EpiCollect+: linking smartphones to web applications for complex data collection projects
Aanensen DM., Huntley DM., Menegazzo M., Powell CI., Spratt BG.
Previously, we have described the development of the generic mobile phone data gathering tool, EpiCollect, and an associated web application, providing two-way communication between multiple data gatherers and a project database. This software only allows data collection on the phone using a single questionnaire form that is tailored to the needs of the user (including a single GPS point and photo per entry), whereas many applications require a more complex structure, allowing users to link a series of forms in a linear or branching hierarchy, along with the addition of any number of media types accessible from smartphones and/or tablet devices (e.g., GPS, photos, videos, sound clips and barcode scanning). A much enhanced version of EpiCollect has been developed (EpiCollect+). The individual data collection forms in EpiCollect+ provide more design complexity than the single form used in EpiCollect, and the software allows the generation of complex data collection projects through the ability to link many forms together in a linear (or branching) hierarchy. Furthermore, EpiCollect+ allows the collection of multiple media types as well as standard text fields, increased data validation and form logic. The entire process of setting up a complex mobile phone data collection project to the specification of a user (project and form definitions) can be undertaken at the EpiCollect+ website using a simple ‘drag and drop’ procedure, with visualisation of the data gathered using Google Maps and charts at the project website. EpiCollect+ is suitable for situations where multiple users transmit complex data by mobile phone (or other Android devices) to a single project web database and is already being used for a range of field projects, particularly public health projects in sub-Saharan Africa. However, many uses can be envisaged from education, ecology and epidemiology to citizen science.