Mobile Data Capture: The Ultimate Guide
There was a time when data capture was confined to the office, but as technology continues to evolve, thankfully, this is no longer the case.
Mobile devices have taken the world by storm over the last decade or so. In fact, in 2021, it is estimated that there are more than 3.5 billion smartphone users worldwide and 1.2 billion tablet users.
So it stands to reason that data capture would eventually need to become mobile too. Thanks to advancements in mobile data capture software, businesses are increasingly leveraging the built-in hardware on smart devices to gather data on a much bigger scale.
And as mobile data capture becomes a necessity to many, those businesses who are yet to embrace these tools might need to think again.
In this guide, we’re going to take a look at:
- What mobile data capture entails
- How collecting data in this way can help your business
- The most common types of mobile data capture devices and software
- Examples of mobile data capture
What is mobile data capture?
Mobile data capture is the method of gathering different types of information using mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets and other handheld tools. Though data capture is nothing new, the introduction of mobile devices means this is now more flexible and efficient.
It means that data can be collected at the source and immediately recorded and organised. Rather than data be gathered and then input into a database or system at a later date. This means that data is able to be gathered, organised and analysed in real-time.
Because of its many uses, mobile data capture is used across a variety of industries for lots of different functions. But we’ll look at these in more detail later on.
How can mobile data collection help your business?
Using mobile data capture tools can have a number of benefits for your business and we are increasingly seeing reliance on mobile devices. This is why many have already begun to get a strong mobile data capture strategy in place.
Some of the most important ways that mobile data capture can help your business include:
Mobile data capture is more efficient because it helps people to fill out mobile forms or information much quicker. It also means this can be done from your chosen location rather than being bound to your office or website.
To help speed up the data collection process, users might be asked to select data from lists or checkboxes or to scan a QR code. All of which can make the data capture process almost instant.
Promising more accuracy
As with most forms of data capture, mobile devices can ensure data is entered more accurately, reducing the risk of an error that used to come with manual data entry.
Not only this, but most mobile data capture tools will include automatic validation based on preset data and required fields. This makes checking and validating the information much quicker and less manual, reducing the risk of an error.
Collecting data in real-time
Mobile data capture gathers information and tracks the process in real-time. This means that as soon as the information is uploaded, it is instantly available to those who may need to use it. This can be particularly helpful for real-time market analysis. It is also extremely helpful in industries like banking or healthcare.
What’s more, mobile data capture helps review collected data right away so you can monitor projects, manage teams, assign tasks and make important decisions in real-time.
Saving your business time and money
Because mobile data capture is so quick and accurate, it can save your business both time and money. This is because often these can be done through smartphones or tablets that people already have. Although in some cases, you might need to invest in these mobile devices.
Not only this, but it reduces the amount of human resources needed to collect and input data. This can save money on hiring extra employees and also frees up the time of your existing staff to focus on more important tasks.
Mobile data capture devices and software
We’ve briefly touched on some of the most common types of mobile data capture tools already, but we’re now going to take a look at these in more detail. Some of the tools we recognise the most include:
- Handheld barcode scanners
- iPads and other tablets
- Smartphones such as iPhone and android
- QR codes – most commonly scanned through smartphones or tablets
- Card readers and wireless devices
And these tend to be used most by customers and consumers when they go to a business. However, these aren’t the only tools that are becoming commonplace in today’s digital world. Some of the other mobile data capture tools you might not have heard of include:
- Scanner keyboards
- Data collection applications
- Handheld inventory scanners
- Interactive voice response (IVR) devices
For the most part, all of these mobile devices are fitted with an integrated camera barcode scanner, text recognition engines and tag readers. All of these are used to save time when it comes to data capture and tend to focus on filling in information and forms automatically, rather than relying on manual data entry.
These devices can be implemented in a lot of different businesses and roles across a variety of industries. To help you get a better understanding of how mobile data capture is increasing in popularity and why it is important to a vast array of businesses, we’re going to look at some more in-depth examples in the next section.
Examples of mobile data capture in different industries
As we said, mobile data capture can be applied in pretty much any industry and to any workflow.
For example, one that you might have noticed more recently is the use of QR codes and tracking applications to monitor the spread of the Coronavirus outbreak.
But it’s important to remember; this list is not exhaustive. Mobile data capture can be found in so many other functions. These are just some of the ones we see most often.
We’ve mentioned track and trace initiatives already as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, but this is not the only use for data capture in healthcare. Some other important ways mobile data capture is used include:
- Quickly accessing a patients medical records to ensure more time is spent advising them and less is spent doing paperwork or searching for documents on the computer
- Devices at the door or smartphone check-ins allow patients to check-in for their appointment with minimal contact between them and administrative staff
- Handheld devices take temperatures at the door and quickly submit this information to the relevant party
- Mobile devices make sharing records across different departments quick and easy
- The same applies to sharing patient reports with other medical professionals and the patient themselves
One industry that has really embraced mobile data capture solutions in recent years is the retail industry. This is because there are so many ways that businesses in the sector can improve the consumer experience using mobile devices. These include:
- Handheld barcode scanners so customers can track their spending as they go
- Smartphone checkout apps that help customers to skip the line and increase available floor space
- Self-checkout apps enable customers to process orders on their own smart devices, saving them time and effort
- Tablets and smartphones allow employees to monitor the number of customers in the store
- Data gathered from these shopping apps allows the marketing team to target consumers with more personalised offers and materials
3. Shipping and logistics
Another aspect that many retail businesses have to deal with is the shipping and logistics department, and mobile data capture is important here too. These mobile devices can be used to simplify warehouse management, shipping and delivery. This is done through:
- Handheld barcode scanners that allow workers to keep an eye on inventory
- They can track and manage cargo and goods that arrive from storage
- Monitor who is coming in and out of the warehouse, including what goods are being delivered or picked up
- Check out shipping and traffic routes, allowing deliveries to choose the best possible route and reduce bottlenecks
- Customers can also download apps that allow them to track their parcel in real-time
HR an recruitment
Finally, HR and recruitment functions have relied a lot on automated data capture over the last decade, and mobile data capture is no exception. Some of the ways that mobile data capture tools are used include:
- Sending out online surveys to employees that can be completed quickly and easily from their smartphones or tablets
- Apps have been invented to allow employees to clock in and out using their phones, reducing the need for paper cards or lengthy processes
- Recruitment apps allow job hunters to apply to roles with the click of a button, but they also help recruiters to quickly search candidates and review their applications and pull their data
As you can see, data capture can be applied to so many different functions and is changing the way businesses collect data. But more than this, in the case of healthcare, retail and other huge industries, it is changing the way businesses run on a day to day basis.
If you’d like to know more about data capture, the different methods used (including mobile) and the different tools that are used, you can check out some of our related reading below: