Stopping to work with CyberTracker

Dear Justin, dear CyberTracker community,

after 4 years of working with CyberTracker we have decided to stop the work and to migrate to another software. I’m very unhappy with this decision since I’ve spend a lot of work in creating the application for capturing data and others for converting the binary data into a database format that can be digested by e.g. GIS software as well as database frontends or spreadsheet programs. This was necessary because the data analysis possibilities of the CyberTracker are too limited for our purposes. I’ve developed a datebase frontend and examples for GIS and spreadsheet applications. User manuals for data capturing on the smartphone and data editing in the desktop application and programs and workflow for data conversion and analysis have been documented in our internal Wiki. You may imagine that I don’t like the idea of giving up all this.

The main reason why CyberTracker will no longer be used is the low acceptance by the users. Many of them critisize the look and feel as old fashioned and the handling as too long-winded. They are used to “modern” surfaces where numbers and text can be typed in directly without opening an additional screen or to pick values from dropdown lists. This is no problem for me but maybe understandable if you are standing outside in the field having bad weather. Editing the data in the desktop application is another problem. For people with low computer skills it is hard to understand why some fields can’t be edited in the table view but only in the inspector or the advanced editing window.

Data upload is another issue. It takes too much time from the moment of data capturing in the field to availability in the database. This may be accelerated by WebPublish but still requires data import by a second person. The wish of the users is that for some cases if an observation is captured it is immediately send to the database and a responsible person is informed automatically (e-mail?). A high expectation. I don’t know if it is possible with the new system, whatever system this will be (ArcGIS Survey123?).

For me the most relevant issues are the missing interoperability (no direct data access for other applications) and that there is no real client-server-architecture.

But don’t misunderstand me. I don’t complain about it this. I’m aware that the focus of CyberTracker was not and is not on large and complex application with many simultanous users. And I’m aware that CyberTracker ist still a free software depending on the voluntarily work of a few people. The support Justin gives and his very quick reaction on reported bugs is outstanding.

My suggestion for the further development of CyberTracker is that following the wishes of our and maybe other users the app side should be adapted to “modern” user interfaces and that the possibilities for data editing and analysis are improved in the desktop application.

I will keep on tracking CyberTracker and have an eye on its further development. I’m curious about the possibilities of CyberTracker Online. Maybe this can be an alternative for us, too.

Best regards

Hi Michael, this is great feedback. Thank you for taking the time to write it.

CyberTracker is the result of an EU grant from before the modern smartphone era. Our target users have always been primarily oralate (illiterate and semi-literate) field rangers working in remote areas without internet. Whatever happens, we will continue to support that group by maintaining the existing system as “CyberTracker Classic”.

That said, CyberTracker is moving away from an all-in-one solution. The plan is to bring a modern CyberTracker mobile user interface to other established systems like SMART, EarthRanger, Survey123, KoBo, ODK, etc. The goals are to reduce app duplication and provide rangers with a single more versatile and long-lived tool.

As you noted, CyberTracker now has a web service which simplifies publishing, sharing and data upload. We are planning a feature which sends a KML/CSV automatically.

Modernizing the old mobile user interface is not practical. Instead, we are switching to the XlsForm standard and creating extensions for custom widgets, track timers, etc. This will allow users of tools like ODK, KoBoToolbox and Survey123 to build a CyberTracker-like user interface.

“CyberTracker Online” will eventually replace the desktop application. It will start as a simple system to support new projects. If these projects become complex, they will be able to migrate to more powerful systems (like ArcGIS), without disruption to the field rangers.

Feedback and suggestions are always very welcome!