A mobile phone app will help scientists collect and analyse data from “in the field”, anywhere in the world!
The EpiCollect software will enable scientists to collate data from certain mobiles in a web-based database on topics such as ‘disease spread or the occurrence of rare species’. This data is instantly analysed and plotted on a map for others to see on certain mobiles. These certain phones are ones that run Google’s Android
open-source operating system and are hoped to be available on an iPhone-compatible version of the application soon.
So how does it work?
The phones’ GPS system automatically logs users’ locations, so data they are collecting is plotted by location using Google Maps. Then anyone can access the database online, or from their phone instantly. According to lead researcher on the project David Aanensen, it is the ‘full integration into a central and widely-accessible database makes EpiCollect particularly useful’. “Many of the other tools that allow one to send data by mobile phone don’t have an easy way for any of the researchers to look at any of the data in almost real-time,” he told BBC News.
“We’re investigating the use of the phones for the project; rather than researchers taking a GPS out into the field and recording their results on paper, we can get all of this data much more quickly – and it limits the amount of equipment they have to take out into the field,” Mr Aanensen said. He added that there will be a potential to use this approach with school projects. He cited the classic “quadrant” experiment in biology, in which schoolchildren set out a fixed area in a field for example, and count the number of species in that area.
“If we have a database version, it allows them to compare between their school and another school or a set of schools in one country versus a set in another country, and the natural ability to use a phone rather than paper might be more attractive to school kids.” This is one of the many ways in which mobiles phones are changing the way many industries work.