From Interop: Geoage rapidly turns handsets into wireless structured data gatherers

Here at Interop in NYC, while wandering the show floor, I encountered Geoage. Coming from a very database-driven background, I've never been a big fan of the many forms-based tools that were out there for PCs -- ones where the data being gathered might need to be reconciled against existing databases long after the time at which the data was originally collected.

Here at Interop in NYC, while wandering the show floor, I encountered Geoage. Coming from a very database-driven background, I've never been a big fan of the many forms-based tools that were out there for PCs -- ones where the data being gathered might need to be reconciled against existing databases long after the time at which the data was originally collected. But going the harder core database route, particularly when you decide to pull smartphones into the equation can have its drawbacks. Although it's not impossible to have more robust database applications that couple handsets more tightly with corporate data (for example, with the mobile database tools from Sybase subusidiary iAnyWhere), it's an approach that pushes everything (the handsets, the software infrastructure, and the networks) to their limits. Sometimes, it makes sense to try something lighter weight. This is where Geoage comes in.

Like Sybase's tools, Geoage can push new software new forms-based applications out to mobile devices. So, should the data gathering need take on some added dimension that requires new fields, the forms that include those new fields are easily deployed. But where Geoage is different is that it really is more like one of those old PC forms-based designers (eg: Lotus' Approach) where you set up a form and the form dictates a flat-data structure into which any data that's collected will temporarily reside. As you can see in the video, it's as simple as pulling up the forms designer, adding some fields (perhaps setting some parameters -- eg: is the field a date field or is it required), saving the form, and publishing it.

On the mobile device side, once the form shows up in the mobile device and someone enters data into it, the resulting record is stored locally in the device's memory as an XML-based record. One neat feature that Geoage built into the solution is the ability to pick up the GPS data in the phone (if the phone's GPS tech can be queried) and drop it into a field on the form. If the phone is a camera phone, it will automatically grab photos and drop them into the form as well (if you need images in your forms).

When the data is transmitted back to "corporate," it flows into a SQL database on the back-end where you can do anything you want with it (restructure it, map into some relational data, clean it up, etc.).

The folks at Geoage say the net result is that you can deploy an application to a mobile workforce in hours instead of days or weeks. And, if you're not interested in running your own database on the backend, you can get the same thing by subscribing to a hosted service that Geoage runs on the backend. So, if it works, it's simple, quick, and not as involved as some of your more robust solutions out there (and it's not Web-form based so you're not worried about network breakdowns and latency at the point of data entry). On the downside, it's currently limited to Windows Mobile-based platforms (5 and 6) for the handsets and Microsoft SQL Server 2005 on the back-end. That may be perfect for some organizations or a total non-fit for others.

Anyway, check out the video to see it in action.

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