17 Jun

Fulcrum: Bringing Data Collection to the Field, Anytime, Anywhere

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fulcrum

Fulcrum is an app that makes geospatial technology accessible to anyone with a smartphone. It allows the user to design custom forms to collect field data, and is fully customizable without any coding knowledge necessary. In addition to text data, the software allows for geotagged pictures, videos, and audio notes to be uploaded to the cloud for secure storage and easy access. Fulcrum’s ingenious software works in both connected and disconnected environments, and has facilitated the work of both countless grassroots initiatives as well as large companies.

I decided to try out the app for myself, and made an account on fulcrumapp.com, which can then be synced to the app on a smartphone. Both the website and app have interfaces that are very easy to understand, even for one with no GIS experience. The user is given the option to build the app from scratch, or choose from a large variety of ready-made templates, with categories including cultural analysis, civil engineering, political campaigns, and over a dozen more. I chose from the “Water Apps” category, which included more specific choices, such as a bioswale survey, storm drain inspection, water sample testing form, etc. Before settling on a template, you can see a quick video previewing the app and the kinds of default data fields available in that app template. I chose the bioswale survey app, which is designed to record a bioswale’s size, quantity of runoff, and any important issues that need attention. Drainage measurements are automatically calculated using measured inputs.

It’s easy to see why Fulcrum’s interface translates so seamlessly across sectors. The companies and organizations that use Fulcrum’s technology are extremely varied and operate all over the world. TenBoma, an initiative based in the Kenyan savannas and a project of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, utilizes Fulcrum to track elephant poachers and ivory smugglers. The teams travel across the savanna and plot observations of poachers on a real-time map. The information is shared with local authorities to help identify and dismantle elephant poaching networks. The HALO Trust is a non-profit that clears buried explosives in post-war countries such as Cambodia, where there have been thousands of casualties due to hidden landmines. There is a lot of administrative work involved in demining, and HALO had been producing over 3,000 pages of paper reports every month. Since working with the Fulcrum software, the huge reduction in manual data entry means time can be spent on verifying and analyzing the data, which can be also converted into XML format for use by Cambodia’s national database.

Fulcrum’s user-friendliness and versatility of features lends itself to on-the-spot geographical documentation, which is particularly useful for humanitarian aid efforts and environmental protection, but in fact it has gained universal utility in every field that has some geographical component. We can see why, and look forward to seeing how Fulcrum continues to change the world for the better.

 

Written by Annabelle Tsaboukas

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