Fieldwork is usually associated with having a poor or slow internet connection. That’s why most workers refer to it as ‘working offline.’ However, if the job involves capturing data, most field workers prefer an internet connection to ensure proper data capture.
Losing data can be catastrophic to field or clinical studies. Quality data collection is the means to a higher end. So whatever your fieldwork entails, you would always want your data collection to go smoothly and successfully.
Fortunately, capturing data offline is possible. You can collect and record data without an internet connection with the right methods and tools. This article will share all the secrets you need to know to make it happen.
What is Offline Data Collection?
First, what is offline data collection, exactly? I’m sure you’ve encountered this before: you’re trying to access a website but can’t because you’re not connected to the internet. That’s basically what offline data collection is–collecting data without an internet connection.
It may seem like a difficult task, but it’s quite simple if you know what tools to use. Examples of situations that call for offline data collection include large buildings with poor WiFi signals or remote areas without internet coverage.
Offline data collection is possible using tools that can store data temporarily in the memory of smartphones, laptops, tablets, and other related devices. Once you gain an internet connection, you can secure your findings by uploading the stored data to an online cloud or server.
Fields and Industries that Require Offline Data Collection
Offline data collection is especially helpful in fields and industries that involve remote locations or sites. Examples of these include:
In the healthcare industry, offline data collection is crucial, particularly in remote areas where internet connectivity is scarce. Health workers conducting medical studies or providing services in such areas need to collect and record patient information. This data is later used for diagnosis, treatment, and research.
Field researchers conducting environmental studies, such as wildlife tracking or climate change studies, often work in remote locations with limited or no internet connection. Offline data collection tools are essential for them to record their observations and findings, which can later be transferred when they regain internet access.
Market researchers often conduct surveys or interviews in places where internet connection is not guaranteed, such as public places or rural areas. Offline data collection allows them to capture critical data on consumer trends and behaviors, which is then used to formulate marketing strategies.
Construction site managers need to capture data about the progress of projects, worker productivity, and safety incidents. Much of this work occurs in sites with limited internet access, making offline data collection a crucial part of their work.
Farmers and agricultural researchers often find themselves in fields without an internet connection. They need offline data collection tools to record information about crop yields, soil health, and weather conditions, among other key data points.
Benefits of Offline Data Collection
Offline data collection has significant advantages, making it a compelling choice for individuals and organizations working in challenging environments or conditions. Below are some of the key benefits:
Offline data collection allows you to reliably capture and store data, regardless of your internet connection. This means you can work confidently, knowing that your data is safe and secure, even in areas with unstable or non-existent connectivity.
With offline data collection, you have the flexibility to work anywhere, anytime. This makes it a great option for field workers, researchers, and professionals who often operate in remote or hard-to-reach areas.
Offline data collection can help boost your productivity. Since you don’t have to wait for an internet connection to upload data, you can keep working efficiently, focusing on data collection instead of connectivity issues.
Offline data collection can be cost-effective, as it doesn’t require a continuous internet connection. This can save you from high data costs, especially when working in areas with expensive or limited data plans.
Enhanced Data Security
Data collected offline can be more secure, as it won’t be susceptible to cyber-attacks while stored on your device. Once you have a secure connection, you can then upload the data to your server or cloud storage, reducing the risk of data breaches.
Better User Experience
Many offline data collection tools are designed to be user-friendly, with intuitive interfaces and features that make data collection easy and efficient. This can lead to a better user experience, making your work more enjoyable and reducing the chances of errors.
5 Considerations When Collecting Data Offline
When it comes to offline data collection, there are specific considerations that you need to address to make it a possibility. By understanding the limits and potential of any tool, you can make the most out of it. With that said, here are five considerations that you should keep in mind if you are going to conduct offline data collection:
Synchronize Your Data As Soon As Possible
A major flaw of offline data is that it’s always at risk of being lost. Like a suitcase containing hundreds of valuable paper records, a smart device containing valuable research data not uploaded to the cloud will become a major liability to the field or research team. All it takes is for that mobile device to get lost or damaged for all of your valuable information to be lost.
That’s why it’s important to synchronize your data as soon as you gain an internet connection. This will minimize the risk of losing any valuable information you’ve collected. Synchronizing your data also allows you to have a backup in case anything happens to your device while offline.
For example, you’re collecting data in the field, and your phone runs out of battery. If you haven’t synchronized your data, all your collected information will be lost. However, if you have a backup, you can restore your data and continue where you left off.
There are several ways to synchronize your data, but the most common method is by using a USB cable. You can also use Bluetooth or WiFi if your devices support it. Another way to synchronize your data is by using an SD card. This is an excellent option if you’re working with large files or need to transfer data between different devices.
If you’re using an Android device, you can use the built-in “Android Beam.” This allows you to share data between devices by simply touching them back-to-back. Finally, if you’re working with a team of people, you can use a synchronization service like Dropbox or Google Drive. This allows you to share data between devices and with other people.
Don’t Clear ‘App Data’ or Reinstall the App When Offline
Another way of losing valuable data is by clearing the ‘App Data’ or uninstalling the app when you’re offline. People make This common mistake when trying to free up space on their devices.
When you clear ‘App Data,’ it means that all of your progress will be lost, and you’ll have to start from scratch. This includes any data that you’ve collected while offline. So, before you clear ‘App Data,’ ensure you synchronize your data first.
The same thing applies when you uninstall an app. If you uninstall and reinstall an app, all of the data stored in the app will be lost. Again, make sure that you’ve synchronized your data before doing this.
