Archeologists use FileMaker to improve data gathering onsite

Posted by Justin Hesser on March 30, 2014

When most people think about gathering and sorting data, they think about using Excel. While it is a powerful spreadsheet tool that has its place in the corporate world, it may not be the best place to house your data if you are working with anything other than numbers.

When you consider that the world is becoming increasingly mobile, drastically improving the kind of information companies gather and the way they sort it, Excel becomes less effective. This is where a more powerful database is needed, and FileMaker has two decades of experience in this field and has embraced the mobile platform to go places never thought possible.

An article from CITEworld features an in-depth interview with Michael Jennings, a Chicago University Ph.D student and archeologist. Along with the fedora and whip, as part of his tool kit on a dig in Palestine of the 11th century Islamic castle at Khirbet al-Mafjar, near Jericho, Jennings is relying on FileMaker Go and an iPad.

While on-site, archeologists are constantly taking pictures, drawing sketches and writing notes. Traditionally this requires parties to carry large binders filled with paper records. The problem is that these can be lost or damaged. One archeologist who was working on the northern area of the site suddenly found all of his records missing, causing the team to redo all of this work.

Not only were teams required to carry these bulky binders around the site, but transport them back to the university departments in carry-on luggage when every page was scanned and information was entered manually into a computer system.

Jennings and field director Jehad Yasin realized they had an opportunity to improve operations here, especially considering that the database program used at the university was FileMaker. There is where the Go version of the software came into play and an iPad version of the existing database was quickly created.

Now, while examining the palace, the archeologists are able to snap pictures using the iPad's camera and sketch on the screen. They have also be able to create several drop-down menus so they can more easily enter accurate information. This is faster than writing everything down and makes it easier to analyze after the fact.

As they started to explore the possibilities of using the iPad, certain tweaks needed to be made to optimize operations. This included adding more controls, which is easy to do with FileMaker Pro on a computer. There are several layouts, controls and themes designed specifically to be compatible with the iOS platform, making it easy to update as needed.

With the Web-publishing capabilities, it was also easy for multiple team members to be work and update the same database at the same time.

"Depending on what you need, you can keep things simple or set up a more powerful way of distributing your database automatically," the article reads. "That's exactly what FileMaker offers: you can make a very simple system for viewing your database and updating it, or you can add in more features to get something more powerful without having to become a database expert."

While not every business needs to gather data while searching the catacombs of an ancient palace, this does highlight the real world possibilities of FileMaker. With the help of a Connecticut FileMaker developer, any organization can improve the way that it handles databases.