The Northwest Habitat Institute, a non-profit scientific organization, required an in-field data entry solution for “VEMA” – their desktop vegetation management database. NWHI called on Mobile Technology specialists from GeoMobile Innovations. VEMA is used by vegetation managers from the US Fish and Wildlife, US Environmental Protection Agency, and supporting land management contractors to collect and report on critical plant data. VEMA helps these field professionals develop vegetation mitigation and restoration plans and subsequent vegetation performance criteria and thresholds. Prior to a mobile companion to VEMA, all the field data had to be collected with pen and paper in the field and translated back into the VEMA database in the office – a major impediment to the field user’s acceptance and efficient use of the VEMA program.
GeoMobile Innovations developed “VEMA Mobile,” which runs on Windows Mobile field computers. VEMA Mobile allows all site data to be harvested and verified directly in the field at the time of collection. For increased efficiency, VEMA Mobile automatically calculates key threshold data such as moisture index, and integrates with GPS receivers to link a spatial component to the data. After capturing the data, users sync the site data back to the desktop via GeoMobile Innovations’ desktop manager, and immediately run performance reports on the site – saving countless hours of entry and calculation time.
Key factors in the selection of GeoMobile Innovations as the development team were their “scope to final product” capabilities and thorough knowledge of the mobile technology landscape. Major challenges for mobile device implementation include the acceptance of the user interface and supporting an efficient data collection workflow for a positive field user experience. PDAs have small screens and limited, if any, keyboards. Typically, even a very technical user lacks the unique experience to specify clearly to the mobile programmer the ideal interface driving the user experience on a mobile device. Before programming a single line of code, GeoMobile clearly mapped out the specification “blueprint” of the workflow and user interface based on the existing VEMA desktop software. The user interface maximized the effectiveness of object selection and data entry on the smaller PDA screens and limited keyboard devices that that run VEMA Mobile.