When we think of data collection, often the first things that come to our minds are the NSA or surveys. The reason that data is used in these examples, however, is the same reason that businesses record data, and that is to extract information in order to achieve a greater goal.
Information and data are two different things, although they are often used interchangeably. When raw data is collected it does not provide us with meaning until we can understand the context. From the collection of raw data, we can combine historical and current data to extrapolate trends and other implications that can be predictive of the future. For a business, a sustainable competitive advantage can come from the ability to collect and react to this information accordingly.
Traditional Data Collection
In industries where workers complete tasks and fill out forms in the field, traditional data collection methods generally consist of a clipboard, pen, and paper. Data in this format is collected manually on a form and then brought to an office where it is then entered into a computer in order to provide the data with context and meaning. Sometimes, rather than human data entry into a computer system, companies may use optical character recognition software to scan the document and then integrate it into an information system automatically.
Paper data collection is better than none at all but it does lend itself to some problems, such as lost collection forms, difficulties in making changes to paper forms, the static nature of the data collected, and the multiple times that the data must change hands before it becomes meaningful within a computer program or database.
What is Mobile Data Collection?
The route that many industries are taking is using mobile technology as the means for field workers to collect data. For example, workers use their smartphones or tablets in conjunction with applications that exist as electronic versions of the paper forms to record work completed from the field. This can provide much better quality of data collected, as mobile devices capture dynamic forms of data, such as photos and GPS location. Once the data has been captured into the electronic format, it can be immediately stored in a database or server, or can even be emailed to relevant people from the field.
Mobile field data collection eliminates the need for manual re-entry of the data into a system, as the data is being recorded directly to where it must be stored. Since no paper is involved, there is no instance of lost forms and results in a much greener solution. Mobile data collection eliminates two time-consuming and value-reducing steps in the data collection process. It removes the need for physical forms to be brought to the office, and it does not require another human to input the data into a computer.
By eliminating non-essential steps from the collection process to when the data is re-entered into a computer, mobile data collection can reduce the time and resources needed to complete the process, while improving the quality of the data collected, and making field teams more productive.
Is Mobile Data Collection Important for Business?
As mentioned previously, the conversion of data into information is where the value of raw data lies, and the quality of the data that is collected greatly impacts the caliber of the information that can be derived from it. Additionally, the means by which the data is collected, stored, and utilized impacts the decision-making power that the users of the information can harness.
Mobile data collection can reduce the time, resources, and cost of extracting necessary information from the field, while improving the quality of the information collected. Utilizing mobile data collection provides decision makers with better, more accurate information in order to make more informed decisions, without the guess-work.