Looking for a new data collection system

Team Echinacea is currently trying to find a data collection system to replace our old trusty Visors. Interestingly enough, the problem isn’t with the visors themselves, nor with the forms system we’re using (an old version of Pendragon Forms), but with the computer that has our version of Pendragon. It’s an old version so we can’t get a copy for another computer, and the computer isn’t going to make it much longer. We have some temporary fixes in mind (more to come on that) but we’re looking for a long term replacement for our lovable, early-2000s technology. We posted a question to Ecolog and in the past week we have received several responses. Here’s a summary of the findings in case you can’t make it to Ecolog this week:

  • A Nexus 7 with Google Sheets for data collection. A cheap mobile data plan allows for data syncing throughout the day. A case that has a wrist strap so it’s more portable and a portable battery to help with battery life. Cost $350 at time of purchase.
  • Samsung Tab4 tablets (refurbished from Amazon) and an external Garmin GPS that connects via Bluetooth. Data collection is done with open data kit and the ODKCollect app for Android
  • iPad mini using the Numbers app to collect data. The important thing is not to use a big case, apparently an Otterbox can cause overheating quite quickly in direct sunlight.
  • Using an HP Stream 7 tablet running windows with MS Access for data entry. The main problems were screen glare, even when using an anti-glare cover, and buttons being too small on forms. Overall: not recommended
  • Small field laptops (Panasonic Toughbooks) with Real Time Research Field Forms

In brief:

The hardware: Nexus 7, Samsung Tab4, iPad mini, HP Stream 7, and Panasonic Toughbooks

The software: Google Sheets/Forms, Open Data Kit, Numbers app, Fulcrum app, EpiCollect, Pendragon Forms, MS Access, Real Time Research (RTR) Field Forms

We were surprised to see that no responses from people using phones for data collection, so if you are using phones, we’d like to hear from you. Right now, we’re not sure exactly which direction we’ll take but the software options we’re leaning towards are Open Data Kit and Pendragon Forms. Our team intends to do a trial run in the upcoming field season and deploy as many as 15 devices starting in June. We’re going to be giving updates in our blog, so follow along at We set up comments on our website so if you have any suggestions, thoughts, or words of encouragement, stop by our website and let us know.


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