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Archive for the 'distance' Category

Measure Distances, Get Elevation Profiles With Survey

Application Name: Survey

Description: Distance and elevation profile tool

Publisher’s website: sys-irap

Cost: Free (ad-supported)

Version/date reviewed: v.0.7.3  /  6-23-11

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.3


Android Market (mobile app only)
Android Market (browser)

The Survey app is an odd mix of different functions, some of which work well and are useful, others less so.


Start up the app, and get three options: Measure, Short distance, and Long distance.


“Measure” brings up the view from your camera (not visible in the screenshot above), along with a graduated on-screen scale and slider. The idea here is that if you know the distance to an object, you can set it using the slider, and the scale will adjust to measure the true size. Not really sure how useful this is, as it only works out to a distance of 5 meters max, and fairly small sizes. Seems to me it would be easier just to pull out a tape measure.


The “Short distance” option brings up another camera view, and a superimposed ground line (red) and ground mesh. The idea here is that if you’ve entered the camera’s height above the ground in the Settings section, and if you put the ground line at the base of an object at the same ground level as you, you can determine the distance to the object, and use the vertical scale to determine the height. It works, sort of, but only to about a distance of 75-80 meters, and not very accurately at that. The Smart Measure app works in a similar fashion, but is easier to use and is marginally more accurate.



The “Long distance” function is substantially more useful. Select this option, and you’ll get a Google Maps view with your current GPS location plotted as a base location. You can tap and drag this icon to set a different base location; unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to reset it to your current GPS location without backing out of this screen. The icon control at top left toggle between Google Maps/Satellite views (right icon), while the one at right centers the view on the current base location.


A long press on a different location on the map creates a “survey point” at that location, marked with a camera icon. Press the “Survey” button at the bottom …


… and get coordinates/elevations for base location and survey point, and the distance from the base point to the survey point. “G.H.” stands for “ground height”, and is determined by GPS for the base location, and always set to 0 for the survey point. You can adjust the ground height for either location with the button controls to the right.


Tap on the camera icon, and get an augmented reality view through your camera, with the arrow telling you which direction you need to rotate the camera to have it oriented towards the survey point.


When oriented correctly, the survey point will show up as a blue dot, labeled with the distance.


Tap the other icon from the map screen, and get a plot of elevation from the base location to the survey point in orange. It’s not clear from the app what the green and red lines are; I believe they’re elevation plots and direct point-to-point sight lines that include the curvature of the earth’s surface, but I’m not sure.

Other issues: This app really needs better documentation; it’s not entirely clear how some of these functions work. The app description also implies that you can take geotagged camera shots of various screen views, but I couldn’t figure out how to get that to work.

Final thoughts: There’s the kernel of a good app here, and it’s worth taking a look at. But I prefer Smart Measure for distance/height measurements, and AltitudeProfiler for elevation profiles (though the latter has data download limits).

Range Circles In A Google Maps View With CircleMap

Application Name: CircleMap

Description: Draws range circles in a Google Maps view

Publisher’s website: pscdroid

Cost: Free (ad-supported)

Version/date reviewed: v.1.1.4  /  6-14-11

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2


Android Market (mobile app only)
Android Market (browser)

CircleMap draws a set of concentric range circles on top of a Google Maps interface.


The initial view shows a wide-area zoom, with constant distance circles centered on your current location. Use pinch-to-zoom to zoom in and out, or tap on the screen, and +/- zoom controls will appear at the bottom.


As you zoom in, the distance spacing for circles changes to match the zoom; unfortunately, you have no control over the spacing. Your current location starts out in the center, but if you drag the map over, a distance measure (red line with distance in metric units) will show up, indicating the distance between your current location and the center point of the map.


From the menu control, you can set a base location for measurement other than your current location by scrolling to the desired location and choosing “Set base point”. The “Current position” control puts your current GPS location at the center of the screen; if that’s not the current base point, choosing “Set base point” will make it so. Finally, “Change map” toggles between the standard Google Maps view and the satellite/hybrid view. The latter doesn’t work very well, as the range circles are drawn with such thin red lines that they’re difficult to see against some backgrounds.


The pencil control in the lower-right-hand corner of the first three screenshots lets you draw freehand on the map, but the utility of this is marginal; it makes the range circles go away, and you can’t save your drawings. Tap on the double-arrow control to erase the drawing and go back to the range circles view.

Final thoughts: The only app of its kind that I could find on the market, and does a decent basic job. Would be a lot better if you had control over range circle spacing and units, and the thickness/color of the circle lines.

Survey-Relevant Data App For Android

Application Name: Survey Demo

Description: Data overlays useful to surveyors and map users.

Publisher’s website:

Cost: Free demo version; Standard ($4.95) and Pro ($9.95) versions add additional features.

