We are trying to decide where to move on to from our current ecology and social behaviour survey software. I have been looking into Cybertracker and SMART, but am still a bit confused about what would be the best option for us. Cybertracker seems to be used more in our field, but development seems to be moving on to SMART. Also, SMART is compatible with more devices.
All in all SMART seems to be the more forward-looking technology, but I am still unclear as to why Cybertracker is still so much more popular with some researchers. Are there some features that have not and/or will not be ported to SMART?
While we plan to use the Maps and GPS to an extent, our focus is more towards building forms that researchers can use to quickly and efficiently record sightings and behaviour or animals in the field. While location is important, we cannot plan paths to travel beforehand, as seems to be the focus in SMART for wildlife protection. Those are features we want to implement over time for our local partners, but we first need to port our survey system.
If this is in completely the wrong place I am happy to move it anywhere more appropriate…
SMART is a generally more complex system, so it requires a higher level of initial investment. If you just want to capture and report on simple data, then it will be overkill.
CyberTracker Online is designed to follow the desktop app into the modern age. Have you tried it out?
The other player is EarthRanger. Are you familiar with that?
I was also interested to find out why you say SMART is compatible with more devices. CyberTracker Mobile runs on Android and iOS devices, was there something additional you were thinking of, there is maybe a gap in my knowledge here?
Kind regards, Kate
Thanks for your quick replies!
I am not entirely sure what would be considered complex in terms of data collection.
We have lists of groups and individual animals that are used as look-up lists within our forms. These are updated regularly and used in several different forms to make sure everyone has an updated list of individuals that they need to identify. We also have certain categories of behaviours that, if they are seen, make other categories appear within the form.
An example: if we see an aggressive event we click this option in the form and it opens a section for entering the data relevant to that behaviour. This new data entry would then include only the group, individual, date, time, and the information about the aggressive event. No data would be added for e.g. feeding, as that was not taking place and would not have been selected. But all this data ends up in the same database/excel file, as these are not separate forms. In this case the fields for aggression would have data entered, but all other fields would be empty, but still recorded as a line of collected data.
While we could limit ourselves to just using Windows for developing the forms and managing the sync server, we also have Mac and Linux devices in our fleet, which it would be best to be compatible with in terms of working on the maps, forms and data.
Finally, the field site does not have continuous internet access, so setting everything up in an online platform really isn’t an option for us unfortunately. We need to be sure that everyone can synchronize their data locally at the field site, even if we are running on a generator without an internet connection (which happens regularly in the rainy season…).
Does this answer your questions / do either Cybertracker or SMART make sense for our use-case?
All of the behaviour of the forms that you mention can be done in either CyberTracker Classic or CyberTracker Online, which are your choices for designing/building forms, and viewing the data/maps in a central place after data collection.
- CyberTracker Online - website, so any browser, on any operating system
- CyberTracker Classic - installed application, definitely Windows, @justinsteventon to confirm other platform support.
In both cases, the apps you build will run on CyberTracker Mobile on the Mobile device (iOS or Android). With Online, the mobile devices need to download the app in the beginning, which requires an internet connection, but then can collect data offline for a long time period, and then sync the data back to the cloud when/if they get into internet access. So if the mobile devices EVER get internet access, or could go to a place to do so periodically, this could still be an option for you.
Also advantage with Online is that you can add multiple users to your organisation, and of course the data is already stored centrally, so many people can work on editing the same forms, and viewing collected data.
With Classic there are ways to get the apps onto the mobiles and get the data back off them without an internet connection. @justinsteventon or one of the Classic users is the one to tell you more about that, and also about what the equivalent situation with SMART would be - I’m not too familiar with that side of things.
If you think Online might work for you at all (hybrid of some internet access and some offline on mobiles), then please check out these support resources:
CyberTracker Online User Guide https://userguide.cybertracker.org/
CyberTracker Online How To Video Channel CyberTracker Online - YouTube
The behaviour you describe with your agressive event would use a Branch (group of screens that you only go into under a certain condition), with a Visibility condition set, so you could look out for those keywords in the help materials.
Kind regards, Kate
SMART may be a good choice for you, since it has support for maintaining lists of individuals and then having multiple forms which reference them. It works offline and the desktop app runs on Windows and Mac. The mobile user experience is going to be more complex than CyberTracker Online, so testing will be required.
Given how straightforward CyberTracker Online is to use, I would recommend trying it out and making note of limitations. Since it is under active development, you might find that these are easy to workaround or will soon be built.
Thanks for the further details!
The issue is that the people in the field need to be able to download all the data on a daily basis in order to go through all the entries and notes they have to correct mistakes and unclear data. While I would really be all for using a more straightforward system (especially as I may not always be the main support person for the software) the limitations of cybertracker online mean it cannot provide what the team needs and the final decision would likely be not to use it. Are there any plans to make it possible to use a local (e.g. cached) version offline until there is an internet connection available? That would be the best of both worlds…
While more complicated, setting up a more complex system with SMART would be doable, especially since we plan to use this setup for many years of data collection, which should make the upfront investment worth it. What do you mean with the mobile user experience being more complex? Is it more difficult for people in the field to sync their data back to the desktop software, or is it more complex to setup the system in the first place?
Is the idea of the “branches” for groups of screens in Cybertracker also available in SMART? If not directly, then is it something that can be built by us or by using one of the available plugins?
CyberTracker Online is built for simplicity, so that is its strong suit.
SMART supports more sophisticated scenarios (like Patrols and compound observations). If your field workers are low-literate, then they will struggle. That said, it is widely-used and many do not have trouble using it. On the desktop side, it provides a wealth of functionality and this can increase the learning curve. If it is a long-term project, then this will be worth your time. To get started, you can check it out here. There is also a user-guide.
You can get data off the devices using a USB cable.
SMART does have the concept of conditional attribute visibility via expression, so that may be enough to support your scenario.
I see SMART does have a Linux build (Ubuntu 22 recommended).
I think that, despite the bigger learning curve, SMART likely makes more sense. Am I correct in assuming that cybertracker online will be the main way that cybertracker will work in the future?
The people managing data collection in the field are researchers at the master or PhD level and they provide direct support for any field workers who have a lower education level. Should this offset the greater complexity? Everyone who uses the apps is literate and uses smartphones and computers on a regular basis (either privately or professionally).
Other than the bigger learning curve, is there anything that either of you can think of, that would speak against using SMART?
SMART sounds like a good fit for you. I doubt you will have any trouble using the mobile app - I recommend watching the video here to get a feel for everything. They have their own support forum.
There is no substitute for playing with it yourself though. It is a free download here.
CyberTracker Online will continue to add features over time. However, supporting offline backend scenarios is not in plan right now.
Thanks for all the help, this definitely got me much further than I was able to get with the information I found on my own.