University of Washington

Enabling Data-Driven Decisions with the Open Data Kit (ODK)

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Feb 12, 2010
Enabling Data-Driven Decisions with the Open Data Kit (ODK) data sheet 5680 Views
A research group at the University of Washington has done what few others manage – turn a research project into a real-world application. Open Data Kit (ODK) is a collection of tools that allows organizations to collect and send data using mobile phones. The system, in operation for about a year, has already been used for projects such as counseling and testing HIV patients in Kenya to monitoring forests in the Brazilian Amazon.  

What is ODK?

The project began when University of Washington (UW) professor Gaetano Borriello began a sabbatical at Google to build a mobile data collection system. He brought along some of his PhD students from UW’s Computer Science and Engineering program to work on the idea as their intern project, and ODK was born.  
Basic Information
Organization involved in the project?: 
Project goals: 

The project goals were:

  • Create a mobile, open source data management system
  • Grow a community around an open source project 
Brief description of the project: 

ODK is an open-source collection of tools that makes collecting, sharing and managing data easier. 

Target audience: 

Workers who want to reduce the amount of paper form processing could be:

  • Community Health Workers
  • Human Rights Monitors
  • Researchers
Detailed Information
Mobile Tools Used: 
Length of Project (in months) : 
What worked well? : 
  • The rapid pick-up of the technology by different users around the world
  • The use of open-source software allowed for the quick development and easy adaptation of ODK


What did not work? What were the challenges?: 
  • Managing the system in conjunction with day-to-day research responsibilities
  • Convincing users to overcome the initial high-cost of an Android phone (necessary for the ODK system)


Ultrasound on a Mobile - Inexpensive, Pervasive, and the Future

Posted by KatrinVerclas on May 04, 2009

Take a low-cost ultrasound probe, a Windows mobile phone, and the skills of two scientists at Washington University in St Louis in the United States, and you get the world's first mobile-phone ultrasound instrument.

USB-based ultrasound probes have been around since 2005, offering a much cheaper and more portable alternative to larger ultrasound machines.  Probes provide increasingly high-quality imaging for a tenth of the cost.  A typical, portable ultrasound device costs around $20,000, while USB probes sell for around $2,000 right now - and the price is declining. Probes are ideally suited for first-responders and for primary care in developing countries, for example. 

The small probes are connected to a phone with a USB cord that have been, typically, connected to a laptop for displaying the images. But carrying around laptops for transmitting images is not an option in many clinics in developing countries for lack of consistent electricity, heat, and lack of Internet access.