Getting to know Survey123 for ArcGIS

June 11, 2016 — Ryan Potts


There are many field data collection and survey workflows that are completely form driven or dominated by the use of forms.  While Collector for ArcGIS is available for users and use cases that are more map centric, Survey123 (a new Esri product in beta) was built to provide support specifically for form based field data collection workflows.  Survey123 is an exciting new product in the Esri Mobile ecosystem, and fits well with other complimentary ArcGIS mobile applications like Workforce, Navigator, and Collector.


Building and Deploying a Survey

When needing to create a survey for Survey123, administrators will use an application called Survey123 Connect to create and configure field data collection forms that will be used in the Survey123 app.  Survey123 Connect is a downloadable application that can be installed on Windows, Mac, or Linux machines, and has some really nice capabilities for authoring and editing surveys.

Survey123 Connect allows you to create new surveys

Creating a survey is done by editing a spreadsheet using the XLSForm specification.  Esri provides excellent resources on the XLSForm specification (example here) and the flexibility it provides in creating custom logic for your surveys.  Some key highlights of what you are able to do include:

  • Ability to add different types of questions (single answer, multiple answer, file attachment, etc.)
  • Ability to quickly configure a choice list or set of options for the user
  • Addition of geopoints to the survey, so even though the survey is form driven, geospatial information can still be included in the data collected
  • Ability to show/hide follow up questions based on the answers provided to previous questions
  • Ability to validate data input and configure fields as required data
  • Adding supporting images, videos, sound, and other resources to assist the user when collecting field data

Notice the first question is required, and when choosing no, additional information is not needed

Alternatively, if the user selects “Yes”, more data is requested

While editing your survey using your spreadsheet, Survey123 shows the updates that you have made to the survey’s user experience in near real time.  The user just needs to click the “Save” button on their spreadsheet, and the survey will update automatically, allowing survey creators to test modifications that they have made.  Once the survey administrator has the survey configured the way that they would like, publishing the survey is very easy, you simply just click the “Publish” button in Survey123 Connect, and you can publish the survey to your organization using ArcGIS Online.

Choose publish to make the survey available throughout your organization

When publishing your survey, Survey123 connect creates the required feature services, map services, and survey package information for use by field workers.  Administrators also have the option to see additional information such as participation, data, and charts showing a summary of the survey responses.



Using Survey123 to collect information

The first step in getting ready to collect field data using Survey123 is to download the application.  The Survey123 mobile application is available for many different platforms (iOS, Android, Windows Phone) and can be downloaded from the Survey123 website. 

Using your ArcGIS login, you view all surveys that have been assigned to you, open them up, and perform field data collection tasks.  If you have the Workforce for ArcGIS (beta) mobile application on your device as well, Survey123 will now be an option to open once you get to a task location and choose to perform the work.

The survey experience on the mobile device will be the same as what the administrator saw with Survey123 Connect, with the added bonus of the ability supply information using the devices hardware (pictures, video, GPS location, etc.).

Once the user is done with their field data collection work, they can either send the survey back to the office at that time, or if they are experiencing limited connectivity, queue up their work to be sent at a later time when network access is available.



Using Survey123 in other ArcGIS applications

Survey123 and the data it authors ties in seamlessly with other capabilities within the ArcGIS platform.  Users can access summary information and data using the Survey123 website, they can add the feature service used to collect the information as a layer within ArcMap or a Web Map, and they can tie the data directly into Operations DashboardData authored by Survey123 is accessible across the platform, allowing users to add field data collection as an additional capability to a broader workflow.



Mobile Ecosystem

Although Survey123 itself provides many nice capabilities that will help users with their field data collection workflows, the most intriguing thing that I see is how seamlessly it ties in with the other applications that make up the Esri mobile ecosystem.  When combined together, these “companion” applications provide the ability to support a multitude of use cases and workflows, with each application playing an integral part in the process:

Workforce for ArcGIS (beta): – Provides smarter workforce coordination both in the field and in office.  In the field, Workforce allows crews to access tasks assigned to them, share their location, their current status, and contact other users that are nearby if they need assistance.  In the office, Workforce allows for task creation, the setting of priority and a due date for a task, and tracking of the status of work being performed.

Navigator for ArcGIS:  – Navigator provides routing in both a connected and disconnected fashion.  It improves field efficiency and reliability by quickly getting workers and crews to the appropriate locations to perform tasks.

Collector for ArcGIS: – Map focused field data collection that allows users to create and edit data in the field.  Collector puts mapping in the hands of your field workforce to make more informed decisions.

Survey123 for ArcGIS (beta): – Form based field data collection allowing the use of “smart forms” to efficiently gather information in the field.

“Companion” apps provide end-to-end workflow support

An example of how these “companion” applications could tie together to support a workflow would be:

1.  The use of Workforce in the office to create groups of crews, with capabilities.

2.  As work becomes available, the Workforce administrator or dispatcher assigns tasks to these different mobile crews using the Workforce web application.  Field users are notified and information is provided via their Workforce mobile application.

3.  Field crews use Workforce to see work assigned, along with attributes and location.  If the location is a significant distance or in an unfamiliar area, Navigator can be used to get directions from the user’s current location to the site where work needs to be performed.

4.  Once the user has arrived at the location, they are able to choose which mobile application (Collector, Survey123) they would like to use to perform the data collection task.  Once their work has been completed, they can notify the office via Workforce of the status of the task, and any additional comments.

Obviously, each organization will have more detailed requirements around field data collection and crew coordination, but the steps above are really meant to illustrate how the different Esri mobile applications can be combined and used in a complimentary fashion to perform work in the field.



Beta Program

Survey123 is currently in beta, and keeping up to date with new features, fixes, and any new content from the development team is really by just following their group on GeoNet.  They have provided many helpful introductory videos and blog posts, showing how to use Survey123 along with some helpful tips and tricks.

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Ryan Potts works as a Senior Consultant for the Utility and Telecommunications consulting company SSP Innovations, headquartered in Centennial, Colorado.  Ryan has over 11 years of Experience in Geographic Information Systems (GIS), more than 6 of these specializing in Product Sales, Management, and Development of GIS capabilities to support fiber Read more

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