What GPS for data collection on PC?
I've not done a great deal of work with GPS... I am the entire IT Department for a big little County in what we call Far West Texas, and one of the hats I now wear is "Mapping". I put together an ESRI ArcVIEW mapping system and got things started, and now it's mushrooming on me. The County Road & Bridge dept loaned me their Garmin 7500 for awhile. It did fairly good job - I at least was able to create tracks for several County Roads to be added to the state's "County Road Inventory" and get them onto my ESRI ArcVIEW maps, and fill in the total mileage, road surface, etc. - the only thing I didn't like about it was that I couldn't find anything that would let it talk "live" to my laptop while I was driving around... had to manually dump data into the computer and then fiddle with it.

What I need to do now is collect data from specific points - we're mainly looking at adding features to the maps for emergency personnel, features such as water tanks, locked gates, specific building types, etc.

So what I'm looking for is a clean way to capture the coords plus a couple of typed/selected data items... I'm thinking: stop the vehicle, hit a key to indicate "grab this coord" and type in a couple of words (like "LG" for locked gate, "WT" for water tank, etc.). Oh, hell, I almost forgot... and now we want all the utility lines crossing County Roads... so I guess power line, gas line, water line...

Anyone have any pointers? I'd appreciate it.

Thanks - Tex
Ken in Regina
The simplest way to go would likely still be with a Garmin solution. Here's how I would do it.

Purchase Garmin's Mobile PC. Get the version that is bundled with one of their GPS receivers. The GPS10x is a top of the line Bluetooth receiver. The GPS20x is a good USB receiver.

Mobile PC on a laptop or netbook is like stuffing the Nuvi's interface, maps, and nav features into your laptop so I won't go into feature details. Suffice it to say that when you fire up Mobile PC with a GPS receiver attached to the computer, it's like you have the Nuvi with a giant display .... and a real keyboard.

Either of the GPS receivers that you can buy with it are the equal of the Nuvi you were testing with, so if the Nuvi was accurate enough for your purposes, the Mobile PC receivers will be, too.

Mobile PC captures track data just like the Nuvi. You can turn tracks on and off and you can save the active track to any name you want if you want to minimize the amount of redundant stuff you need to carve out later.

When you are somewhere you want to capture a waypoint, there are a couple of easy ways to do it in Mobile PC. Your waypoint naming convention would have to be something like LG1, LG2, LG3, etc. but that's just to avoid naming conflicts in the "Favorites" file where Mobile PC is going to store them. When you create the waypoint you can also assign it a category if that's useful for later processing. Might help with automating some of the work later.

Mobile PC stores all the current data, including tracks and waypoints, in a .GPX file which you should have no problem importing into ArcView. If you save a track under another name it will also be stored in a .GPX file with the name you gave the track.

If you want a Nuvi-in-a-laptop to record tracks and capture waypoints that can be easily imported into ArcView, Mobile PC will do the job nicely.

Ken in Regina
One thing I forgot to mention, but you are probably already aware, a .GPX file is just an XML file. In Mobile PC, the "CURRENT.GPX" file contains all of the current data saved in Mobile PC. So there will be a mixture of all the track points, waypoints, routes, etc. all in the one file. It should be no big thing to automate something to seperate it before dragging it into ArcView. Or maybe ArcView is GPX-literate enough to seperate the different entities when it imports. I'm not familiar enough with ArcView to know.

If it's a problem to seperate out all the track data and the waypoint entries from the single GPX file, there is another option you can add to the solution I suggested.

Garmin has a program called Mapsource. It is able to import all that data from Mobile PC and seperate it into the individual tracks and the waypoints. It also has track tools that let you view and edit the tracks interactively to clean them up. From Mapsource you can save the tracks into individual gpx files with a single track in each (if that's useful) and save the waypoints in a seperate GPX file that only contains waypoints (if that's useful).

There are a couple of ways you can get Mapsource. One is free (and legal). The other isn't free (but is still legal).

Synchronicity in action... I had just finished going over the info, and about concluded that for the main stuff, the Garmin GPS20X was just the thing.

When I saw this forum, I figured if anyone knew, it'd be someone here. I didn't want to mention it because I wanted to see what would be recommended.

I think it might be a good idea to have some kind of handheld - there are going to be some places where I'm gonna have to get out of the truck and hike a little bit, and I'm not sure carrying a laptop is going to be a good idea always. I was kind of eyeballing one of the model 400 Garmin's - looks like they're mainly for hikers and crosscountry travelers anyway. But this being laptop territory might not be the best place to ask.

Thanks - I really appreciate the response... I am very gruntled to know some of the Mobile PC features - looks like it'll do most of what I want. Might even be as good as if not better than the $5900 handheld the City's using - I think they've spent six months now trying to add the few dozen fire hydrants in our little town to their GIS database.
Originally Posted by Ken in Regina
... Garmin has a program called Mapsource... ...ken...
Yah - a copy came with the 7500, I've got it installed on a couple of computers. It's cool stuff, no doubt about it.

There's an interface program called something like Garmin-DNR that's available as a plugin for the ESRI hotsy-totsy ArcVIEW (pretty much bottom of the ESRI line, and still costs $1250 - which is more than the computer it runs on). This plugin's from the Minnesota Forest Service, they use it for grabbing points and tracks from various Garmins via GPX I think, and there's also a direct-connect that grabs it straight from the GPS's USB port. Best part is they're "free" for the downloading. If anyone's interested, I can probably dig up the url's...

Thanks - again - Tex
Ken in Regina
Glad to help, Tex. Also glad to know you're already experienced with Mapsource so you were able to catch what I was talking about without a lot of elaboration. The nice part about a Garmin solution is that you have access to both laptop and handheld choices and the whole mess is completely compatible and interchangeable. And there's a bucketful of stuff out there that understands "Garmin" as you've discovered with the DNR converter.

The upside of the city's expensive device is that it's probably more accurate than the consumer-grade stuff we're talking about here. The downside is that it will be low-volume and proprietary so anything you want to do with it will likely require cu$tom $olution$.

Let us know what you go with and how it works out. It's really valuable for others with similar problems to see how someone solved the problem. And it's really helpful for us to learn what worked ... if it was even close to anything we suggested or something else entirely.

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