Point of Beginning

Eagle Point SMI 2008 Software

January 27, 2009
SMI 2008 operates on many platforms, including Juniper Systems Inc.’s Allegro MX.


EAGLE POINT SOFTWARE CORP.

4131 Westmark Drive

Dubuque, IA 52002-2627

800/678-6565 563/556-8392

Online: www.eaglepoint.com


Suggested Price List: Software prices start at $1,200 (Data Collection with Total Station/Robotics); collector packages start at $2,000 (Jett.ce, Data Collection with Total Station/Robotics). Contact Eagle Point for additional pricing options.

SMI data collection software has been a favorite of land surveyors for more than 20 years. I had the privilege of speaking to the software’s creator, Stanley Trent, on several occasions, and it was obvious that he took a great deal of pride in giving surveyors a program that was reliable and easy to use. The simple keystrokes and ingenious systems his company created have made many surveyors satisfied users of SMI over the years, including me.

When recent advances in data collection technology and the improved graphics capabilities of Windows Mobile/CE devices threatened to make old DOS-based software such as SMI obsolete, Eagle Point Software Corp., which now owns the SMI brand, undertook a massive redevelopment effort. The resulting product--Eagle Point SMI 2008--keeps the best of both worlds. Many of the old features remain. In fact, surveyors familiar with previous versions of the software should have almost no learning curve. The new graphic user interface can be used in conjunction with the reliable old keyboard commands, or it can be used by itself (Figure 1). New users will need to spend some time familiarizing themselves with the way SMI operates, but the learning process shouldn’t take long with the help of the included technical support.

Figure 1. The new graphic user interface can be used in conjunction with the reliable old keyboard commands, or it can be used by itself.

Noteworthy Features

SMI 2008 is available in three versions: GIS, Data Collection, and Construction. The GIS version has the ability to collect data and stake to a point while using a GPS receiver. Data Collection has the ability to collect data, stakeout points, lines, curves and remote points, while the Construction module contains all of these features and adds curve routines, alignments, slope staking and advanced road templates. This review is based on the Construction version of the software as tested with a Topcon 9003 robotic total station.

The new version of the software offers several improvements compared to past versions. Perhaps the most noteworthy feature of SMI 2008 is a maintenance-free database that resists corruption and data loss. Anyone who has lost a day’s worth of field work with earlier versions of this and other data collection software can attest to the importance of this capability. I rebooted the data collector in the middle of commands, pulled out the battery with the collector on and locked up the program by entering multiple commands. The job always reopened fine, and the last shot or calculation was always still there. The days of losing valuable job data may be finally behind us.

The data collection feature of SMI 2008 uses more than 90 percent of the keystrokes of previous versions, which allows existing users of SMI software to be up and running quickly. Commands in SMI are either single commands or “environments” that encompass a set of commands. The single commands (such as side shot) are activated by pushing the appropriate key or the command key on the screen. From any menu or environment, simply press side shot [SIDS], and the shot will be taken. Traverse [TRAV] works the same way. Performing an inverse between points can be accomplished by entering the two point numbers and pressing the [PT-PT] key. The keyboard has an overlay that is similar to the HP 48 calculator. Most surveyors will instantly know what the majority of the keystrokes are. The flexible interface allows you to use the touchscreen or keypad to access more than 50 commands with one button and more than 500 commands with two buttons. I almost always used the keypad for the standard data collection commands, but the touchscreen was useful for finding settings and less common commands. Additionally, a customizable Favorites menu allows you to create your own list of frequently used commands. I found this menu to be extremely useful. By adding the Map, Jobsettings and other frequently used environments to my Favorites menu, I was able to find them much more easily than by searching through the whole environments menu.

Figure 2. The software’s ability to create automated attribute lists for items such as trees can standardize data input and reduce keystrokes.

A feature unique to SMI data collection packages is SmartNote. This feature supports your system of entering descriptors for each point you survey so that you can recognize them by concise text strings. SmartNote makes this laborious and often troublesome field process easier by using pattern recognition and prediction. In my tests, it worked very well and predicted cross-section codes with accuracy. It predicted the note for the next shot in sequence correctly most of the time, and it also allowed out-of-sequence shots, such as locating a power pole or mailbox, while running a cross section. If you take the time to set up a good note table, the software will reward you with significant time savings in the field. If the code you want is not predicted, you simply enter the first letter of the code you want. The portion of your codes list that begins with that letter is then displayed so that you can scroll down to your code and press Enter to apply that code to your observation. If the code you wish to enter is not in the list, you can type it in for your observation, and the code will also be added to the list automatically. One caveat is that the list is job-specific, and changes are not automatically saved to the default list. To permanently add or edit the notes, you must use SMI’s Note Table manager on your computer to create the list you want to use with a particular job and upload that data to the data collector.

