Because of their ubiquity, portability, and sensing capabilities, today’s mobile phones can be a great source of information about our urban environments. With small screens allowing data entry, smartphones also hold promise for improving contextual richness and multi-dimensionality of field data collected. In theory, heterogeneous, high resolution field data can be rapidly collected, transmitted, fused, and validated almost simultaneously. For example, passenger counts can be combined with on-board surveys, which can be precisely matched with time and place stamps and transmitted remotely to databases. In traditionally data-sparse settings, such as much of the Global South, these capabilities are being increasingly capitalized on for a range of purposes.
Flocktracker is an Android-based, field data collection technology born in 2011. Originally deployed in collaboration with Kewkradong in Dhaka, Bangladesh to understand public transportation operations (mapping routes, speeds, stops) and conducting on-board surveys and passenger counts and eventually resulting in the first widely available map of the city’s semi-formal, privately operated public transport routes. It has subsequently been adapted, advanced, and deployed in a range of settings for a range of purposes, such as assessing perceptions of security among minibus users.