How do Mobile Data Collection Apps work?

Data collection is not a new idea, but the launch of mobile devices has dramatically changed the way data is collected and managed. Before everything went digital and mobile, traditional data collection used pen and paper to create records from various sites, consolidate the physical data sheets at a central location and complete the manual data entry into computers to manage and analyze it.

With the digitization of the process of data collection, especially in the context of field data, all the inputs can now be digitally recorded on a mobile device at the point of origin, eliminating the need for physical sheets, manual handwritten entries, and manual data entry; making the process not just infinitely more convenient for all stakeholders in the process, but also significantly more efficient, more productive, and less expensive.

This post will discuss how mobile data collection works in the field, why it’s a significant improvement over traditional methods, and how data capture happens digitally.

Why mobile data collection?

Mobile data collection is simply a method of collecting several types of data using a mobile device, and it has a distinct edge over traditional strategies for several reasons:

  • Of course, we already mentioned how it could save time, cost, and effort, but it also significantly enables field teams to increase their productivity. Digitization doesn’t eliminate the human factor. It enhances it by improving collaboration between teams, enabling less manual effort, reducing the drudgery so commonly experienced in field data collection, and taking the grunt work out of their daily routine.
  • Digital and mobile data capture and collection also eliminates paper; think of the number of sheets a single organization uses on a single day across their vast operational territories. We’re talking about large companies like Oil and Gas, Electric Companies, or Telecom, with thousands of assets and hundreds of field staff gathering data. Eliminating this is not just budget-friendly; it’s great for the environment. Deployed at scale, you can imagine the thousands of trees saved by this single shift from paper to paperless.
  • And then there’s the element of safety, especially in non-contact environments, enabling data collection with the needed safety measures and reduced risk.

In the history of business, all this digitization and mobile data gathering is relatively new. For generations, businesses functioned using paper. Field staff entered everything on sheets of paper, and data entry staff labored away; inserting numbers on gridded sheets, checking, double-checking, and amending errors, whether related to asset data, task status, or inventory updates, etc. People had to be at the office to work on these countless sheets, and, invariably, whatever data analysis became possible usually took far more time than required giving delayed insights to operations managers.

GIS Mobile Data collection

In any industry operating with a large number of assets spread over a vast geographical territory, the exact physical location of each asset is critical. That’s where the additional feature of GIS-enabled data collection becomes vital.

For example, which spare is required to replace a specific broken part, which structures this asset is mounted, the precise asset location, and the optimal time, route, and staff allocation plan.

GIS Data often finds practical applications in creating

  • Thematic Maps such as choropleth / color-based mapping or dot distribution visualizations to show data on a specific theme or topic
  • Capturing direction-finding data for simple navigation
  • Surveying using Photogrammetry data which is the data extracted from geographical areas and structures using photographic images

GIS technology explicitly enables field teams to plot every asset using protocols specific to their organization and industry in-field data contexts. For example, an oil and gas corporation can plan every piece of machinery, what structure it is part of, at what specific geographic point it is located, and even the point of elevation or vertical position to ground level. This information helps them visualize their entire field assets, design field operations better, create more efficient workflows, deploy staff on the field, plan inventory management, assign tasks, and track support status with complete real-time visibility.

Automated Quality Control in Mobile Data Collection

With all this complex data gathering involved in large field operations, one of the most vital elements is data accuracy. That’s where mobile field data collection makes its most robust case in ensuring the collected data’s integrity, accuracy, and security. With manual processes involving handwritten procedures, thousands of datasheets, and the back-office strategies for data entry and consolidation, the scope for error is enormous, along with the possibility of recurring and compounding errors becoming a significant threat.

Data can be compromised in several ways:

– Problems with correctness when verifying at the point of data capture

– Loss of datasheets during transit and the cumbersome filing and storage of records

– Data entry errors because of illegible handwriting

– Human error causes a wrong reading of manually written data

With digital mobile data capture, all these challenges are avoided. With simple, intuitive forms and checklists, management teams can create data gathering formats and customize the entire data gathering workflow to suit their specific needs, thereby enabling better resource management and collaboration within the team. And with the elimination of several human error-prone touchpoints, the process ensures accuracy and data integrity.

Offline Mobile Data Collection

Very often, field data are being gathered from locations with partial or no internet access. Distant villages, huge buildings, structures with poor WIFI coverage, hazardous sites, and even remote offshore facilities are common field data sources vital for operations. Mobile data collection with offline capture abilities enables data to be stored on the mobile or tablet and then uploaded to a server as soon as an internet connection is available, ensuring seamless data integration.

Mobile Data Collection Forms

Mobile forms (also called mobile surveys or questionnaires) are customizable digital questionnaires that collect data on smartphones, tablets, or iPad. They facilitate high-quality and user-responsive data collection by merging social mobility with authentication, provisional logic, image and video fields, and GIS data collection. The sheer convenience of this digitized data collection is a far cry from the laborious processes that preceded it. Field staff now must select radio buttons or use drop-down menus and checkboxes. They can capture photos and videos and upload them in an instant. The process is intuitive, fast and efficient, and positively impacts employee morale and performance.

Fielda’s Mobile Data Collection App

Fielda’s app brings users all the benefits and conveniences from reducing errors and enabling offline data collection to simplify the process for cost and operational efficiencies.

Click here to Try Fielda for free!