Mobile Arch: About This Site

Mobile Arch is designed to keep you up-to-date with the future of archaeology: Mobile Technology. Mobile technology is an all-encompassing term that includes an array of mobile devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android, Blackberry, ect..

This site is designed for the professional, the amateur, or even the collector (who desires to contextualize their findings). Mobile Arch will explore the present and latest applications (pun intended) of mobile devices and mobile applications.

With the integration of GPS, high-megapixel cameras, and 3G/4G accessibility, Mobile Technology is the future of archaeology, and using this site, I will show you how and why through personal field-testing/lab-testing, news updates, and applicational brainstorming.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Digging Deeper into Apple's Case Study: Pompeii Archaeologists

       As I post the first entry on this Blog, my exploration of the applications of mobile technology with archaeology could not come at a better time.  If you have found your way to this blog, either through curiosity in the subject or a search engine return, you probably came across Apple's recent case study on the Archaeologists of Pompeii.  And for those of you that are familiar with this case study, I would guess that a third of you continued on to the Apple Store site to cringe at prices, another third forwarded it on to colleagues and friends with an envious "if only" message, and the last third skimmed through the story in skepticism.

       As I personally read through the story for the first time, I slowly began to realize that Apple had reported on some of the less impressive applications of the iPad, and with only half the story at that.  Utilizing some of the more basic apps such as Pages and iDraw, archaeologists at Pompeii quickly realized the longterm and economical benefits of a near-paperless excavation.  Personally, I would recommend iDraw for recording, producing annotated drawings, and annotated photographs.  Pages is a decent app, but personally for this function, I would recommend recording in a cloud-based service like Evernote, simply due to the fact that you have your notes syncing to the cloud as you are writing them.  And if you take away something from the blog, please let it be the benefits of using online/offline cloud-storage.  Your notes are always with you wherever you are and backed up in the cloud (safer than anywhere else).  

      Two of the more advanced apps used in the excavation included OmniGraffle and FMtouch. Briefly put, OmniGraffle offers an excellent utility for creating Harris-Matrices in the field, and FMtouch allows the user to access, edit, and add data to a FileMaker (version 7 or greater) database.  Stepping back into analog reality for second, these two applications seem great for survey work, but I have to ask, is synchronized data entry from the field practical past survey work, or simply risky?  I acknowledge the practicality in drawing and note taking from the field and do so myself on my iPad in the field, but should we start processing artifacts before we get them cleaned and labeled?  That being said, I could see some utility  in inventorying material as it is coming out of the ground    and into the bags (as a double-check for in-lab processing).                                

       Some current limitations that were not mentioned in Apple's Case Study that I have learned from personal experience with my iPad in the field, as well as a conversation with one of the Pompeii archaeologists, include: 

1.) Outdoor screen visibility/glare (even with anti-glare protective screens, you must work in shade or shade your
     device with cover)
2.) Outdoor Overheating (again, on sunny days you will need to work in shade of shade your iPad with a cover)
2.) Precision drawing (you need a stylus for creating archaeological-quality drawings)
3.) Protection (for any outdoor use I would recommend the Otterbox Defender Series)
4.) Wireless Service (AT&T does not have the best 3G coverage, make sure you note whether you can work 
     offline with sync/cloud/data apps and sync when you get service)
5.) Image recording, the iPad in its current version does not have a camera (you will need to either purchase the 
     Camera Connection Kit, or wirelessly use an iPhone or iPod Touch (4th Gen.) in conjunction with the Camera 
     A /Camera B apps.

        All in all, the iPad is an amazing device and invaluable to data collection in the field, or any setting for that matter.  I have been out in the field using my iPad, in conjunction with the camera connection kit (and my DSLR), for the past few weeks and have received results that have surpassed all of my expectations.  I have been primarily been using the device for mapping, survey, and automatically attaching photographs, voice notes, and coordinates to my data (I will review this use later).  

       I would recommend the iPad to any field scientist or historian, looking for a simple and relatively inexpensive all-encompassing device to use in the field.  And although the Apple Case Study at Pompeii might seem surreal, trust me, they're telling the truth: the "iPad was practically custom built for our [archaeologists] needs."

 Image Reference: (Apple 2010)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


  1. Hi Mobile Arch - Excellent Blog, and good assessment of the practicality of the iPad, cutting through the marketing guff to really assess the usefulness of this new technology. That's the type of debate i was trying to kick start over on diggingthedirt:

    ...I even sent a message to Steve Ellis asking if he wanted to comment, but alas, to no available. Has that got something to do with next year's shipment of free iPads... how could I possibly be so cynical!

    All the best and keep it up!

  2. Hey diggingthedirt,

    Yeah, no big surprise on the "no comment." I was fortunate enough to get a statement/opinion from one of the grad students who worked on the project last summer. Archaeologists don't have much money to begin with, they should probably get the whole story before they bulk order iPads for their site.

    Good call on the Space Pen analogy. I completely agree with you regarding its application/use on this particular site. That being said, I do believe there is a lot to be said for taking digital notes from the field. The fact of the matter is, with "cloud" advancements in the past year, taking digital notes (when synced/stored in the cloud) is much safer/practical than paper notes. [Personal Plug: Check out my most recent post on digital note taking.] Personally, I would love to be able to skip the step of transcribing hand-written notes into searchable digital text. And that's just it, what more could you ask for when writing a report than searchable text?

    Like you said, this is the type of debate that needs to happen and I'd love to see more people talking about its practicality and limitations. For me, once Apple gets past the iPad outdoor limitation (glare & overheating under constant direct sunlight), we will see a device built for archaeologists. A GPS with a tighter accuracy wouldn't hurt too...

    Thanks for the comment!

  3. Thanks your blog is awesome.
    thanks for sharing information.

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