Version/date reviewed: v.1.0  /  5-5-11

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2


Android Market (mobile app only)
Android Market (browser)

The Surveying.Org website offers a host of useful data layers for surveyors and cartographers, but all of the layers don’t work in the standard Android browser. The suite of Survey apps (Demo, Standard and Pro) offer these same data layers in stand-alone apps. Data layers viewed in a Google Maps interface, with standard Road/Aerial/Terrain views or the MyTopo USGS topographic maps view, include:


UTM zone overlays (tap on the map for the info popup for all layers)


State Plane Coordinate System boundaries


Principal Meridian boundaries and locations for the Public Land Survey System

All of the above can be viewed with the free Demo version. The Standard version of Survey ($4.95) adds two more data layers, and an additional function:

  • National Geodetic Survey horizontal control benchmarks (with links to data sheets)
  • National Geodetic Survey vertical control points.
  • Measure distances and areas on the map.

The Pro version of Survey ($9.95) adds a few additional features:

  • Built-in inclinometer
  • Find the latitude/longitude for a point by tapping on it.
  • Recording of points and tracks, export in KML format.

Other issues: I guess I have a number of concerns with the app:

  • Data layers are fetched online as needed, but that means that if you’re offline, they’re not available – a big drawback
  • The GPS stays on if you switch to a different app, rather than exiting the main app; forget about this, and you can quickly drain down the battery.
  • The Standard version is a bit expensive ($4.95), but if you need that data handy, probably worth it. The current set of additional features with the Pro version doesn’t justify it’s $9.95 price, as you can duplicate the additional functionality with other apps, many of which are free. The author plans to add PLSS data and lat/long to State Plane Coordinate System coordinate conversion to a future version, which would make it more worthwhile, but still a bit expensive for what you get.

Final thoughts: All of the functionality of the Demo version can be gotten using the website in the standard Android browser, plus length and area measurement, but the interface is easier and faster in the app than the website. If you need a handy reference source in the field for nearby NGS benchmarks, the Standard version might be worth the high price, but if you can plan ahead, all the data is available for free at the website The Pro version is overpriced for what you currently get with it; until additional functionality is added, I’d pass on it for now.

GeoCam – Additional Features

Yesterday’s review of the Android app GeoCam  concentrated on its main features, measuring/recording position and orientation info. But it has a few cool additional features as well.


In the lower right hand corner of the main display are flag and map icons. Tap on the flag …


… and enter a name for that location; the position is now stored under that name.


Go to the Geo tab of the Settings section, and tap on the multi-flag icon to get options for your saved “flags”.


“View on Maps” displays the flag markers in a Google Maps view; you also get this by tapping on the Map icon on the main screen.


Tap on a flag to get its name.


The “View List” option lets you see all your saved flags; a long press on any item in the list brings up the option to delete them. The single flag listing in settings has the same function as the Flag icon on the main screen, to give you the option to record your current position.


Where it gets really cool is that if you point your phone in the general direction of a flag, you’ll see its name and distance on the augmented reality (AR) display (note: you’d normally see the camera view as well, but screenshots can’t capture camera views, so you just see a gray background above).


Under the “Geo” tab in settings, there’s also a compass icon; tap on that, and get options to measure distance and height. Unlike apps such as Smart Measure, which require that the object you’re measuring be on a plain, level surface at the same elevation as you, GeoCam uses GPS position data to get distance and height by triangulation. For distance, select the option, center the object in your display, and tap the display center. Then shift over sideways as long a distance as you can, center the object again, and tap the center. GeoCam uses the two GPS positions, and the two orientations of the phone when pointing at the object, to estimate the distance from the midpoint of the measurements to the object by triangulation.

The accuracy will depend strongly on how precisely you center the object, how far apart the two measurements are made, how far away the object is, and what your current GPS error is; the app won’t let you make this measurement if GPS error is larger than 10m. At short distances on level surfaces, Smart Measure is much more accurate, but its accuracy decreases rapidly as the object gets further away, and doesn’t work well at all on uneven surfaces. I tried multiple distance measurements with GeoCam, and with care you can get accuracy to within 5% or less of the actual value for objects about 50 meters or further away.

Once you have a distance to an object, you can use GeoCam’s Height function to roughly measure how tall it is from base to top. Select the Height option and enter the distance to the object in meters. You’ll then be prompted to point first to the base of the object and tap the screen, then the top of the object and tap; from the distance and angle info, GeoCam will calculate height. Didn’t try this too many times, and didn’t have good height info for my test objects in any case, but the values were at least within the ballpark of what I would have expected.

The author keeps adding new features, so it will be tough to keep this review up to date. One promised new feature will be the ability to export the flag positions as a KML file for use in Google Earth. But I’d love to see an import option for KML or GPX waypoints, so that you can load them in for use in the augmented reality mode. The ability to add a flag marker with a long press on the Google Maps view could also be useful.

