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Open Data Kit

In 2012, I began experimenting with electronic data collection. Pretty soon, I stumbled upon Open Data Kit, a free and open-source software package that seemed to meet all of my needs: 

  • no internet connection required; 
  • highly flexible data form design; 
  • integration of GPS data, photographs, and barcode scanning with each data sheet; 
  • cloud-storage of uploaded data with ability to be pushed to Google Sheets for analysis and sharing; 
  • works on all Android devices; and, 
  • a great community for support.  
There were some drawbacks, mainly the need to set up an ODK Aggregate server on a Google appspot and the learning curve for mastering Xform design.  But my testing of the system sold me on the capabilities.

I purchased an inexpensive used waterproof tablet (Pantech Element) to begin my 2013 data collection.  On my first day in the field, I dropped it into about 2 ft. of icy water after processing a Spotted Turtle.  Nothing was lost.  After six years of field use and thousands of data sheets completed, I've only ever lost data from a single ODK Collect form, when a much more expensive Trimble unit failed after a drop.  (They repaired the unit, but the data was lost.)

Today, all of our data collection is done using ODK.  I've authored a couple of dozen forms, some very short and specific (e.g., deploying, checking Hellbender Huts), some very broad and general (e.g., observation of an amphibian or reptile), and others long and complex (e.g., carrying out standardized aquatic turtle surveys).  Because of the efficiency of using ODK, I estimate that I collected more data in 2013 than I had in the previous two or three years combined!

Hardware I've used with ODK
Open Data Kit Collect (the data sheets)


Subpages (2): Hardware ODK Collect