Review of hardware and software packages for arboriculturists from Pear Technology

Arbtech use a suite of device and software technologies for all of our BS5837 tree surveys and tree constraints plan drawings, including:

  • Trimble Juno 3b
  • Pocket GIS
  • PT Mapper Pro
  • TreeMinder

I attended training at Pear Technology for a few hours and was let loose on the world with my new survey hardware/software. The Trimble Juno itself is a good size, it fits into the palm of the hand and using one for the whole day doesn’t result in a cramping bicep from excess weight, unlike with some competitive products! It also appears to be rather rugged; I have used it in some quite rubbish welsh weather without fault.

Pros and Cons

I understand that whilst its predecessors required further protection from an external Otterbox a quick search for a similar addition for this model comes up blank. Whether this means that the potential for screen damage of previous models has been successfully addressed (it seems that way), or whether the Juno 3b is simply too new for accessories to have been developed is unknown.

In order to have a map on the device, over which to lay a survey, that map must be uploaded. PT Mapper Pro allows you to upload your map as a single layer and your survey templates as additional layers, via Pocket GIS to your hand held. I prefer to use a topographical survey – a form of ultra-accurate land survey – from the client as this will have the trees accurately plotted and I can simply input the data that applies to that tree. In order to use the ‘topo’, the original AutoCAD drawing file must be saved as a .DXF file, for PT Mapper Pro to be able to open it.

As all of the data on your uploaded map file will be displayed on the small screen of the handheld, there is a process to go through to strip out extraneous data from the map such as any and all text. It is often unclear whether enough cleaning has been undertaken until the map is viewed on the device and I regularly have to delete the uploaded file only to keep cleaning! Certainly this can be very frustrating.

Now You’re Ready to Survey

Once you have a suitable base layer on the Juno 3b, data input is fairly straight forward because the touch screen allows you to scroll through the uploaded survey templates with the use of a stylus. The QWERTY keyboard is adequately sized to allow relatively quick input of typed data and the software learns regularly used words and combinations of words, which further speeds up input. I however have started to undo paragraphs by accidentally striking the spanner shaped icon below the spacebar, which is utterly infuriating – address this please Pear! I tend toward short statements as a result.

Pear Technology after-sales support is faultless; the guys on the end of the phone know their product inside out. I had a glitch in the survey software which froze the data entry every time I got to a certain point of a certain page. Although this was a problem that has never been encountered before (this seems to happen to me a lot with technology) the issue was solved remotely after a few trials with Adrian re-writing the template to bypass the issue, and I haven’t had a problem since. Impressed.

Tree Minder (yes, another piece of software) produces the BS5837 tree survey schedule and is a REAL timesaver in the office. My above complaint about the time it takes to enter your comments on the handheld is far outweighed by the time (and tedium) saved in the production of this part of your typically planning report. I am definitely a big fan of this software and have only come across a couple of glitches to date:

  • If a “0” (zero) is entered into the hand held, a “ “(blank) appears on the schedule as though there is data missing. This makes us look like we didn’t do a proper job for our customers and/or our quality control is poor. Neither is the case.
  • If the client name is too long, then the end of the name will simply be cut off from the report. Not exactly helpful.

If Pear Technology could right these wrongs, it would make their pretty decent product an almost flawless one.

Summary and Conclusions

  • PT Mapper Pro generates your survey drawing for you! Brilliant! This saves a lot of time. The drawing can be exported as a dxf file and manipulated in AutoCAD so that it can be fully integrated into the architect’s drawings with about half an hour.
  • When I started at Arbtech, I was new to both the hardware and software, and was therefore grateful to be able to call more experienced colleagues for advice from site when specific queries arose – but the guys at Pear Technology frequently fill this role with good humour.
  • Once out on site, if you encounter an issue with the uploaded map there isn’t a lot you can do about it so be sure to fully check the files on the device before you leave the office!
  • It would be nice to be able produce the survey plan directly as a .DWG file, as programmes such as ArborCAD allow.

All things considered, the package is expensive to set up (in the region of £4k/surveyor), but it is a good one. As long as your base layer map is suitable, data input and drawing output is reasonably straight forward.

Jon Hartley has been using the Juno and Pear Technology software suite since January 2014.

[Updated: 11.06.2014]

So, in response to our review, Jon, Rob (Arbtech) and Mark Lloyd (PT) exchanged a couple of e-mails and the up shot is that Pear Technology have asked their software development team to make a few changes in response to some of the niggles highlighted above in our long-term test:

Hi Jon

Just thought I would let you know that based on the feedback in your review we are going to make a change to the undo button in PocketGIS. This is the information from our developer:

“I’ve changed the software so that on Windows Mobile – Defaults, Undo, and Revert are on an Edit sub menu – since the problem of the attribute tools menu being close to the space bar will affect all these functions. This will appear in 2.6.2 in the near future.”


Mark Lloyd

Fantastic news for all you Pocket GIS users out there! Thanks, Mark! It’s great to see companies that are responsive to their loyal customers.

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