It’s interesting to consider the impact technology has had on the evolution of mobile survey solutions and techniques. The original mobile survey technology was the paper survey and clipboard, used by researchers conducting intercept surveys in the field. The paper surveys have for the most part now been replaced by mobile devices.
The first transition away from paper surveys was the laptop computer – which arguably is not truly a “mobile survey solution”. As technology became faster and smaller, in came the PDA (person digital assistant) which ran a version of Windows or Palm OS software. The PDA, albeit light-years ahead of paper surveys – in terms of automating the data collection and tabulation – the screen size was not necessarily an improvement over the familiar user interface of paper surveys. The next mobile technology to come along was the tablet pc, which was a blend of the laptop computer and the PDA. The first tablet pc’s had full size screens which evolved into the Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC).
In my opinion, the UMPC device was the first mobile survey device that actually exceeded the original mobile research technology of a paper survey presented to the respondent on a clipboard. With the UMPC, the screen size and resolution were optimized, battery life sufficient (6-8hrs) and connectivity included Wi-Fi or Cellular. Cost too was reasonable. The UMPC was available on the Windows and Linux platforms. However, it wasn’t long before the UMPC would be completely overshadowed by the introduction of the iPad and soon thereafter the myriad of tablet manufacturers running Android.
Today, mobile market researchers have a terrific range of hardware and survey software options. As you may imagine, as a market research technology developer, Opinionmeter has supported all of the mobile survey solutions through the years. We were one of the first to develop native mobile survey software for the PDA, UMPC and now iPad and Android. It’s an exciting time for mobile research-hers and were excited to see when the next technological innovation will present itself!