by Gemma Barson, on June, 23, 2015
Smartphones and tablets have worked their way into almost all aspects of our lives, including work. While there has been an abundance of business related apps for some time now, it has taken a while for developers to set their sights on more niche areas. It wasn’t so long ago, for example, that the idea of carrying out field work or surveys accurately using a mobile device was laughable. Nowadays however, there are a number of advantages to using such devices in the field, from simply checking out the journals, to using high quality precision software. The fact that a tablet is considerably more transportable than a heavy piece of equipment is perhaps the most obvious advantage, but there are a number of others as well.
Cost and Practicality
Mobile devices and their potential, especially in the world of geophysics, have been a hot topic for some years now. The oil and gas sector was especially quick on the uptake of any mobile innovations, mainly due to the reliance on mobile technology that had already made itself indispensable to the more data focused areas of the industry. The main stalling point for more field focused areas of geophysics was the fact that many geophysicists were reluctant to engage with app programming. As the use of both cloud based computing and storage and mobile devices has proliferated, as well as the fact that mobile devices are now much more powerful, more apps focused on practical geophysical applications are appearing. This is mainly due to the fact that apps themselves are much easier and cheaper to program than when they first appeared. Now, geoscientists are able to apply their knowledge of their field directly into app form, and solve problems or streamline processes in such a way that makes a tablet a valuable piece of field kit. Another advantage to the proliferation of these specialist apps is they are highly customisable – a feature that is often missing from more unwieldy field equipment. Mobile techs and specialist apps have, as a result, opened up a whole new range of possibilities for all levels of projects for geoscientists across the world. One slight drawback of course, is that tablets can be quite fragile, and are not generally designed to withstand wilderness locations. This can be offset by the fact that cloud computing offers a secure, always accessible storage option for key data. Scientists can also take the simple step of making sure their equipment is protected from damage in case of accident.
In recent years, a number of geoscience solution providers have also turned their attention to app development, either as standalone products or as companion software to other devices or software. The AGI SuperSting is one such example, which allows a number of remote functions to be performed on the SuperSting equipment, as well as a number of functions. The CSEMoMatic is another example of full service modelling software in app form, which could prove to be extremely useful on a field trip. Mobile database apps in particular are especially popular, and are effectively closing the gap between the expensive kit that is exclusively available to scientists, and everyday technology.
Utah University showcased the value and practicality of a geophysics focused app with the High Density Large Woody Debris app which was used for a large scale stream restoration project. As apps get even cheaper and easier to make, increasingly complex science can slowly make its way into the public domain. With the right tools for example (in app form), there is nothing to stop community and citizen science projects from undertaking experiments projects that would previously have required professional level equipment and software.
For the professional world, the use of database apps to streamline field readings, and data flow in general, is likely to have some far reaching, positive benefits to not only geophysics, but the sciences in general. Coupled with cloud computing, increasingly powerful tablets and mobile devices, as well as more wide reaching, faster Wi-Fi access, it might not be long before the tablet and a number of trusty apps are the most important part of any geophysics expedition or field study. Geophysics may not be alone in these developments either, as more and more scientific fields are embracing the power of the app.