Dec 2, 2012

EpiCollect: A mobile app, useful for photo + data-collection "in the wild".

EpiCollect is an open-source project developed at Imperial College London, funded by the Wellcome Trust.  According to information posted on the project's website, "EpiCollect is a generic data collection tool that allows you to collect and submit geotagged data forms (along with photos) to a central project website (hosted using Google's App Engine) from suitable mobile phones (Android or iPhone). For example, questionnaires, surveys, etc.  All data synchronised (ie a copy sent from the phone) from multiple phones can then be viewed/charted/filtered at the project website using Google Maps/Earth or downloaded. Furthermore, data can be requested and viewed/filtered from the project website directly on your phone using Google Maps." -EpiCollect

EpiCollect Overview
(Credit:  EpiCollect Website)

EpiCollect makes use of web API's such as Google Maps, Google Charts, Google Talk, and KML Specifiction, and JavaScript Libraries such as JQuery,, ExtJS, and Mapstraction.  It runs on the Google AppEngine server, and is available for Android and iPhone.

I think that EpiCollect would be a useful interactive tool for use in education, K-12 and above.  It would be ideal for students working on group projects, such as environmental study.  For young children, a simple assignment might include taking pictures and data about  birds, animals, trees, cloud formations, or even litter, as part of a class project.  Since the data includes photographs, the students could create an end product in the form of an interactive multimedia presentation, available for other students - as well as parents- to view on the web, accessed from any web-enabled device.

HCI research teams could use these tools when observing people using various technologies in public spaces, such as malls, airports, special events, as well as in stores, eateries, and entertainment settings.  

I would be interested in learning more about the use of this application in HCI and K-12 education!

EpiCollect Website
EpiCollect Instructions
EpiCollect Instructions (pdf)
The Sight of Road Kill Makes a Pretty, Data-Rich Picture (NPR All Tech Considered)
Note: Audio from the above December 2, 2012 episode can be found on the NPR Weekend Edition Sunday website after 12:00 PM ET on 12/2/12
Mobile app sees science go global  (BBC article)
App for Android Puts Laboratories on Your Phone (Tree Hugger article)
Scientific Data Collection Goes Mobile (Discovery News article)

Paper: EpiCollect: Linking Smartphones to Web Applications for Epidemiology, Ecology and Community Data Collection (PLos One 4(9), 2009)

David M. Aanensen, Derek M. Huntley, Edward J. Feil, Fada'a al-Own, Brian G. Spratt
Conclusion from the above paper:
"Data collection frameworks utilising mobile phones with data submission to and from central databases are widely applicable and can give a field worker similar display and analysis tools on their mobile phone that they would have if viewing the data in their laboratory via the web. We demonstrate their utility for epidemiological data collection and display, and briefly discuss their application in ecological and community data collection. Furthermore, such frameworks offer great potential for recruiting ‘citizen scientists’ to contribute data easily to central databases through their mobile phone."

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