Mobile technology has opened up a huge opportunity for companies to collect information and data. You might think that mobile data collection is only related to “active” data collection – meaning that mobile users either answer surveys or they “like” something on Facebook. But there is also the idea of “passive” data collection, meaning that our devices are collecting data about us all the time. The GPS feature on most smartphones is a basic example. Apps such as FourSquare or our navigation apps track our whereabouts passively and only become active when we request information that is geographically related.
Putting the distinction between passive and active data to use
The distinction between active and passive data collection is similar to the distinction between survey answers and actual behavior. In other words, when you ask people about what they “would” do, their answers may be different from what they’ve actually done. For example “Will you watch the football game on Sunday” might get a “Yes” response, but that is different from “Did you watch football on Sunday” – which is asking about actual behavior. Which is different from someone posting a Facebook picture from the football game and being tracked by their GPS system at the football game.
In the past, we didn’t have these distinctions. Over the last few years, the technology has been available to distinguish between them and over the next few years, we’re going to become more experienced at consciously choosing which way we are going to collect that information and what to do with it.
Other opportunities for mobile data collection
One potential opportunity for mobile online data collection lies in emerging markets. Both governmental and non-governmental organizations receive funding for projects on the basis of specific outcomes.
Now, mobile data collection tools and applications such as SurveyPocket will enable workers to collect data in real time (with or without an internet connection) and report on the progress of specific projects. This will give them the documentation they need to prove outcomes and report on actual ROI.
What are some of the opportunities you see for mobile data collection? Do you have examples of creative new ways to collect and report on data? Share them with us.