Source - June 2012 - (Page 14)
GIS for Foresters
ArcGIS 10.1, Lidar, Mobile Apps Highlight Esri’s Forestry GIS Conference
members of the group. Membership is free. Go to www.esri.com/industries/for estry/community/get-connected.html. Now, a brief recap of two of the key topics discussed at the conference: Lidar and mobile GIS and mapping. ArcGIS 10.1 and Lidar In a video greeting to conference attendees, Esri president and founder Jack Dangermond said that ArcGIS 10.1, to be released this month, would be a “big jump forward” for ArcGIS, and in a number of ways. Esri’s recently published a “What’s new in ArcGIS 10.1” document summarizes them—in 169 pages. One of the most significant changes will be in support for Lidar (light detection and ranging) data. ArcGIS 10.1 will be able to read lidar LAS datasets directly, so you won’t have to convert all that point-cloud data into a format that ArcGIS can use. This means that you’ll be able to view, manage, and analyze Lidar data more easily. Lidar is one of those “gee-whiz” technologies that is gradually becoming more important to foresters for analyzing stands, terrain, roads, streams, and other resources. One day, you’ll wonder how you ever managed without Lidar, just as today it is hard to imagine doing without GIS. “Lidar has a bad rap as expensive,” said Ron Behrendt, president of Behron, a consulting firm based in Whitefish, Montana, in an introduction to Lidar. “But I like to think of it as good value.” Value being in the massive amounts of data, useful data, about forests. The title of his presentation was, “Creative Lidar Point Cloud Filtering Exposes Over Looked Trails and Roads.” Tembec, the Canadian forest-products company, is getting great value from its Lidar data, said Chad St. Amand, the company’s GIS Manager: stand height, stand density, tree diameters, timber volume, basal area, biomass volume, and so on. “If you can think about it in forestry,” said St. Amand, “Lidar can probably do it for you.” Esri knows just how important this technology is to foresters, as evidenced by the several Lidar-oriented presentations during the conference, including a full-day workshop on using it in ArcGIS 10.1. Look for more coverage of Lidar in future editions of The Forestry Source. devices will remain the tool of choice for many of us, given the nature of working in the woods. You won’t find me using my new Samsung smartphone in the rain. Have you used ArcGIS for Android, iOS, or Windows Phone in for field work? Are you planning to do so? Do you or your field staff use smartphones for data collection and/or mapping? Tell me about it. 503-622-3033 or email@example.com. Looking for more Field Tech articles? Then look no further than the consultants page on in the forestry professionals area of the SAF website at www.eforester.org/fp/consulting.cfm. There you’ll find columns from previous issues of The Forestry Source and more!
By Source Editor Steve Wilent s you may recall, in writing last year about Esri’s first annual Forestry GIS Conference, I noted that it was impossible to adequately summarize a three-day technical conference in a single brief article. There’s even more to write about this year’s event, held in May at Esri’s headquarters in Redlands, California, but, alas, I have about the same amount of space. First, credit where credit is very much due for putting together an excellent program: to Peter Eredics, Esri’s forestry manager, and to Mark Books and Elizabeth Martinez, president and vice president, respectively, of the Esri Forestry Group. (See page 20 for more about the conference.) By the way, if you work with GIS at all, I suggest joining the Esri Forestry Group. You’ll benefit from the experience and knowledge of Books, a remote-sensing/GIS forester for Colorado State University’s Center for Environmental Management of Military Lands, and Martinez, director of GIS and IT for the Forestland Group, a timber investment management organization (TIMO), as well as other
Figure 2. During the forest navigation and mapping field lab at Esri’s Forestry GIS Conference, Tim Clark, an engineer with Esri’s land and natural resources team, demonstrates ArcGIS running on rugged tablet PCs made by Motion Computing.
Figure 1. The Texas Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal (a.k.a., TXWrap) can be accessed via mobile phones or any other computer via the Web.
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area. However, according to sources at Esri, the most-requested feature for ArcGIS for Android is the ability to update maps and collect data while unconnected. The company is working to introduce this capability, it said. In any case, I can see many uses for the app in urban forestry and anywhere that has all the modern communications conveniences. With the ability to collect and edit GIS data in the field, foresters have the option of deploying ArgGIS via an inexpensive yet versatile smartphone rather than via a field computer that costs $1,500 or more. On the other hand, those more costly, more rugged
The World Is Mobilizing Smartphones are everywhere, right? Maybe more than you think. “Let’s look at it numerically: 158 million smartphones were activated last year, bringing the total worldwide to 500 million. And that was a 58 percent increase over the previous year. Those are staggering numbers. This has led some people to say that ‘mobile is the new black,’” said Dave Bouwman, chief technology officer and senior software architect at DTS Agile, in an address at the conference. The company builds custom enterprise GIS systems and mobile apps. “The shift in how people interact and work with data is a huge thing, and very powerful.” Like everybody else, foresters have smartphones, too, and for good reason. Take a look at this month’s Field Tech column for a few examples. Another example: Bouwman briefly described the Texas Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal (a.k.a., TXWrap), a tool developed by Texas Forest Service GIS specialists in concert with DTS Agile. The portal uses ArcGIS to provide access to wildfire risk information and planning tools for emergency response officials, land-management planners, homeowners, and others. It can be accessed via mobile phones (see Figure 1) or more traditional means of accessing the Web (www.texaswildfirerisk .com). David Buckley, DTS Agile’s vicepresident of GIS solutions, gave a more detailed demonstration of TXWrap at the conference and said the company is working on versions for Southern and Western states. Although smartphones out of the box aren’t rugged enough for many forestry tasks, Bouwman said simply putting them inside a well-built case makes them so in many instances. In his presentation, he showed a photograph of someone collecting field data. This person had both a rugged tablet computer running ArcMap and an iPad running a mapping application (the specific type couldn’t be identified in the photo), and he was entering data from the
iPad into ArcMap on the tablet computer. One day soon, all of the software he needed, and the power to run it, will be available in a smartphone. “There’s going to be a shift in what we can take out into the field,” Bouwman said. ArcGIS for Android (or iOS or Windows Phone version 7.0), described in this month’s Field Tech column, is a prime example. In the not-too-distant future, smartphones may be capable of running ArcPad and still more powerful software, perhaps ArcGIS itself. (You can take ArcGIS with you to the field now, but not on a smartphone—see Figure 2.) “A single smartphone has more power than the guidance system on Apollo 11, which took man to the moon,” said Bouwman. “Five smartphones have substantially
“Lidar has a bad rap as expensive, but I like to think of it as good value.”
— Ron Behrendt, Behron LLC
more power than what the space shuttle was using. They had five 386s on there. Remember 386s [with single processors] running at 33 megahertz? My smartphone runs at 1,000 megahertz. There are phones out there with five cores [processors]. This is incredible power that we have in our pockets, and we can tote it around with us 24/7 and we don’t even notice.” Some observers say that advances in smartphone technology are surpassing the rate predicted by Moore’s law, the rule of thumb that computing power doubles every two years. One day you may pull out your smartphone and wonder why you ever had a desktop PC, a laptop, and even that brick of a field computer that you used to keep strapped to your chest in a “joey” harness. Do you use lidar or smartphone-based mapping tools in your forestry work? Tell me about it. Send your story to me by firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Forestry Source
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