Perform a web search on the term “forestry software” and you’re likely to find several pages related to Timber cruising apps. Cruising software is one of the most popular categories for Forestry, partly because timber inventory is a very common and repetitive task, but also because it’s somewhat standardized throughout the industry. In other words, for the developer at least, it’s a low-risk, high-reward proposition.
So, I decided I would take a shot at building an iOS timber cruising application that is capable of running on iPhone and iPad hardware. From design to development, I completed this task in less than a week.
The software shown below is a simple cruising program, meant to be used by a small Forestry operation of two to four people. I felt that this would be an ideal target for a simple application, given that the larger organizations would either build their own, or buy a commercial solution. Secondly, I wanted the software to include the following features,
- A simple and responsive interface.
- An intuitive progression within the program from start to finish.
- A Cruise setup view, and Stand view, a Plot view, a Site Index view, and a Cruise summary view.
- The ability to capture Photos at the plot, and to calculate limiting distances easily.
- And finally, a basic Cruise summary report by Stand that could be emailed from the field.
The first step was to do some research on commercially available iOS software for this purpose, and find out what technologies they are built on. Basically, when it comes to developing native iOS applications you only have a couple options. If you are a programmer, you can do this through Swift or the Objective-C programming languages. The second option is to develop the software using the FileMaker Platform (https://www.filemaker.com), which is an Apple native Database technology. (Note: The company which makes FileMaker is now called Claris). This is a good option, and allows you to develop an iOS program using either Mac OS or Windows operating systems. If I’m speaking Greek at this point, then just remember, “the quickest solution is to use the FileMaker platform”.
I had some previous experience working with FileMaker Pro, so this was a relatively easy task for me. But, if you are new to building iOS software, then I encourage you to learn FileMaker, because it’s a powerful tool to build sophisticated iOS apps without coding or programming experience. You can literally build a working application in a matter of hours after installing the software. It’s that simple. As a bonus, if you have database and/or scripting experience, you can build professional quality software with FileMaker Pro. If you are interested in learning how to create FileMaker Pro software, I highly suggest Udemy (https://www.udemy.com). They have several online courses for under $20.00, that are a good starting place.
The screen shots below show the software interface as you move from view-to-view. The program starts with the Cruise List where you can add or delete Cruises, then a setup page where you define Cruise attributes such as Cruise method, plot factor, and parameters for the statistical workup. In the field, most of your time will be spent in the Plot and Site Index views. These views allow you to capture individual tree data, calculate limiting distance for point sampling, and capture photos on the plot. Again, the goal was to make this a simple, intuitive interface that anyone can use (Note: the only requirement is that users know how to use basic smartphone gestures such as tapping and text entry). This software stores cruise information on the device (e.g.; iPhone or iPad), but FileMaker has advanced deployment options which allow uploading your cruise data to a Cloud account or hosted server. If you are working in a team environment then I highly recommend looking into these solutions.
FileMaker is quick approach to creating native iOS software that can help with common Forestry tasks. If you would like more information about FileMaker then check out their website using the link above, post a comment on this page, or contact me by email.