July 2014    Print this article

The Digital Field Log

Charles Blais, Ministère de l’Énergie et des Ressources naturelles

During geological mapping campaigns, the MERN’s geologists travel through Québec looking for rock outcrops, to provide additional information on the province’s geology. Every outcrop is carefully identified, positioned using GPS and described using a specific nomenclature and photographs. Currently, observations are written by hand in a notebook, in the form of a paper log, before being transferred manually to the geo-mining information system (SIGÉOM), processed and circulated publicly in different formats (see the article on the interactive map and use of SIGÉOM’s Web mapping data).

This method, in use for some years now, has several disadvantages. For example, geologists may forget to write down certain details, or their handwritten notes may be illegible. In addition, information must be entered twice, once on paper and once on a computer, and transcription mistakes are inevitable. Data processing times are also longer.

The emergence of mobile technology offers new solutions for data collection in the field, and Géologie Québec intends to take advantage of these innovations for its mapping campaigns.

A tablet-based digital field log will be tested beginning in the summer of 2014. The log will be used to geo-position rock outcrops using the tablet’s GPS system, enter various descriptive codes and take photographs. Verification factors built into the digital log will ensure that the information is of good quality. The log content will then be downloaded and compiled in the SIGÉOM system.

The pilot project will be carried out by one of the teams during a field campaign. Among other things, it will allow for evaluation of both the hardware and the software applications used.

From the standpoint of hardware, the pilot project will test four robust Android tablets selected for trial. The tablets will be used by the geologists on a daily basis, so that they are exposed to different conditions and situations including rain, cold, heat, dust, impacts, vibrations and mosquito repellent. The built-in GPS and camera, and the effect of sunlight on the tablet screen, will also be tested.

From the standpoint of software, the application’s user-friendliness will be studied from every angle: data input, stability, proposed values, data verification and the mechanism used to transfer data to the current system. A mapping application will also be tested for use in the field.

Based on the comments received after the trial, the application will be improved and the most suitable tablet will be chosen. In the coming summers, all the teams involved in mapping campaigns will gradually be equipped with the new tablets.

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