Improving the Positional Accuracy of Your Mobile Device

In September 5, 2017

For most field users of smart phones and tablet computers the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) receiver that is built into the mobile device is accurate enough for navigation purposes.  I have used an iPad for fieldwork in the forest industry since early in 2011.  Even in heavily forested environments I have found the built-in GNSS receiver places me within about 10 to 15 m of my true location about 95% of the time.  I find this is acceptable for navigation but not when recording the location of features.

Fortunately when higher accuracies are desired there are some excellent Bluetooth enabled receivers available.  These can turn your smart phone or tablet into a very capable mapping tool!  You can significantly improve accuracy by purchasing a recreational grade Bluetooth GNSS receiver for as little as a few hundred dollars.  However, when you need something that will consistently deliver high accuracy data you will have to spend significantly more.

To help field users make an informed choice regarding a couple of inexpensive GNSS receivers I did some testing and wrote an article a in 2015.  I have been surprised that blog post has consistently been one of the most read.  In it I describe testing and results for an iPad Air 2, Garmin Glo and Bad Elf Surveyor in a forested environment.

The best article I have read regarding the field use of several professional grade GNSS receivers was published by Anatum Field Systems in 2016.  The units were tested in a variety of environments – open sky to heavily forested.  If you are considering purchasing a GNSS receiver this article is a must read.

When choosing a GNSS receiver, one important consideration is the satellite constellations and correction data that can be used to improve the accuracy of the unit.  EOS Positioning Systems is a manufacturer that produces survey grade GNSS units.  They have some excellent articles that provide information that is valuable no matter what device you use.  In this article the current state of GNSS satellite constellations is described.

I hope these articles will provide the information you need to make an informed decision regarding the field use of GNSS data.

Brian Saunders
White Raven Innovations Limited
Cell: 250 802 6115
Skype: BrianSaunders.WRI
Twitter: @tabletEXgear