Rapid Android

Rapid Android is a supply chain management and data collection tool built on Android, the open source phone operating system. Rapid Android is a collaboration between UNICEF’s Innovation Group in partnership with Dimagi.

The Problem

Data collection in the field requires light-weight agile tools that allow field staff to easily create surveys and enter data. While there are many applications that make data collection easier, they require at minimum some hardware and often backend infrastructure as well as some technical expertise.

What is Rapid Android

Built on the same conceptual model as another OMC technology, RapidSMS, Rapid Android is a unique platform where, for the first time ever, a phone can now be used not only as a data entry tool but a data aggregation platform.

Rapid Android allows users to use the Android phone as a mini-server, in addition to using it as an SMS client, allowing users in the field to enter data, to create surveys, and rapidly analyze data in the field. Rapid Android is a complete two-way SMS solutions that unlike other tools on the market, allows for analysis and processing on the actual phone.

Rapid Android simplifies the SMS gateway problem for mobile deployments that exists in many parts of the world — that is, the absence or cost of international or local gateways that create high barriers to entry for many organizations.

It is a hybrid – both an SMS Gateway server AND a client; indicating that traditional technical lines are beginning to blur as are the types of applications we can hosting on a phone.

Rapid Android makes deploying field based SMS data collections systems both easier and more affordable.

Some advantages of Rapid Android include:

  • Price – Rapid Android is a free platform available on any Android Phone which runs around $300, and getting cheaper. Android on netbooks makes this even more exciting.
  • Power – a phone requires requires much less power than a laptop, for example, can be charged from 12V, and has a built in UPS (battery).
  • Technical Expertise – Rapid Android phones can be easily deployed with field staff minimizing the need for a technical person on the deployment side.
  • Data entry – Android is an ideal data entry device with touch screen, keyboard, and form based error corrections.

Rapid Android includes many of the original features of RapidSMS including:

  • Ability to bulk send and receive sms to groups of people
  • Data collection via SMS forms which are editable on the phone
  • Local data entry using standard SDK Android forms
  • Ciew and aggregate data from incoming SMS messages
  • Plot data in graphs and export via excel over a wifi link

RapidAndroid is not a web server and currently can’t be used to host forms which could be accessed from a remote computer yet. This is a very powerful feature that hopefully we’ll see later.

Rapid Android is a result of a collaboration between UNICEF and Dimagi in an initiative of the Open Mobile Consortium.

More Information

The application is free and open source and available on the Google Marketplace, and also available at Rapidandroid.org. For a video overview of the platform, see a demo here.