Of course, there are times when you may need to clear ‘App Data’ or uninstall an app. For example, if an app is no longer working or takes up too much space on your device. In these cases, ensure you’ve synchronized your data first to avoid losing any valuable information.
Make Sure The Internet Connection is Stable
When uploading a batch of data you’ve collected offline or offline data collection, it’s essential to make sure that your internet is fast and reliable. Depending on your internet connection and the amount of data you upload, it can take anywhere from a few seconds to a few hours.
If your internet connection is slow or unstable, then it’s likely that the data transfer will fail. This means that you’ll have to start over again and upload the data when you have a better internet connection.
To avoid this, make sure that you have a stable internet connection before uploading your data. In addition, try to avoid using your device while transferring data. This will help to ensure a smooth and successful transfer.
Don’t Use Mobile Notifications
Avoid using mobile notifications that require an immediate reaction. Push notifications allow apps to notify you even if you don’t open the actual application. It’s an effective way to instantly react to specific updates or remind yourself to complete a certain task.
A downside to mobile notifications is that they are not guaranteed to be delivered if the device has no internet connection. If your team is working in an offline setting, you should turn off notifications that will require them to take urgent actions. That way, you can avoid any potential mishaps.
In general, it’s best to use mobile notifications sparingly and only for not time-sensitive things. That way, you can avoid any potential data loss or miscommunication problems.
How to Effectively Collect Data Offline: A Step-by-step Walkthrough
Now that we’ve discussed the essential considerations for offline data collection, let’s break down the process into manageable steps:
Step 1: Choose the Right Tools
The first step towards effective offline data collection is selecting the appropriate tools. These could be mobile devices, tablets, or specialized equipment, depending on the nature of your data collection. Select devices with reliable battery life, ample storage space, and the necessary functionalities for your data collection needs.
Step 2: Plan Your Data Collection Strategy
Planning is crucial to any data collection exercise. Define the key metrics or data points you aim to collect, and design your data collection forms accordingly. Make sure your forms are designed to be user-friendly, making it simple for data collectors to fill them out.
Step 3: Train Your Data Collectors
Ensure that everyone involved in the data collection process is properly trained on using the tools and understands the importance of collecting accurate data. If you’re using a specific app or device, ensure all team members know its functions and features.
Step 4: Conduct a Pilot Test
Conduct a pilot test before you begin the actual data collection to ensure everything works as expected. This step will allow you to identify potential issues or challenges in your data collection process and make necessary adjustments.
Step 5: Start Your Data Collection
Once everything is in place, start your data collection. Remember to periodically sync your data whenever you have internet access to prevent data loss. Regularly review the collected data to ensure accuracy and completion.
Step 6: Analyze and Make Use of The Collected Data
After you’ve collected your data, it’s time to analyze and derive insights from it. Use appropriate data analysis tools and techniques to make informed decisions based on your collected data.
Following these steps ensures that your offline data collection process is efficient, effective, and accurate. Always prioritize data security and integrity at every step of the process.
Collect Data Offline Using a Low-code Platform
Many solutions aim to make data collection and management easier. Low-code platforms, in particular, allow businesses to quickly create smart forms and surveys for data collection without any coding knowledge.
Low-code platforms allow you to design interactive forms with complex logic flows and custom branding options. And best of all, these forms can be used even offline. Data collected while offline is stored locally and can be uploaded once the device has an internet connection.
Low-code platforms also enable real-time analytics, allowing you to quickly get insights from your collected data and make informed decisions. This makes it easier for businesses to leverage their data for better decision-making, even when working in an offline setting.
By using a low-code platform to collect data, businesses can streamline their entire data collection process and save time and resources in the long run. At the same time, they can ensure the accuracy and integrity of their collected data.
Why Use DATAMYTE?
DATAMYTE is a quality management platform with low-code capabilities. The DataMyte Digital Clipboard, in particular, is a low-code workflow automation software that features a checklist and smart form builder. This tool lets you create a custom form for data collection, which can be used even offline.
To create a checklist or form template using DATAMYTE, follow these steps:
- Log in to the DATAMYTE software and navigate to the ‘Checklist’ module.
- Click “Create Checklist.”
- Add a title to your checklist or template; select the category where it belongs.
- Start adding items to the checklist or template by clicking “Add Item.”
- Define the description of each item, what type of answer it requires, and other relevant specifications (e.g., reference documents, acceptance criteria, limits).
- Assign a team member responsible for inspecting using the checklist or template.
- Add signature fields for approvals (e.g., supervisors, quality assurance personnel).
- Save the checklist or template—you can now access it anywhere, and it will be available on any device.
DATAMYTE also lets you conduct layered process audits, a high-frequency evaluation of critical process steps, focusing on areas with the highest failure risk or non-compliance. Conducting LPA with DATAMYTE lets you effectively identify and correct potential defects before they become major quality issues.
With DATAMYTE, you have an all-in-one solution for creating and implementing offline data collection forms and checklists and easily conduct LPAs. Book a demo now to learn how DATAMYTE can help you streamline your data collection process and ensure accurate and timely data.
Offline data collection remains a crucial element for many industries. It enables accurate data gathering in areas with limited internet access, ensuring decision-making processes are based on comprehensive data. By leveraging low-code platforms like DATAMYTE, businesses can simplify their offline data collection process, ensuring data integrity while maximizing efficiency.
Embrace the potential of offline data collection, and elevate your business strategies with informed data-driven decisions. Book a demo with DATAMYTE today.