System for Integrated Geoscience MApping (BGS·SIGMA)

BGS Software

BGS·SIGMA is an integrated toolkit for digital geological data capture and mapping, which enables the assembly, capture, interrogation and visualisation of geological information as well as the delivery of digital products and services.

BGS Geologist out in the field
Information icon

A BGS geologist using BGS·SIGMA out in the field. Image BGS / UKRI

Expand icon

The system is comprised of two customised ESRI ArcMap toolbars: BGS·SIGMAmobile and BGS·SIGMAdesktop. BGS·SIGMAmobile is designed for digital data capture and mapping in the field using ruggedised tablet PCs, and BGS·SIGMAdesktop has tools for data interrogation, data interpretation and the generation of finalised data and products. These end products could be datasets, maps or 3D models.

Benefits to using BGS·SIGMA

The benefits of digital data capture using BGS·SIGMA are extensive. The system enables data to be gathered in a standardised format through the use of a custom-built data model and pre-defined dictionaries. A wide variety of geological information, photographs, sketches and comments are easily collected through the use of tailor-made data-entry forms, and all data are linked to a digital location point on the map.

The system enables project teams to start building their digital geological map in the field by merging data collected by multiple geologists, building line work and polygons, and subsequently identifying areas for further investigation. This digital data can then be easily incorporated into corporate databases and used in 3D visualisation software such as GeoVisionary once back in the office.

Quick links:


BGS·SIGMA is the default toolkit within the BGS for bedrock and superficial mapping as well as other data acquisition projects across the UK and overseas. It is also being successfully used, worldwide, by other geological surveys, e.g. Norway, Sierra Leone and Tanzania, by universities including Leicester, Keele and Kyoto, and by mining organisations in Brazil and the USA. Its use is global, with nearly 5000 free licenses granted worldwide to date and has been used on all seven continents.

BGS SIGMA in Malaysia

BGS·SIGMA in use around the globe, above in Malaysian hotel, and below on location in Sierra Leone.

BGS SIGMA in Sierra Leone

BGS SIGMA interface
BGS·SIGMA user interface

The fourth release of the BGS·SIGMA system contains the following updates.

  • All data-entry forms are now in ESRI ArcMap, allowing for a more streamlined interface for data entry as well as an increase in the speed and efficiency of the system.
  • Redesigned data-entry forms result in improved data entry capabilities and ease of use.
  • All BGS·SIGMAmobile tools are now available from a single toolbar in ESRI ArcMap.
  • Improved data model.
  • All main datasets now have feature classes in the geodatabase and all data-collection point locations can be viewed in ESRI ArcMap.
  • Improved field report and precis tool.
  • Tools for merging individual databases to create project databases.
  • Grouping of structural data.
  • A new re-designed sketch tool.

The Core Functionality of the system is listed below


  • Entry of field observation points along with linked data for:
    • structural measurements (bedding, faults, folds etc.)
    • superficial landforms (erratics, glacial, periglacial and topographic)
    • artificial landforms (adits, shafts, pits etc.)
    • simple log/section
    • landslides
    • samples
    • sketches
    • comments
    • photos
  • Map face notes
  • Line data can be drawn directly (and correctly attributed) into ArcMap under these main categories:
    • artificial ground
    • mass movement
    • landforms
    • superficial deposits
    • bedrock
  • Polygon seeds for polygon generation in BGS·SIGMAdesktop
  • Field report generator — collates user-defined data into an MS Word document
  • Data export tools for using data in other software


  • Suite of tools to assist in map compilation and decision making:
    • combining data from all geologists into one database for generating final data compilation for the project
    • cleaning linework
    • generating polygons (advanced licence required)
    • add more data/hide data

These tools can be used in whichever way suits the user and still maintains the user’s own working practice.

BGS·SIGMAv2015 is designed to run on any 64 bit Windows 7 or Windows 10 PC or tablet PC running:

  • ArcGIS 10.1 or 10.3.
  • MS Word
  • 8Gb RAM (BGS recommendation)

An MS Access licence is no longer required, unless your organisation wishes to view and manipulate the data directly in the database or make changes to the dictionaries.

