Mobile apps in the Field

The Field, as in the Internet. The capital letter indicates respect, admiration and so on. So for all of you field geologists, who happen to like mud on your boots and sunburns (who doesn’t!) you may find this post useful.

There are many portable geology apps, both in Android as well as in iPhone. When we go mapping on the field we like to carry loads of instruments: Compass, hammer, measure tape, HCl, sample bags, etc. Using a smartphone has at least alliviated the need to carry a camera for quick observations, but what if it could also improve on our compass and notebook? I read about this kind of apps on other blogs like Androgeoid or Un geólogo en apuros.

Geohammer and mobiles
This feels like the right array of weapons.

So, I went ahead and selected three Android apps and tested them in the field: Rocklogger, Fieldmove Clino and to a lesser extent Theodolite (as it offers less geology-related content). For you Apple fans, try Fieldmove Clino for free via iTunes.

Here is what I think about each of them:

  1. Rocklogger has a harsh interface at first, but it’s great and simple. You can easily log measurements of different types and plot them on a map. Paid version offers stereonet or KML export (for use with your favourite Geographic Information System).
  2. Fieldmove Clino has a cleaner interface, offers logging, plotting on map and even photo geotagging. Its core features are similar, with paid versions supplying stereonet and KML export.
  3. Theodolite acts as a clinometer of sorts. For the ones that do not want too complicated apps: Vertical is 0º so you’ll want to substract 90º to get the dip of your plane. No logging so you’ll have to input the data into a notebook or another app.
A) Rocklogger. B) Fieldmove Clino. C) Theodolite.
A) Rocklogger. B) Fieldmove Clino. C) Theodolite.

Be aware that Rocklogger gives dip direction as north-based azimuth and Fieldmove Clino in its compass mode gives East – West declination, so for the two images above the dip direction is approx. N 220º.

I feel the two first programs are similar, with Rocklogger requiring less clicks and dragging to log, so despite the nicer interface of Fieldmove Clino it would prove better in a long traverse.

Testing them against an old Silva compass yielded very close results, so I like the accuracy of the apps: The dip angle was the same for the three apps and the compass; the dip direction gave the same results for both Rocklogger and Fieldmove Clino and was close enough to what I measured analogically.

Here you can see the aspect of the log record in both apps, which are pretty useful to know at a glance the main directions of your lithology:

The logs: Rocklogger on the left and Fieldmove Clino on the right.
The logs: Rocklogger on the left and Fieldmove Clino on the right.

All in all, I see this kind of application as a very good partner in the field for the mapping geologist. It makes measurements take less time, and more measurements mean the small instrumental error can be mitigated (but always make sure to check with more analogical means, just in case).

Give them a try, you’ll not regret it!

2 thoughts on “Mobile apps in the Field

  1. Hi!, a comment from another ‘geogeek’:

    These apps depend on the hardware. For instance, I have both a Galaxy note phone and tablet (with otterbox cases), and none of them seem to get good azimuth measurements. However, I use clino as my notebook and use my ‘analog’ compass to take measurements.

    Just found your blog, will follow it closely haha.

    1. Nice! Hope you like it here 🙂

      Yeah, the measurements I got with the hardware I have are also a bit underwhelming. I’ve changed hardware since, so I’ll try with the new phone to see if they improved on the sensors for this type of work. I’m guessing we’ll be using mostly digital compasses on the near future, but analog ones are more comfortable to work with, haha.

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