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Linking Smartphones to form a Data Web

One of the critical foundations of the sensor web, is creating the capacity for different devices, made by different companies and on different networks, to work together as a seamless whole. Traditionally of course that has not been possible, but new software, developed by researchers at Imperial College London, and intended to help other academics, is starting to do just that.

The connectivity programming is intended to help epidemiologists and ecologists working in the field analyse their data remotely and map findings across the world, without having to return to the lab. Essentially, a version of telepresence, not too dissimilar from telehealth applications. In fact, similar enough that the two could be combined with minimum effort.

The researchers have developed an application for 'smartphones' that allows a scientist or member of the public to collect and record data, photos and videos - for example to document the presence of an animal or plant species - and then send this information to a central web-based database. The website records the user's location using the phone's GPS system, and it can then display all of the data collected on this topic across the world, using Google Maps.

Users can also use their smartphones to request and view all the maps and analyses available. The new technology, which is funded by the Wellcome Trust, means that groups of researchers should be able to quickly and easily build up and share maps of the distribution of an endangered species or cases of a disease, and analyse patterns that emerge. The Imperial team is currently using the software, known as EpiCollect, as a tool in their studies of the epidemiology of bacterial and fungal infectious diseases.

David Aanensen, lead author of the paper from the Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at Imperial College London said: "We're excited about launching this new software - researchers have been able to send information by phone before, but this is the first time that we have been able to link all the functionality of smartphone technology to a web-based database for scientists to use. Our software is ideal for projects where multiple people collect data in the field and submit these to a central website for mapping and analysis. A key advantage is that data collected by researchers can also be requested from the website and displayed and analysed directly on the smartphone."

References

EpiCollect: Linking Smartphones to Web Applications for Epidemiology, Ecology and Community Data Collection

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