Losing data with Collector for ArcGIS

05-18-2015 09:18 AM
New Contributor III

Thanks for your help!

Last week we used Collector for ArcGIS (version 10.3 on an iPad Air, AT&T) with our ArcGIS Online organization account for field data collection. We experienced loss of data, sometimes everything including the point feature itself, other times photo attachments. Since the collection was at or near urban areas and cellular signal strength was good in general, we didn’t use offline mode and it was all done real time.

On day 2 of the collection there were a few instances with multi-photo points when the “submit” button was tapped it would take the App a while to process then a submission failed message would appear, offering two options – “Cancel” and “Retry”. Initially “Retry” was selected but the same failure message would appear again and again, so eventually the field crew clicked on “Cancel”. At that point the collected feature as well as attributes and photos were visible on the App, so they moved on to the next site.

When they were back at the hotel (on Wi-Fi) they realized 2 points they collected during the day were completely gone, and 3 other points were missing all the photo attachments. They also noticed 2 points from day 1 were completely gone (they couldn’t recall with certainty whether the “failed to submit” message was encountered with them). Not knowing how to avoid more data loss, they went with paper and pen for the remaining of the collection and re-collection of the lost points.

Once they were back in the office we did more testing. While the cellular signal strength was at least 3 bars out of 5, it was pretty easy to duplicate the issue by taking more than 3 or 4 photos and submit.

Here are our questions:

  1. Is our instinct correct that our issue could be caused by the data volume submitted each time?
  2. We like the convenience and ease of set up with this solution. However based on our first project the reliability is too low for serious application. I can’t imagine we are the only one needing multiple photos for each collected features. Has data loss been a common issue?
  3. What is everyone else doing to make this solution work? I assume the reliability will improve if each submission is limited to one photo, but it’s such an interruption to the workflow.
  4. When collecting in “online mode”, is there a way to explicitly back up the data collected onto the mobile device?
  5. We are thinking maybe offline mode can be more reliable and will do some tests. But from experience, will syncing (Wi-Fi or cellular) be problematic if a collected feature contains a large number of photo attachments?
  6. Any recommendation on more reliable solutions that works with ArcGIS Online?

    7. How about complete on device Apps?

Update: after talking with an ESRI technical support back and forth, he started being able to duplicate the problem on his end, and has registered this issue as a bug (BUG-000089338). We did perform more tests of our own. It seems that one photo per submission/update is problem free, so while on cellular only if multi photos are needed for a collection point you'll have to update after each photo is taken. Offline mode seems to be working fine.

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5 Replies
Esri Esteemed Contributor

Hi Yukun,

I've worked with the City of Philadelphia where they were using Collector for graffiti removal project.  They would take a before and after picture where graffiti was found.  They would collect a point with 2 pictures (sometimes more), one of the graffiti and another when the graffiti was removed. 

For this project, they were using offline mode as some areas of the city did not have good coverage.  An advantage of using offline is that the data collected is stored on the device.  In the event of poor coverage, you can sync at a later time.  You can synchronize your edits as often as you'd like, for example after each point is collected.  So, you will still have the 'real time' experience.

I would recommend trying the offline mode, if this is an option, to see if you experience any issues.

New Contributor III

Hey Jake,

Yeah as stated we are testing out offline mode. Given what happened with real time multi photo submissions I got a little suspicious. Hopefully the handling of data via Wi-Fi is more stable. So in your experience they were pretty happy with the App otherwise? Thanks for your input.

In the meantime I'm really eager to know whether many people experienced the same issue, and had to resort to 1) offline mode (in which case were there issues with syncing?), or 2) real time but limit to 1 photo per submission, and multiple submissions if more than 1 photo is needed.

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New Contributor III


I have been experiencing similar problems with the Collector App crashing when trying to save photos in online mode.  When it crashes, the inspector loses his point data edits as well as the photos.  Also lately it has been putting the photo in the ipad photo library rather than attaching it to the collector feature, which is a problem.  It does this intermittently, and if the inspector doesn't check after each inspection point to determine if photos saved or not, it can be a mess.  All of these issues make it difficult to convince an inspector that this method is easier than pencil and paper!  We have tried offline mode, but I felt that the number of photos per point was making the sync take too long to be practical- over an hour sometimes for a weeks worth of inspections.  I would love to know what other options people are using, as the Collector app seems to be exactly what I need, it just isn't working as promised.

New Contributor

Hi Yukun, Would you be able to provide the Bug # for this as I'm experiencing the same issues.

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New Contributor III

Hi Jeremy,

Sorry for the delay in replying, it completely slipped off my mind. Here is the Bug #:


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