I would like to get your advice and expertise on mobile database software: in combination with smartphones or tablets
What do you currently use and what are your experiences with it?
I have some experience with Visual CE http://www.syware.com/visualce.php in combination with PDA's but this software is also compatible with all Windows Mobile devices: Pocket PC, Pocket PC Phone Edition, Smartphones, (Professional, Standard. and Classic devices) and Windows Mobile based tablets and specialized hardware.
But there are others on the market like
• CSPro (developed by CDC)
• Pocket PC creations
Any comments on these freeware packages?
Since now-a-days PDAs are almost obsolete, it is better to move for next technologies. Today's smartphones and tablets are more user friendly and provides better functionalities at the same time. Devices based on Windows OS also support document processing. For example Panasonic Toughbook Ultra comes with Intel Atom processor and Windows7, it means databases can be programmed normally with some limitations.
But on the other hand the smartphone or tablets currently available in the market are locked for development and require to purchase unlock and registration if one wants to develop and deploy any customized software. (As far as I know). This is costly as they normally charge US$100 for one year. However Microsoft offers to unlock three devices for this amount.
The free packages are good at creating databases for mobile devices but the problem is that currently almost all of the devices are coming with Windows Phone7 or 8 and none with Windows Mobile (CE) 5 or 6. There is architectural differences between Windows Phone OS and Windows CE and they are not compatible with each other. So, before going for investing time and money in these freewares it is better to check whether they support new OS and upcoming technologies or not.
Its still not very clear for what software to use because there is still no much data to embed on quality, reliability leave alone cost and the gadget to be used. Hence the acceptability level of quality needs to defined with data support.
Our sister organization in Mozambique recently used Questionnaire Development System (QDS) to conduct a baseline survey.
QDS is windows- based application that allows you to design your own data collection form and collect data without the need for costly and time- consuming programming assistance. It has easy to use features, with a menu based interface.
In general the questionnaire design is straightforward, data entry very user-friendly and the data can easily be exported to MS-Access.
Here is a very good online tutorial: http://www.novaresearch.com/products/QDS/QDSHelp261/qdshelp.htm
The price is quite high. They tell you to buy one data collection module for each computer you want to do data entry on. So apart from the benefits it is still important to reconsider all the factors surrounding before making a choice.
I would like to express my thoughts on mobile tools for data collection. First, I would like to mention that I have not directly collected Clinical Trials data on this platform before but my colleagues have and as such I have some understanding based on their challenges. This was based on Pendragon forms and data was collected on daily basis with synchronization done each morning before setting off to the sites....
Being an Open Source evangelist, this led me to look for alternatives as my main concern was manual synchronization which was quite tedious and as such if we could have a tool that could automatically send data to our server at the Data Center, we would have eliminated quite a lot of sub procedures....
I came across openxdata (http://www.openxdata.org/) downloaded the software, installed and configured it on our server and developed sample forms for data collection. My test survey worked and I was able to collect not only text data but also images and video...
Many other organizations are now using this platform for data collection on mobile phones and I would be glad to hear what their experiences are like. Again, using the same for Clinical Trials which is more regulated, it will be important to get more information with respect to Software Validation and Compliance with GCP requirements from the developers. I am sure any organization willing to use it will want to do thorough testing on it before going ahead to collect data on it.
Many other open source data collection tools exist and as such I am hoping to get more details from those of us who have used them. I believe we can share pros and cons of these tools here based on what our experiences are.....
I recently put an application together to LSTM for a small grant to allow me to evaluate mobile data capture tools.
We were big advocates of PDA based mobile data collection however this has now come to the end of its life with the fast growing android smartphone market providing hardware at a fraction of the cost.
I will provide an update to this here once complete over the next couple of months.
However, early research has pointed me towards Open Data Kit (http://opendatakit.org/) which looks really user friendly and provides easy mechanisms for storing the data in the cloud or locally.
The small grant will allow me to evaluate different handsets and purchase software licenses needed to test the platform.