DataPlus Mobile – Using a Forms Builder for Forestry Field Data Collection

Including Implementation of a Laser RangeFinder

Electronic Data Solutions® DataPlus® Mobile (DPM) form creation software is particularly well-suited for creating field data collection forms for use in forestry. Using a timber cruising application, this article will show how to replicate forestry field forms, utilize DataPlus Mobile features to speed field data collection and minimize errors, and then quickly and easily download the data to an office computer and prepare the data for use in spreadsheets, databases and GIS software.

A trial or purchase of DataPlus Mobile will include a documents folder with user-manuals for all of the DataPlus Mobile components. A key document within this folder is the DataPlus Mobile Tutorial. The Tutorial includes a number of lessons on how to build a DataPlus application. The example used in the tutorial is the same timber cruise application discussed here. You can obtain a free trial version of DataPlus Mobile with tutorial here.

Timber cruising is a method of determining the amount, size, and species of trees within an area in a forest. The forest is divided in stands. The stand is further divided into plots. Detailed data consisting of tree information, wildlife information, and any other general observations that may affect the value or access to the trees is collected within each plot. Data of various types may be collected on a cruise. The tree data consists of species, size, and any defect or damage to each tree. In our example, wildlife data is also being collected. The wildlife data consists of the species, location from the plot center, and the activity in the area.

DataPlus Mobile features and tools used in this example include:

  • four-level application
  • auto date/time
  • individual column help messages
  • translated error checking (code that is translated by field computer into more meaningful data)
  • range file column list and column range error checks (restricts user input to values based on a string or value from a previous column defined in a list)
  • related error check files (a way of associating an error check file to a string, value, or range from another column)
  • missing data check function (checks for empty columns that are marked as required)
  • automatic GPS input for latitude, longitude and elevation from integrated receiver
  • Input from a laser rangefinder and dendrometer for height and diameter

Form example:


Organizing data into levels and branches improves the efficiency of initial data collection and subsequent data analysis.

  • Levels minimize the need for replicating generalized data, avoiding input errors.
  • Branches provide useful categories.

DataPlus Mobile allows up to 5 file levels. The files and levels can be layed out in a tree fashion like a family tree with parent and child files. Each file can have up to 26 child branches. Each file can have up to 250 columns each with a maximum of 2500 total bytes per line. This can be determined by adding up all the column sizes in the file. The CRUISE Application will be organized with four data levels with three branches off the plot level.


Beginning with the DataPlus Mobile Application Generator, your form will take on this look in the data format screen:



Your next steps will be:

  • defining how data is entered for each field
  • defining screen options (how prompts and data will appear on the field device)
  • creating error checks for appropriate fields
  • setting up input for sensors and devices such as GPS and the laser range finder
  • creating a conversion format for your collected data

DataPlus Mobile Host is used to load the created application on your field device. Depending on the mobile device that you are using your data collection screens will appear like this:


To further increase productivity in the field, DPM supports input from the TruPulse Series of laser rangefinders from Laser Technology (LTI). The TruPulse 200 and 360 lasers provide a fast and accurate method to calculate tree height. They are also used to closely measure the distance from plot center to a tree or from a stream or protected area to create a buffer zone. The DPM application can be configured to receive tree heights from the TruPulse through Bluetooth or a cabled connection.


Along the same lines as the TruPulse, DPM supports the LTI RD 1000 electronic dendrometer to increase the speed and accuracy of data collection. The RD 1000 is used standalone or paired with a TruPulse which provides an accurate distance to the tree. The measurement (e.g. tree diameter) is downloaded to the handheld and DPM application using a serial cable.


Visit here for more information on measuring tree heights using the TruPulse laser.

See here for information on timber cruising and the RD 1000.

Data collected in the field can be converted to mulitple formats including ASCII, DBF, MDB and a Shapefile. Data collected in our example application would look like this in MS Excel:


More Information

This application is available free for your use and modification for your own needs. This sample application can be found here, and is titled “Timber Cruising Sample Application”.

Electronic Data Solutions will be presenting a free webinar on DataPlus Mobile for Forestry on Wednesday, 15 June, 2016 at 10:00 am MDT. View Recorded Webinar.

Previous blogs related to specific DataPlus Mobile features and tools:

Implementing GPS Data in Your DataPlus® Mobile Application

Implementing GPS Data in your DataPlus Mobile Application — Part 2: Collecting Line or Polygon Data to an External File

DataPlus Mobile – Using a Forms Builder for Fisheries Field Data Collection

DataPlus Mobile – Taking Field Data Collection to the Next Level

As always, you can contact us for more information.