In any case, given the current price (free), this is a must-have app, and the paid version is definitely worth a look as well.

SailDroid, A Basic Marine-Oriented Position/Direction/Speed Display

Application Name: SailDroid

Description: Simple marine-oriented GPS display

Publisher’s website: Tiny Garage

Cost: Free

Version/date reviewed: v.1.0  /  1-24-11

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2


Android Market (mobile app only)
Android Market (browser)

SailDroid doesn’t offer a lot of functionality, just basic displays of nautical speed, heading, and location. Big advantage of this app is the large size and strong contrast of display (black on white), making it more visible in daylight viewing conditions.


Figure 1: Choose from speed, compass heading, distance or position.


Figure 2: Big, easy to read numbers. Default (and only) option for speed is in knots.


Figure 3: Numerical heading is easy to read, but scale at top is too small and undetailed to be very helpful; a small but full compass display would probably work better.


Figure 4: For measuring distance, press the button to mark your current location, and it will give you the distance you’ve traveled since marking that location.


Figure 5: Once again, the coordinate location display is big and easy to read. But no options for decimal degrees, or other coordinate systems.

Other Issues: The app worked fine. I think the mainissue I have is the lack of options for units. A night-time display (red on black) would be nice, as would be the option to display your current location directly in a Google Maps interface.

Final thoughts: A bit more stripped down in functionality than I would like, but if you need a big, readable display, I can’t think of any other GPS app I’ve run across that does better than this one.

Measure Object Lengths With Smart Ruler

Application Name: Smart Ruler

Description: Measure lengths of objects placed on the Android unit’s screen

Publisher’s website: Android Boy

Cost: Free basic version; $0.99 Smart Ruler Pro version adds protractor, level, goniometer; $1.99 Smart Tools version combines apps from pro versions of Smart Measure, Smart Compass and Smart Ruler.

Version/date reviewed: v.1.1.3  /  12-21-10

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2


Android Market link (mobile app only)
Android Market link (browser)


Figure 1: This is a simple app that displays a scale on the screen, measurements increasing left to right; tap or tap/draganywhere on the screen to put a red marker line, and display the distance at that point. You can change units, font sizes and colors from the Settings menu. On my phone, distances were perfectly calibrated, but if you have a problem, you can manually enter a phone calibration distance into the Settings as well.


Figure 2: Place an object flush against the left side, and tap/drag the red marker to the end of the object to measure its length.

Other issues: If you don’t have a screen protector, you run the risk of scratching the screen with the object. Even with tough Gorilla Glass, there are some objects (like rocks) that can scratch a screen.

Final thoughts:

Not much to say; does what it’s supposed to. The entire Smart line is pretty good (I’ve already reviewed a few others), and the $1.99 Smart Tools package, containing all these Smart measuring apps, is a bargain.

Coordinate Conversion And Waypoint Distances With Lat Long Calc

Application Name: Lat Long Calc

Description: Converts decimal latitude/longitude to UTM/DM/DMS; calculates distances and headings between points.

Publisher’s website: Cruthu Services

Cost: Free; $1 Pro version adds more features.

Version/date reviewed: v.1.52  /  12-19-10

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2


Android Market link (mobile app only)
Android Market link (browser)

Lat Long Calc can convert a decimal latitude/longitude position into degrees/minutes, degrees/minutes/seconds, or UTM coordinates. Enter a second position, and it can calculate the distance and heading towards that position.


Figure 1: You can type in coordinates to either the top or bottom position, with the top (A) being the starting point and bottom (B) being the destination. If you enable GPS with the bottom checkbox, you also have the option of copying your current GPS position into A.


Figure 2: If you have a GPX file with waypoints online, you can upload them into the program’s database by accessing the DB Manager from the main menu. Once loaded in, you can edit the coordinates of an individual waypoint, or delete it. Unfortunately, you can’t change the name, or manually add a waypoint, which is a major drawback.


Figure 3: Once waypoints are in the database, you can load them into either the origin (A) or destination (B) using the Get from DB button in the main screen.

Other issues: Distance units are in miles only; no option to change that to metric units. And if you turn the GPS on with the checkbox, be sure to turn it off, or exit the program with the official Exit command from the menu; using the back button to get out of the program screen will leave the GPS on, draining the batter.

Final thoughts: Nice conversion function, importing GPX files online is useful, and the distance/bearing info can come in handy. It really needs the ability to add waypoints to the database on the fly, and metric units would be useful as well.

Identify The Peaks In Your Area – Old School

Application Name: Peak.AR (older version)

Description: Maps peaks close to you, and identifies them in an augmented reality view.

