This study examined the potential use of low-cost consumer-grade smartphone technology to perform and improve field data collection in support of small-scale forest management. This proof-of-concept exercise for day-to-day forester operations focused on the effectiveness of the smartphone platform (form factor and functionality) rather than any particular smartphone software. An electronic data acquisition system for a smartphone was developed that combined a simple custom timber cruise application and mobile commercial mapping software to record and process forest stand and geospatial information, and transfer these to a small-scale operator’s existing desktop geographic information system. Workflow efficiency and system performance of the smartphone system was then measured and compared with paper-based methods presently being used in the managed forest. The smartphone greatly increased workflow efficiency by reducing data transfer and processing times, and eliminated the need to carry separate global positioning system (GPS) device, map, paper forms and digital camera. The GPS accuracy of the smartphone was more than adequate to meet operational requirements, and provided a capacity to map forest features on an ad hoc basis that is not easily done through the paper-based process. However, initial data entry using the smartphone takes longer than using paper-based notes, there is a greater chance of data entry error through inadvertent keypad touches on the small screen, and there is the potential for a device malfunction. Overall, it is concluded that smartphones offer an opportunity for small-scale operators to create electronic field data management systems that are affordable, operationally robust, compatible with existing management systems, capable of increasing data management efficiency and, in particular, expanding the types of data that can be collected during silvicultural operations.
Mobile phone Mobile GIS Data management Workflow efficiency Paperless