In the version I tested, the symbols used on the data collection screen could not be imported with the points into a CAD software package. Also, automated line work was not generated on the screen. I still had to set up the field to finish in my CAD software. However, a very nice feature of this software is the ability to create automated attribute lists that can standardize data input and reduce keystrokes. For instance, you can set up a tree code to prompt you for the species from a pull-down list and then choose the correct diameter, drip edge, etc. (Figure 2).

The SMI coordinate geometry (COGO) routines are fully featured. You can easily calculate horizontal and vertical curve data. For example, simply pressing the [Curve] function key will call up the curve program, where you can enter the radius, arc length or other data until the program has enough information to generate a solution. The Intersections menu contains a number of different functions, including the perpendicular offset, which is used frequently by many surveyors. The calculated point is shown on the screen with the intersecting lines, which aids in visualizing the solution, and you can use the [Store] softkey to store the solution (Figure 3). With intersections that have more than one solution, the softkeys are especially helpful because they allow you to see all the solutions and then store the one you want.

Calculating points is handled by switching to manual mode and performing traverse or side shots. You can manipulate the settings through the instrument profile manager to set points by bearings, azimuth or angle right depending on the requirements of the survey. However, having to change the instrument driver to manual mode to perform a calculation to create a new point seems counterproductive. I would prefer to have the ability to do this from a separate menu.

If you want to set up alignments, which the software calls Chains, you'll need to first calculate and enter your center-line points. The Chains environment allows you to enter both horizontal and vertical chains. Entering a chain in SMI is fast and efficient: You simply enter the Chains environment and hit the [New] softkey. After naming the chain, you can either page down using the down arrow or hit the [HCCL] softkey to enter your chain. The Chains command prompts you to enter the beginning point, station, curves and ending point. Quotation marks around the data indicate circular curves, and braces indicate spiral curves. After you have entered the horizontal data, you can then define the vertical components of your chain. This capability, combined with the ability to create templates for your road (or other feature), can allow you to stakeout any point by station and offset without calculating points at individual stations or offsets, which significantly reduces data entry and calculation time both in the field and in the office.

The list of supported equipment is extensive and includes Topcon, Trimble, Geodimeter, Leica and Sokkia instruments. GPS support includes Navcom and Topcon receivers, and Networked Transport of RTCM via Internet Protocol, or NTRIP, for connection to GPS networks was being added at the time this article was written. All instrument types are accessible from the instrument profile manager. To access previously collected data with a different instrument, you simply change profiles.

SMI uses instrument profiles in many ways. For example, establishing a reflectorless profile will set your prism constant correctly. You can set coarse, fine and extra-fine EDM modes here, as well. I found that the instrument profiles environment was too complex, and I would prefer not to have communication settings mixed in with EDM and stakeout settings. However, some surveyors might like this feature.

SMI 2008 operates on many platforms, including JettCE, Allegro, Archer and many Pocket-PC devices. The program also claims to operate with Windows Mobile 5 and Windows CE.NET; however, specific files are needed with these platforms that might not be included in all devices. I tried loading the software on several Windows Mobile 5 devices and was unsuccessful. For this reason, you should buy a device with SMI preloaded or check with Eagle Point to make sure it will run on your device before purchasing the software.

If you are purchasing a new data collector and plan to use the SMI 2008 software, be sure to get the fastest processor and the most memory you can afford as the program is very hard on system resources. Eagle Point recommends at least a 400 MHz processor with 128 MB SDRAM of memory and 256 MB of data storage. Make sure you install the latest firmware upgrades for your device as these may include important memory management upgrades.

Figure 3. The Intersections menu shows the calculated point on the screen with the intersecting lines, which aids in visualizing the solution.

Data Collection Simplified

SMI 2008 contains some great timesaving features, and previous SMI version users should feel right at home with the product. New users will have a learning curve, but the software warrants a look if you are considering a software purchase. The users manual (which is being completed now) will help first timers immensely. The data entry speed and ability to move from one routine to another with very few clicks is an advantage over other programs I have used. The software needs a speed boost, but faster hardware platforms should make that problem disappear. Overall, the new SMI 2008 is an excellent product with a solid data collection capability.


Editor’s note: According to Eagle Point, support for additional total stations and GPS receivers not listed in this article may be planned or can be evaluated to be added. Additionally, updates have improved the speed of the software since it was tested for this article.