Peer-to-peer syncing of Field Maps while offline?

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03-03-2022 04:57 PM
HollyTorpey_LSA
Occasional Contributor

Hi, I'm wondering if anyone has come up with a way to sync Field Maps data between offline devices using bluetooth or similar.

We have field biologists walking transects and collecting data. When they finish a transect, they mark it complete in Field Maps or Collector. However, when they are working in an offline environment, they can only see their own updates, and thus can't see which transects someone else has already completed that day. It would be great if there were a way to auto-sync data between nearby devices using some kind of peer-to-peer technology.

Thanks in advance!

Holly

- Holly
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PeterKnoop
Occasional Contributor III

Not sure if it is an option for you,, but what about running a simple instance of ArcGIS Enterprise instance on a laptop, and having it and a WiFi router in the field with the group?

 
We often have teams working at field sites with no Internet, but who want to collect and share data while they are there. In general, they want to do all the collaborative things you can do when you have ArcGIS Online available to support the mobile apps, web tools, and Pro. 
 
You can use a base deployment of Enterprise for this purpose. And, you can use most any WiFi router to setup a local intranet for everyones’ devices to communicate with your Enterprise portal. 
 
One key to such a setup is that you need to provide Domain Name Service (DNS) resolution for whatever you named your Enterprise instance in your SSL certificate. You need this so that peoples’ devices will “trust” the portal, so they can successfully login from their apps or web browser or Pro. 
 
If you cannot configure your WiFi router to handle this aspect of DNS, then you can run a DNS server on the laptop as well, such as Bind.
 
If you go this route then other helpful tips include using the same exact same usernames for peoples’ accounts in the Enterprise portal as they use in ArcGIS Online, even if the latter are enterprise (not built-in) accounts. Among other things, that ensures the editor tracking fields make sense when you transfer layers between Enterprise to Online. 

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5 Replies
DougBrowning
MVP Notable Contributor

Nope and I doubt it ever will.  It is all based on syncing with the user replica which is in the hosted service.

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PeterKnoop
Occasional Contributor III

Not sure if it is an option for you,, but what about running a simple instance of ArcGIS Enterprise instance on a laptop, and having it and a WiFi router in the field with the group?

 
We often have teams working at field sites with no Internet, but who want to collect and share data while they are there. In general, they want to do all the collaborative things you can do when you have ArcGIS Online available to support the mobile apps, web tools, and Pro. 
 
You can use a base deployment of Enterprise for this purpose. And, you can use most any WiFi router to setup a local intranet for everyones’ devices to communicate with your Enterprise portal. 
 
One key to such a setup is that you need to provide Domain Name Service (DNS) resolution for whatever you named your Enterprise instance in your SSL certificate. You need this so that peoples’ devices will “trust” the portal, so they can successfully login from their apps or web browser or Pro. 
 
If you cannot configure your WiFi router to handle this aspect of DNS, then you can run a DNS server on the laptop as well, such as Bind.
 
If you go this route then other helpful tips include using the same exact same usernames for peoples’ accounts in the Enterprise portal as they use in ArcGIS Online, even if the latter are enterprise (not built-in) accounts. Among other things, that ensures the editor tracking fields make sense when you transfer layers between Enterprise to Online. 
HollyTorpey_LSA
Occasional Contributor

Hi @PeterKnoop

Thanks very much for this thoughtful and detailed response! I apologize for not seeing it earlier.

With this scenario, would you then set up a distributed collaboration between the mobile Enterprise instance and your main instance (or AGO) to sync the data when you get back to a connected environment? Or is there another way to transfer the field data into another organization?

Again, thank you so much. This really does sound promising.

Oh, and by the way, I did talk to some Field Maps developers at the recent Dev Summit about this idea, and they seemed to think peer-to-peer syncing could be possible, but would have to be a deliberate transfer initiated by field personnel when they meet up in the field. Your idea is probably better because the syncing would be automatic whenever anyone moved into the wifi router's range (and also because it could be done today, while the alternative is purely theoretical at this point!).

- Holly
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PeterKnoop
Occasional Contributor III

@HollyTorpey_LSA I haven't tried this with a distributed or partnered collaboration yet. It wasn't an option when we first started doing this, however, I think it should be possible. I will have to give it a try this summer!

For us, most of the data on the portable Enterprise server is imagery or reference layers that are not being updated. Things we don't have to worry about syncing or copying back.

For the hosted feature layers we are actively editing in the field, we usually connect to the portable server with Pro, and copy those layers into one or more local File Geodatabases. Then, when we are back on the Internet, we use python to manage updating the permanent server with the content of those databases. (Make sure when sharing/overwriting from Pro to your permanent Online/Enterprise destination that you have editor tracking enabled on the FGDB, and remember to check the box to "Preserve editor tracking info".)

In many cases, our "authoritative" copy of the data becomes the one we take into the field. No one is editing those layers on the permanent server while folks are away. That makes it easy to truncate the tables and push the new data into its place, as we are not worried about syncing under those circumstances.

When we have had to support editing in both the field and office, we have gone the route of adding a Microsoft SQL server to the laptop and using Enterprise Geodatabases as registered Data Stores to back the feature layers. We then used two-way database replication with disconnected check-ins/check-outs to keep things in sync.

This approach is also helpful if you periodically have someone going back to civilization. They can take a copy of the replica off-site, connect to the Internet, sync the changes, and bring back updates from the office. 

Note that peer-to-peer syncing can become time-consuming when you have more than a few folks in the field, given the number of individual syncs required to get everyone up-to-date.

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HollyTorpey_LSA
Occasional Contributor

Thank you so much for sharing so much valuable information! I really appreciate it.

- Holly
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