Cruising with Forest Metrix PRO
Forest Metrix PRO runs on iOS hardware, such as an iPhone or iPad running iOS 11 or later. You can also run FMPro on your Windows or Mac desktop computer.* Your license includes access for one mobile device and one desktop system. You’ll see the exact same program on either platform, so you could even enter data in the office if you desire. You can review your cruises, re-stratify your stands, extract your data, complete further analysis, etc. FMPro isn’t just an app- it’s a complete forestry software system that you can access in the field or office.
What hardware do I need?
Any iPad (iOS 11 or later) will work. The majority of our users have the iPad Mini, but we are finding more people moving to the full sized iPad. The size difference isn’t really more cumbersome to handle, and the larger screen is simply nicer. Easier to see, larger buttons, etc. You do not need anything more than the base amount of storage. Forest Metrix takes up less than half a gigabyte, and 20 cruises is about one gigabyte, so you can hold quite a bit of data on a 32GB device, which is the current basic configuration.
The storage size is also less of a concern because you don’t need to store all of your cruises on the device- it is best to have them saved elsewhere anyways. It’s very easy to drag files onto your desktop via iTunes, or upload them to a free cloud storage platform like Dropbox, Google Drive, etc. All that said, if you plan to use 60 other apps, keep thousands of photos, the entire catalog of Johnny Cash albums, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy in high def, you’ll want a larger device- you cannot increase storage later. This page on Apple’s website offers the best comparison of your iPad options, with convenient links to purchase.
As far as iPhones go, any model will do. you can run Forest Metrix on an iPhone 5, but most are using the current standard sized iPhone 6,7, or 8. Some prefer the Plus-sized models, but you are looking at the exact same interface on all models- its just bigger on the bigger phones. Yes, iPhone X works well, if you enjoy spending $1,000 on phones.
Where should I get my iPad?
If you are getting one with cellular service, it is usually worth checking to see if your current cellular provider is offering any deals. You can often get a couple hundred bucks off the MSRP if you add it to your current smart phone contract. Verizon charges only $10/month to add a tablet. If your cellular provider isn’t offering any deals, or if you do not want cellular capabilities, you should just get it straight from Apple. While you can get them pretty much anywhere, it can be tougher to sort through the various options and models on Amazon, and it’s not hard to accidentally buy a previous generation model without realizing it. Since pricing on iOS devices is the same everywhere, there is no disadvantage to buying it straight from Apple. And they offer free engraved personalization, which is kind of cool.
Do I need a cellular connection?
You don’t need any cellular connection. All setup, data collection, analysis, and report production happens locally on your device. FMPro isn’t a “cloud” system- it lives on your device and you don’t need a data connection in the field to use it.
Does Forest Metrix use GPS for navigation?
All of your cruise data can be automatically georeferenced. While FMPro isn’t a GIS (you won’t be drawing stand boundaries or skid roads), the data can be exported in .kml to any number of GIS systems, Google Earth, or a GPS app. For field navigation, foresters use FMPro in tandem with the GPS or GIS app of their choice. Many of us use GAIA GPS, for instance. This app allows you to draw stand boundaries, which can be sent to FMPro to create a cruise grid. You can then send that grid back to the GPS of your choice for navigation. You can also record tracks, add waypoints, and all the usual GPS tasks that you previously did on your dedicated GPS handheld. Bonus- GAIA GPS recently added parcel mapping with their Pro subscription, which is only $39/year. This is by far the cheapest service for getting that capability, and their base mapping options are vast, and can be downloaded to the device if you know you won’t have cell service at your job. GAIA GPS is the absolute best GPS app- we have used them all and we don’t endorse any others.
The location abilities (GPS) of your iPhone or cellular-enabled iPad work when you don’t have a cellular signal. This isn’t “cellular” GPS- they have an actual GPS chip, just like a dedicated handheld GPS receiver like a Garmin 60CSx. And if you have a non-cellular iPad (Wifi only), you can connect an external GPS transceiver. It’s about the same cost either way, and using an external GPS can get you better accuracy.
How rugged is an iPhone or iPad?
In its naked state, you wouldn’t take an iPhone/Pad into the field. Thankfully, there are a multitude of rugged cases available. Many manufacturers make waterproof cases, such as Lifeproof and SnowLizard, the latter of which offers a built-in auxilliary battery, extending your iPhone battery by 150%. While not explicitly waterproof, there are other cases that are sealed from the elements, such as Otterbox and Griffin. We have users working in all field conditions, from below zero to 100 degree temps, in snow and in rain.
How do I deal with a tablet in the field?
Most find that tablets are easy to take care of in the field. Some field vests offer pockets large enough to store a tablet. Most of the rugged cases that you’ll be using have tie-downs or anchoring capabilities on the corners, so some users use neckstraps or arm/hand bands. However, the very best option is to use a chest pack from Tablet Ex Gear. It keeps your device front and center on your chest for hands-free operation, and offers great protection. Bonus- you can even leave your device plugged into an external battery so you never have to be concerned about battery life.
But I’m a Windows user- I don’t use Apple.
Thankfully, it doesn’t matter. Most of us are using Windows computers. iTunes is the desktop software that you can use to administer an iOS device, and that runs on all platforms, but even that isn’t necessary. And really, FMPro runs entirely on the device- there is no need for a desktop at all.
But I’m an Android user- I don’t use Apple.
Thankfully, it doesn’t matter. Our users are split equally between the two platforms, just like the world outside of forestry. Our iPhone users usually buy an iPad. Our Android users always buy an iPad. You CAN play in both worlds- it’s like GMC versus Toyota. Sure, the wiper and headlight controls might be on the “wrong” side, but you get used to it. We’re smart people.
Can I run Forest Metrix on my Samsung Galaxy or Dell PDA?
FMPro isn’t supported on Android or Windows Mobile. This isn’t a strategic decision we made- it’s simply a limitation of the Filemaker platform that underlies our system. However, Forest Metrix can be deployed on Windows 8 or Windows 10 tablets.
*Desktop use requires purchase of Filemaker Pro software license, available separately.