3 Ways Mobile GIS Simplifies Construction Project Management

The construction industry has long struggled with productivity issues. One contributing factor is the over-reliance on point solutions in project management. 

Point solutions are tools that only address one part of a workflow, which means that multiple separate tools are needed to complete an entire project. 

While point solutions may be sufficient for small-scale projects such as single-family homes, they quickly become problematic when scaling up to larger projects like high-rise buildings or subdivisions.

In many construction projects, every process or step relies on a different tool - making it challenging to track progress, communicate between teams, and organize project data. 

Mobile geographic information system (GIS) software provides a solution. By having cloud-based GIS available on any device, companies in the construction industry (or really any built-world industry) can:

  • Make and view updates in real-time
  • Increase communication between field and office teams
  • Streamline daily processes
  • Track progress more efficiently
  • Unify project data in a single place

Below we’ll explore the benefits of using Mobile GIS in construction project management, as well as a few applications for GIS in construction: surveying, drone integration, and digital as-builts.

Already ready to get started? Learn how to choose the right Mobile GIS for you in Unearth's complete guide.

If you're new to geospatial technology, here's a refresher on the basics of GIS.

Multiple screens showing Unearth geospatial workflows

Benefits of Cloud GIS in Construction Project Management

As we mentioned above, the use of Mobile GIS in construction offers numerous benefits, including streamlined project data, simplified daily processes, and real-time updates.

By leveraging these advantages, construction organizations can significantly increase productivity, reduce headaches, and ultimately save time and money.

Real-time updates

Many challenges on construction sites can be traced back to incomplete information and a lack of effective communication.

These issues can lead to delays, mistakes, frustration, and even rework and disputes, which can be incredibly costly for a project. With real-time updates, however, teams can avoid these issues altogether.

Mobile GIS allows teams to add data, update plans, and manage tasks in real-time: bridging the information and communication gap.

Since Mobile GIS is accessible via any web browser, it can be used on any computer or mobile device

This capability helps all project stakeholders - field teams, project managers, owners, and executives - quickly understand a project's status, enabling effective communication, better decision making, and more efficient project management.

laptop with a split screen

Connect field and office teams

Connecting work that occurs in different locations can be a challenging task. 

In the past, point solutions and desktop GIS required teams physically be in the same space to connect. This approach restricts data transfer, hampers communication, and creates information bottlenecks that slow projects down.

However, Mobile GIS has solved this issue by enabling field and office teams to interact with the same map-based view simultaneously.

This technology allows teams in the office to create and instantly share maps of their project layered with aerial imagery, topography, and blueprints. Teams in the field can use mobile devices to add photos, make annotations, track stockpile volumes, and create as-builts, allowing the office to visualize progress in real time.

By connecting field and office, everyone has access to the information they need, when they need it. This reduces redundant data entry, minimizes the risk of rework, and increases the likelihood of an on-time, on-budget project.

Unified data management

Construction projects generate vast amounts of data, which can come in different formats such as photos, videos, aerial surveys, spreadsheets, and Shapefiles, among others. Managing and organizing this data becomes particularly challenging with point solutions.

With so much data in various formats and spread across different devices storing, transferring, and managing this information can be difficult. Mobile GIS solves this problem by providing a single platform for all project data.

This unified data management has several benefits. For example, teams can create as-builts while working, which streamlines future pay apps.

data management in construction

Pay apps are a common source of disputes on construction projects. Owners and contractors are both at risk for significant financial loss.

Typically this happens when there are discrepancies between what’s reported in the pay app and what is outlined in the initial bid.

Considering the scale of most construction projects, a discrepancy in and of itself isn't surprising. However, when dollar amounts reach hundreds of thousands, or even millions, contractors want to be sure they're paid appropriately and owners must keep an eye on the bottom line.

A single source of project truth has the potential to eliminate this problem altogether.

Contractors can use documentation tools like layered drone surveys, task management, or volumetric measurements to document work in real-time. Owners can monitor progress as it happens, tracking the project status as frequently as they want.

In short, unified data management offers significant benefits for everyone involved in construction projects, enabling more effective communication, better decision-making, and smoother project management.

Applications for Mobile GIS in Construction

By now, the benefits of using Mobile GIS in construction should be clear. But how exactly can you start to apply this type of software?

Below, we move beyond the theoretical, covering a few every day applications: surveying, drone integration, and accurate as-built documentation.

GPS device for construction surveying

Mobile GIS for construction surveying

Construction surveying is an essential process that involves mapping out reference points for upcoming structures, including buildings and roads.

A critical link between design, engineering, and contractors, it's vital that surveying is conducted successfully.

Surveying relies on GIS data collection hardware, such as survey-grade GPS devices. These devices provide powerful tools that offer precise positional information, making them ideal for collecting data. However, the collected data needs a secure and centralized location for efficient management.

Mobile GIS provides organizations with a one-stop platform for storing, organizing, and viewing collected data.

By integrating survey-grade GPS with cloud-based GIS, construction surveyors can establish a real-world coordinate grid to guide the building process from start to finish.

Mobile GIS for effective drone integration

Drones have become indispensable tools in the construction industry, especially when it comes to tracking project progress.

Phantom 3 DJI

They provide a simple and cost-effective way to visually record progress on a regular basis, offering an instant overview of site status and enabling teams to track progress over time

When used properly, drones offer several benefits including fast, accurate, and high-resolution information, all at an affordable price. However, collecting data is only half of the story; the information still needs to be processed, viewed, and stored, which is where Mobile GIS comes in handy.

Utilizing any GIS will translate raw data into actionable information. But, Mobile GIS takes this a step further by allowing users to access the information from anywhere, on any device.

If you’re in the market for a drone, don’t forget to check out our construction drone buying guide.

A mobile device displaying as-built documentation

Mobile GIS for accurate as-built documentation

As-builts serve as a vital record of your project's progress and final outcome.

Project managers rely on them to monitor progress and understand a project's status, while contractors use them as proof of work completed to receive payment.

However, creating accurate as-builts can be challenging due to the fragmented data often present on construction sites.

This is where Mobile GIS comes in, offering a solution that automates the as-built creation process by streamlining data collection and providing a centralized location to store all project data.

With a single source of project truth, disputes that often arise in response to pay apps or as-built records can be minimized. All stakeholders gain a comprehensive view of the project, enabling them to make informed decisions and achieve better project outcomes.


As you can see, GIS is so much more than just mapping.

Utilizing Mobile GIS helps construction organizations streamline surveying, integrate drones effectively, and organize all data in a central location.

By giving your team access to the right data in real-time, you'll increase efficiency, streamline workflows, and - ultimately - save time and money.

With Unearth's field data management platform, OnePlace, you get the power of GIS in the field without requiring any special training.

Interested in the power of Mobile GIS?

Back-office GIS requires specialized training and often is siloed from the field or relegated to counterintuitive apps. And yet, robust maps are critical to contextualizing work in the field and streamlining communication.

For this reason, Unearth developed OnePlace for Civil Construction - a mobile mapping software for intuitive data collection, progress tracking, and project collaboration.

Ultimately, this software bridges the gap between office and field while ensuring a high-quality project turnover through digital as-builting.

the office and field connected through Unearth's software
Unearth's OnePlace for Civil Construction

Want to continue your journey in GIS?

Check out our articles on data collection tools, getting started with GIS, and free GIS software.
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