It’s time to get excited about the Aurora Project

You may have heard about the Aurora Project through the Esri grapevine, but not been entirely sure what it is. In this blog, I’ll try to demystify the Aurora Project, showing you what’s to come and what it’ll mean to you and your organisation. But first, let’s take a step back in time…

Collector for ArcGIS was released back in 2013 and has become a well-established mobile app for undertaking data collection. Since its release, Collector has grown massively in terms of its capabilities and number of downloads (over 700,000 just on iOS). Yet all good things must evolve with the times and now we’re ready for a Collector refresh. This is where the Aurora Project comes in. The next generation Collector app will bring a host of new features that will build upon your existing data collection workflows, for example:

  • Better maps

  • UX improvements

  • Arcade expressions

  • Improved offline workflows

  • 3D data collection

Let’s take a closer look at these.

Better Maps

Labels

Yes, labels are finally coming to Collector with Aurora. You can all sleep easy once again. Along with basic labels, the new Collector will support those created with Arcade expressions (I’ll talk through this a little bit later on). If you have a label displaying a key piece of information and you need to edit that field, your label will update when the data does.

Advanced symbology

Aurora introduces advanced symbology to your maps in Collector. This allows you to display your spatial information in ways your users understand. For example, use hatching or summarise data distribution with heat maps:

Vector basemaps

Vector basemaps are also coming, so you can view crisp and responsive maps.

If you have labels in a vector basemap they’ll rotate with your map. On that note, you will now be able to rotate your maps as well.

UX Improvements

Sliding panel

Tired of choosing between the map and your form? In the new Collector app, you can now choose how much of each you can see. If you want the map, minimise the form. If you need the form, minimise the map. If you can’t decide, have a bit of both.

Location target

The introduction of a crosshair ‘cursor-on-target’ experience now means your finger doesn’t get in the way when manually adding points, lines and polygons to the map. The crosshair stays in the centre of the screen, allowing you to pan the map to accurately locate your point.

Smarter data entry

Add a photo attachment in one click, capture other media types – audio or video, and read information from a QR or bar code.

Arcade Expressions

With Aurora supporting Arcade expressions, you can change the way you experience editing forms in Collector. If you want to perform a calculation on two fields of collected data, create an Arcade expression which can now be displayed in Aurora.

Improved Offline Workflows

In ArcGIS Online, map areas have been introduced to enable you to plan ahead. Package your data for specific areas to make it easier and faster for your users to download maps for offline use.

3D Data Collection

Finally, Aurora will be adding support for the direct capture of 3D data and vertical datum transformations, so you can transform elevations on the fly.

What next?

In terms of release dates, an iOS release is imminent, Android is expected by the end of the year and a Windows release is to come next year. When Aurora is released, this will be part of a side-by-side release strategy. The Collector app as you know it will get an update and rename itself to ‘Collector Classic’. At the same time, the Aurora project Collector will be released and listed as ‘Collector for ArcGIS’ in the store. This parallel release gives you time to test and then move your workflows across from Collector Classic to the new Collector for ArcGIS.

If really can’t wait you might be able to catch the iOS beta by emailing collectorbeta@esri.com and give your feedback through the Early Adopter Community.

Happy data collecting.

Update 1/10/2018: The Android beta for the new Collector for ArcGIS has just opened. Find out more here.