The BGS does not supply ESRI ArcMap or MS Access as part of BGS·SIGMA. It requires a Standard ArcMap licence to run.

BGS currently maintains two types of hardware for digital field-data collection:

Prior to commencing fieldwork, a BGS geologist will carry out an initial desk study of their field area using Socetset (a stereo aerial photography system) or GeoVisionary (3D visualisation software) and observations are recorded directly into ArcMap/BGS·SIGMA. Once datasets have been assembled in the office using BGS·SIGMAdesktop, targeted fieldwork can commence using BGS·SIGMAmobile. Following fieldwork, BGS·SIGMAdesktop can be used again to finalise data, combine field projects and compile final datasets. As part of this process, GeoVisionary can once again be used to validate the data in a 3D environment.

The BGS·SIGMA project was initiated in 2001 in response to a major stakeholder review of onshore mapping within BGS. That review proposed a significant change for  BGS with the recommendation that digital methods should be implemented for field mapping and data compilation. As digital data became more readily accessible, it meant that paper maps, fieldslips, satellite imagery, aerial photography and other resources could be made available for the area of study. GIS software was evolving and meant we could embed custom built GIS tools into ESRI ArcMap, meaning that, in essence, BGS·SIGMAmobile became the access route to the digital fieldslip with the underlying database becoming the digital notebook.

As BGS·SIGMA evolved over the years it adapted and developed to meet the needs of BGS geologists. BGS·SIGMAdesktop was added as a toolbar from another piece of BGS-developed software, to take the digital fieldslip and make it a geological map. Once the geological data has been collated and finalised, it’s not just maps that can be created: the information can be used in 3D platforms, such as GeoVisionary and GSI3D, and can be used for subsurface interpretation using BGS Groundhog.

Looking to the future, we are now developing a BGS▪SIGMA app to compliment the main BGS▪SIGMA system enabling the flexibility to capture of data on a smartphone as well as a tablet or PC.


Whilst the system was initially built to replicate traditional geological survey mapping within the BGS, we have successfully designed and developed data-entry forms for use by our geodiversity, landslides and buildings stones teams, enabling them to carry out vital work within their areas of expertise. Outside of the BGS, we have developed specialised custom forms for use by mining companies and other organisations (e.g. BGS has designed customised forms for the built-heritage sector that enable digital-condition surveys of traditional or historic buildings).

The core components of the BGS·SIGMA system (observation points, photographs, sketches, samples and comments) apply to most areas of digital data capture, and integrating custom requirements into the system can be carried out within the BGS by our team of specialist developers.

BGS·SIGMAv2015 is a free download via the form below, and is available to anyone who wishes to use it. However, if you require help in implementing the system within your organisation we can assist in the following ways:

  1. Training: standard or customised training courses to suite your organisation.
  2. Customised data-entry requirements: BGS developers can design, develop and integrate new data entry modules specific to your organisation’s needs.
  3. Our digital data solutions experts can assist in integrating BGSSIGMA into your existing digital workflow or help in designing a new workflow.
  4. Advice on modifying the system to utilise dictionaries and symbology specific to your organisation or country.
  5. Migration of data collected in previous versions of BGSSIGMA (versions 2012 and earlier)


BGS·SIGMAv2015 is available free for use by commercial and non-commercial organisations.

Please read and accept the licence agreement before downloading.

All databases created in the previous version of BGS·SIGMAv2012 can be viewed in this new system (using the import database tool), but they cannot be edited and all new work must be done in a new v2015 database due to changes in the system.

BGS·SIGMAv2015 download contents

A zip file containing:

  • BGS·SIGMAv2015 installation files (versions for ArcGIS 10.1 and ArcGIS 10.3 — please install the relevant version)
  • brief installation guide
  • “What’s new” guide
  • user manual

To download BGS·SIGMA please complete the form below.

Download submission form

  • Please enter a number from 1 to 1000.

You may also be interested in:

iGeology mobile app


Applications, software and online services created by BGS and our collaborators.

Show more


As part of its ongoing research, BGS have developed a number of software tools to advance their understanding of scientific systems and help them model geological and hydrogeological processes.

Show more

Was this page helpful?

  • How can we make this section better?*

  • Please select a reason*

  • How can we make this section better?*