I think it’s fair to say that v4 will take Arches to a whole new level, and it’s coming to a computer near you later this year! We are very excited about it and it’s bound to make many people very happy—besides us, of course! Among other things, you’ll have a wizard to step you through Arches installation and configuration, so even the less technically savvy amongst us will be able to install Arches quickly and easily.
The development of the online/offline data collection app will undoubtedly be the most visible new feature in v4, but there is so much more being worked on. As you’ll see below, apart from the numerous tools and wizards to make Arches easier to get up and running and less of a hassle to get data in and out of, we’re also adding tools to manage remote data-collection activities and user profiles. In addition, we’re making it possible to customize graphs and the user interface from within Arches.
The details of our new development follow. You can also check out a summarized list on the Roadmap on archesproject.org.
Mobile Data-Collection Application: This is probably the most frequently requested addition to Arches that we hear from the community, and it’s something we’ve dreamt about for some time. Any organization that does not already have inventory data or plans to augment existing data, including recording changing conditions on the ground, will greatly benefit from having an online/offline fully-featured data-collection application that can be used on any mobile device and will link directly or sync periodically with an Arches implementation.
- Run on Android and iOS devices
- Support data collection and temporary storage on device when network connection is not available
- Synchronization of data (after offline activity) with your Arches instance
- Processing rules based on individual user access (e.g., volunteer/crowdsourcing vs. professional/trusted data collection)
Mobile Data-Collection Project Manager: The so-called Project Manager will make the data-collection application much more flexible and powerful. It will allow the administrator/manager of a project (e.g., a survey or post-disaster assessment) to set the scope and limitations of that particular activity. For example, the administrator can restrict spatial extents to be focused on during a project; establish individuals or groups of users with associated permissions; invite particular users to “join” a project; and manage the security and possible vetting of the data once it is uploaded, which will generally allow for greater control if using crowdsourcing or volunteer contributions.
- Publish “project file” for download/use with Arches mobile app for those taking part in project
- Ability to define spatial extent of project
- Creation of base map/image tile cache to support offline data collection
- Selection of members (users) that may participate in a field data collection project
- Selection of resources—i.e., types of information — to be collected in field that is appropriate for project and user
- Ability for administrator to view status of project from a dashboard summarizing records created/edited by individual users
The Installation Wizard will make it easier for people with minimal IT support to install and configure an instance of Arches by using a step-by-step installation process. Our experience has shown that in the vast majority of cases problems during installation of Arches are due to issues with proper installation of dependencies (e.g., applications, such as Python, that Arches assumes you’ve already loaded on your computer). The new wizard will check that all the correct versions of the necessary software dependencies have been installed.
Application Manager: The Application Manager will provide an interface that enables new implementers to easily configure or “localize” Arches to, for example, focus on the relevant geographic extent, include an organization’s branding, replace homepage images, and identify featured searches. This should be helpful for those who would like to quickly demonstrate how Arches might be configured for a particular implementation.
- Spatial extent (map center, min/max zoom levels, latitude and longitude)
- Base maps and GIS overlays integration
- Saved queries (popular/featured searches)
- Images for homepage and query display
- Resource display settings (icon, map marker, marker color, logos, etc.)
- General system settings (system time, database connection parameters, search parameters, number of query returns per page, data export settings, etc.)
- Site language files (supporting localization of Arches)
Data Import/Export Manager
This will give organizations the ability to import and export their data as smoothly as possible without extensive external processing. Although not yet fully confirmed, it may end up being as simple as getting your data into one of many downloadable spreadsheet templates and directly uploading your dataset from there. Wouldn’t that be cool?
Resource-Graph Manager: This tool will provide the ability to create and edit graphs within Arches and streamline creating data entry forms and reports. Also, the Resource-Graph Manager will allow the community to begin to create a public library of graphs for use by others that are ready-made and logically structured (adhering to both cultural heritage inventory standards and best practices).
- Ability to create and edit resource graphs from within Arches
- “Graph library” allowing assembly of new graphs using branches from graphs in library
- Interactive creation of data-entry forms for desktop and mobile
- “Data-entry forms manager” allowing easy compilation/customization of UI input forms
- “Report template library” to modify and create report templates
User Profile Manager: Most organizations with more than one contributor to their Arches inventory will need the ability to easily create and manage contributor profiles and permissions. There are likely to be contributors who are more experienced or trusted than others and the necessary processing of the data they submit will vary. In some contexts access to specific types of resource records, such as archaeological site data, needs to be limited to only authorized users. Granular control of data submissions will make the use of the Data-Collection App more secure and administration of a data-collection Project easier, ultimately producing more reliable data. It will also facilitate the use for crowdsourcing and volunteer work.
- Management of user permissions, access/security profiles, and contact information (for desktop and mobile app)
- Ability for mobile-app users to review and edit their data once it’s uploaded
- Ability for others to review uploaded data from mobile-app users before publication
Other enhancements in v4 include:
Tile Server: Allowing organizations the ability to manage and cache map/image tiles (such as satellite imagery) within Arches for use as basemaps.
Priority Assessment Module: This will give organizations the ability to define priority of resources for whatever purpose based on a customizable set of criteria.
Arches API: Documentation of a formal API will make it easier/faster for other systems to communicate with Arches; and
Technology Upgrades: Simply good housekeeping and will include upgrades to two key system technologies, ElasticSearch and Django.
Alison, for the Arches Team