Image via spatialepidemiology.net screengrab
A new smart phone app called EpiCollect from researchers at Imperial College London will help epidemiologists and ecologists out in the field gather and submit data for research as well as access data while out and about, essentially putting their labs on their Android-based smart phones. It also puts all that information on your phone so you can both take part in information collection and access databases, turning you into a citizen scientist. PLoS One published the research highlighting what Spatialepidemiology.net accomplishes. The researchers state that the project "provides a map-based interface for the display and analysis of infectious disease epidemiological data, including molecular data, utilising Google Maps and Google Earth... providing an important new way of analysing and displaying epidemiological data."
By utilizing the app on an Android smart phone and the website, you can create your own maps and the information you upload can be placed on the permanent map. It might seem like an iPhone app would have allowed more people to take part sooner - such as with the upcoming app for tracking flora and fauna - since more people have iPhones. But the researchers went with Android in part because they're working with Google maps and the Android OS was developed by Google, but also because Android is an open source OS, lending flexibility to designing an app that accesses more of a smartphone's features. While there are only four phones on the market using Android, more are on their way, including the recently announced Motorola Cliq.
There is little doubt that this kind of crowdsourced data gathering will grow as more people take up smartphones and apps are developed. Indeed, has already become a major tool for crowdsourced activities, and is growing that capability. It was just a couple weeks ago that we talked about Google increasing its use of crowdsourced traffic congestion information in order to relieve pollution from rush hour-clogged roads. Crowdsourcing data, while it allows room for more error, still takes burden off scientists for data collection and can speed along research. It also has shown itself to be a great way to spur social change. Finding more uses such as this for our phones can make us more aware of the environment around us every time we exit our houses.
More on Using Phones for Environmentalism
Future iPhone App to Make You a Citizen Scientist Without Trying
How Cell Phones Are Changing the Face of Green Activism
We Have Green Phone Apps Galore...But Are They Doing Any Good?