Publisher’s website: Peak.Ar

Cost: Free

Version/date reviewed: v.1.04  /  12-5-10

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2

Old version no longer available on Android Market, but you can download the .apk file for the old version from the Peak.Ar FAQ page, and install it directly on your phone. Just don’t update it unless you really want the new version (and I don’t think you do).

This is going to be a bit odd – I’ll be reviewing the same app twice over the next few days. Today’s review is of the older version of Peak.AR, which is no longer on the Android Market, but the .apk program file for this older version. can be downloaded and installed directly on most Android phones as long as you have Unknown sources enabled in the Applications setting for your phone. Why review two versions? Because I really like the old one, and have some reservations about the new one.


Figure 1: Start up the Peak.AR app, and it gets your GPS location, loads in a database of local peaks, and plots those peaks in a Google Maps interface that you can scroll through; the compass at upper left points towards true north.


Figure 2: Tap on a peak in the map view, and get an info page with the name, location, height and distance.


Figure 3: The real magic happens when you hold the phone horizontally; the locations of peaks are plotted in an augmented reality (AR) camera view, so you can line up the peaks with the actual view (which the screen capture can’t show). The slider at the bottom lets you set the distance range for viewing peaks. The radar at lower left shows the direction you’re pointing in, and the number of peaks within the distance range you’ve set. The app only shows a maximum of 10 peaks in the view to keep the app from slowing down too much, and filters out shorter/less-visible peaks from the AR view to keep within that limit of 10. Tap on a peak in the AR view, and you’ll get an info page like the one in Figure 2.

Figure 4: Here’s a screen shot from the web app page, with the camera view visible, to give you a feeling for how it actually looks.

Other issues: Earlier versions used magnetic north instead of true north, which could result in a considerable misalignment of the labeled peak with the true peak in the augmented reality view. The final release of the older version seems to have fixed that.

Final thoughts:

This older version of Peak.AR is two tons of awesome in a one-ton bag; a must-have app for showing off what your Android phone can do. Oh yeah, there’s also an iPhone version available.

Monitor Velocity With GPS Speed Graph

Application Name: GPS Speed Graph

Description: Monitors and graphs current/moving/average velocity.

Publisher’s website: None

Cost: Free; $3.60 Plus version adds data logging, export capabilities.

Version/date reviewed: v.1.2  /  11-8-10

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2


Android Market link (mobile app only)
Android Market link (browser)

GPS Speed Graph monitors the GPS-derived velocity as a function of time, and plots it over a roughly ten-minute window.


Figure 1: The plotted data is only for the previous 10 minutes or so, with the more recent data at right; you can’t scroll the display to see older data. However, the maximum velocity (red), moving average(blue), and overall average (green) include all data from the time you started measurement, as do the times and total distance displayed at the bottom. You can pause measurements at any time, then either resume them or reset the display. The compass needle displays the GPS north direction, not the magnetic direction, so if you’re standing still it will always point up.

Other issues: The program will run in the background if you use the Back button, and the GPS will remain enabled. Remember to close the program with the Quit option in the menu, otherwise the GPS will keep running and can drain the battery. The limited data display is disappointing; while the Pro version can log data in KML/GPS/CSV formats, you can’t view it directly in the app.

Final thoughts: Nice graphic display, but the limited time window is a big minus. And given the many other programs that can log data for free, $3.60 for the Pro version with data logging seems a bit excessive. If you like the display, stick with the free version unless the paid version becomes cheaper.

Measure Distances Between Points On A Map, And Distances From Points To Your Current Location, With AndMeasure

Application Name: AndMeasure

Description: Measure distances along a string of points; also distances from points to current location.

Publisher’s website: None.

Cost: Free

Version/date reviewed: v.1.6  /  9-29-10

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2

Android Market link (mobile app only)
Android Market link (browser)

AndMeasure doesn’t do a lot, but what it does it does very well – measure distances in a map view, either along a set of user-designated points, or between those points individually and your current location.


Figure 1: Tap the “Add point” button, then tap on the map to place the point. Add more than one point, and get both distance between every point marked, and the total distance.


Figure 2: Tap the icon at lower-right, and AndMeasure will fire up the GPS to give you your current position as a blue marker, and change the distances next to every point you’ve marked to display the distance from that point to your current position. It’s “continuous update”, so as you move, the distances to the points will update to reflect that.


Figure 3: The “Erase” button at top erases all the points. The directions say to use a “long press” to remove a point, but you actually have to tap a point twice in succession, holding the second tap down, to remove a point (as at left).

Additional features: Set units (English, Metric or Yards (Golf)); Search for a location.

Other Issues: GPS sometimes turns itself off when in continuous update mode; just tap on the icon at lower right twice to turn it off/on again.

Final thoughts: Not a huge feature set, but it does those well; simple, easy to use interface. Recommended.