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Useful smartphone applications?  RSS feed

 
Peter Ellis
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On my mind at the moment are applications that would allow us to measure and map our new property (twenty acres of Michigan woods), but I'm open to discussing whatever apps people have come across and found useful, or warnings about apps that might sound like they would be useful but turned out not to perform as expected.

 
Dan Boone
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I am bumping this because I have been frustrated by the lack of apps for helping do the kinds of things that we do.  All suggestions welcome!
 
Leo Dias
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Measure your land --> Measure your land for IOS
Using it on Iphone5 but reckon a tablet version would be way better
 
Peter Ellis
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SoilWeb is an app for smartphones that puts the NRCS Soil Survey maps in your hands in the field.

MapIt lets you take photos and make notes linked to locations.  So far I don't have it worked out yet, but it looks potentially useful.

Not satisfied with any plant ID apps so far.
 
Daron Williams
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Building from the original post - If you could have someone make a series of permaculture apps for mobile devices, what would you want them to make? What would actually be helpful?

Also, you can use Google Earth or ArcGIS Earth to measure your property. I used these to measure the length of a border area that I wanted to fence and it was very accurate.
 
Ron Helwig
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From what I can tell, current GPS tech is nowhere near accurate enough for what I want to do. It will get you within 3 meters if you're lucky, but I want to be accurate within an inch or two.

I'd love to have an app where I can map out a maple syrup gathering route. Sometime in the early fall I'd walk the property and 'bump' each tree that looks like it is worth tapping. It would record it, and I could add notes like what type of maple I think it is. Even better would be if I could snap a pic of a leaf and it would identify it for me. Then when tapping time comes it would let me mark which ones are tapped, and how many taps. Then when collecting starts it would show me a good route (one I could modify to say "can't go that way"). As I collect I can say how much, roughly, each tree is producing so the route can change so I'm not trying to overfill buckets. But since trees that are only a few feet apart can't be located closely enough, this app wouldn't work.

I'd also love to have a way to map out where I've actually planted annuals. It should be able to tell that carrots are in this row, and celery is in the next row 6 inches away. This 3' section of this row is spinach variety X, and this 3.5' section in the row beside it is spinach variety Y. If I hold the smartphone steady, it should tell me what is planted directly under it. I know some people put down stakes and write down copious notes on paper, but there's no way in hell I'm doing that - stakes get in the way and trip me all the time, and taking notes is a huge PITA so I just don't do it. Gotta be very easy, like I talk and it converts it to text.

It would also be great if this app had quick access to companion plant info.

I'm an experienced programmer and could write these myself, but the location tech has to improve greatly before it's worth bothering.
 
Daron Williams
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@Ron: I have some programming experience too and have been thinking about writing some apps to help with the work I want to do on my property. If I did I figured I would share them with you all and I would be happy to see about making some based on other people's interests. I find programming fun and I have not had the opportunity to do it recently.

Ron Helwig wrote:From what I can tell, current GPS tech is nowhere near accurate enough for what I want to do. It will get you within 3 meters if you're lucky, but I want to be accurate within an inch or two.


It depends on what you are using. GPS tech comes in three broad categories - Consumer, Mapping and Survey grade. Most of us only use consumer grade GPS units (smart phones, tablets, Garmin units from REI, etc.). Survey grade units can get down to mm accuracy, and mapping grade is about a foot. But with consumer grade units there are things you can do to improve its accuracy. If you just need point data many GPS units can take continuous readings over 30sec to a min and then average these readings into a single point. This tends to improve your accuracy a fair bit, and with some programs you can also do this for lines and polygons. Also, there are a lot of variables that can impact the number of satellites that are visible at your location and therefor your accuracy. The obvious is physical objects such as buildings, trees, etc. that will block the line of sight with a satellite. But also the satellites location in the sky changes throughout the day and the number overhead changes too throughout the day. You can use programs such as the Trimble Planning software (free to download and there is an online version) to enter your location information and generate what is known as a PDOP which helps you figure out the best time of day at your location to collect GPS data. The planning software can also tell you what elevation the satellites are in degrees above the horizon at any given time. If your property has a lot of trees than you will want to pick a time of day when the satellites are at their highest elevation. A clinometer can help you determine what is the minimum elevation the satellites need to be in degrees above the horizon for your property. This site goes over how to figure all this out (the mission planning section - but all of the site is helpful): http://gps.sref.info/course/8a.html I took a GPS course in college that covered all of this and if you are careful to plan when to use GPS on your property you can greatly improve the accuracy. I have gotten consumer grade units down to 3 feet accuracy but of course some units are superior to others and some sites are just bad for GPS (lots of blocking objects). If you pick the best time of day to collect the data for your location and have the unit figure out an average over 30sec to a min for each point you can get some accurate data.

Hope that helps and I hope people keep sharing ideas for apps and sharing existing apps! One web app (also android app) that I like a lot is this one: SunCalc It is great for looking up the path of the sun at different times of the year and it will also show you the length and direction of a shadow cast by an object of a specific height (you set the height). Great way to quickly see how much shade that new tree or building will cast on your garden!
 
Peter Ellis
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Ron, there is an app called "Map It" that seems like it is pretty much just what you want for mapping your maple tree route. I'm having some trouble working with it, but I have some pretty crazy problems working with electronic devices these days.  Others seem to have found this app useful
 
Krystelle Ellaby
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myTracks - The GPS - Logger, Dirk Stichling (free:iphone)

I've only had this for a couple of days.
It seems to be fairly accurate, and Ive used it in a place that has no wifi, or phone reception...

*You could probably map your maple trees, by recording while walking along and when you find a tree you want to mark, walk around it a few times.
Each tree would show up as a blobby blue circle in Google earth, you could drop pins to mark and label them.

Contours:
(I haven't done this yet)
Use an a-frame, or other method to mark out a contour.
Start at your first marker, start recording, walk along contour to next marker and so on, stop the recording at the last marker.

Sections and elevations
walking in as straight a line as possible record your track
The app gives you a fair idea of the distance of the slope you walked up/down
The app tells you the highest point and lowest point, so you have the rise and run if you feel like doing some math...

Share/export/email your "track" as a .kml file (this requires a AUD$4.50 upgrade, about USD$2)
Open the .kml file in Google Earth. It becomes a "Path", in the "places" toolbox, left side of screen.

Take a screenshot, which can then be shared/downloaded/exported/printed
You can open multiple .kml files at a time, so you could have a contour map, good enough for illustration purposes at least.

The accuracy is the same as Google Earth paths.
Google earth said max elevation was 96m, my tracks said 92m.
Google earth said min elevation was 88m, my tracks said 82m.
Google earth said my drive way was 144m, my tracks said 150m.
Discrepancies are because the two paths didn't start and finish in exactly the same spot and the google earth path is by default less detailed.

I only walked down my driveway to test it. I think i swung my arms around a bit...
Heres some screen shots.
Screen-Shot-2016-12-31-at-00.09.07.png
[Thumbnail for Screen-Shot-2016-12-31-at-00.09.07.png]
Screen shot of the .kml file uploaded to google earth blue line is the path from my tracks, red line is a path drawn with google earth.
file-2.jpeg
[Thumbnail for file-2.jpeg]
screenshot of my "track"
file-1.jpeg
[Thumbnail for file-1.jpeg]
screen shot of the "track" details
 
I want my playground back. Here, I'll give you this tiny ad for it:
Video of all the permaculture design course and appropriate technology course (about 177 hours)
https://permies.com/wiki/65386/paul-wheaton/digital-market/Video-PDC-ATC-hours-HD
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