Possible use of Mifi as the data connectivity for mobile workers?

Hi all…

We are looking for the wisest method of providing data connections for our
mobile workers. In the country in question, purchasing post-paid mobile
data for the workers is pretty expensive, and the process of buying a stack
of pre-paid top-up cards seems somewhat cumbersome (but might be our final
plan.)

We were considering one more method involving a small portable “Mifi” wifi
unit… and I’d like to know if this would raise any worries for you.

– Our program actually involves outreach workers that return the phones to
the same central location every evening. the phones all go into a cabinet
and will be plugged in to charge their batteries.

– Therefore, we were considering purchasing one of those small "Mifi"
units to place inside that cabinet. The Mifi generates a wifi router that
can handle 10 devices. (happily, that is the exact number of phones that
will be stored there.) The Mifi unit has its own SIM chip and its own
postpaid data plan. So it shares its data connection to all the phones.
… therefore, as the mobile worker collects data during the day, it
simply stores up its forms… who knows, maybe 10-20 forms in a day at the
most. The phone won’t even be equippped with a SIM card… so it will not
have a data signal and will simply store up its forms. Then, when the
phone comes back to its cabinet at night, it will see the wifi signal,
connect, and sync all the forms up to the database.

I can only think of two warning flags that I will have to consider:
(1) I’ll have to configure google play to not do auto update of the dozens
of apps even when connected to Wifi… otherwise it will eat all my data
(2) Also, of course, a given client’s info will not reach the database
until that night. So not fully real-time.

What other worries am I forgetting?

Huge thanks, and happy weekend to all –

Eric

Hi, Eric,

That all sounds right to me. There are many CommCare projects that use a
workflow similar to this, so provided you are okay with the delay in data
(plus the inability of the users to use the phone as a phone) this should
be a good approach to submitting data when you don’t have SIM cards in the
phones. You also have to make sure that users log in the first time when
they are connected to the MiFi unit - but that is just a one-time issue.

I would also recommend that you disable other phone settings that will
cause updates, like making sure the phone is not syncing email, calendar,
etc. to a google account all the time.

One other issue with this approach would be if you are using case sharing -
not sure if you are but that would require that users be diligent about
syncing data at the start and end of the day.

Jeremy

··· On Fri, May 1, 2015 at 1:09 AM, Eric Stephan wrote:

Hi all…

We are looking for the wisest method of providing data connections for our
mobile workers. In the country in question, purchasing post-paid mobile
data for the workers is pretty expensive, and the process of buying a stack
of pre-paid top-up cards seems somewhat cumbersome (but might be our final
plan.)

We were considering one more method involving a small portable “Mifi” wifi
unit… and I’d like to know if this would raise any worries for you.

– Our program actually involves outreach workers that return the phones
to the same central location every evening. the phones all go into a
cabinet and will be plugged in to charge their batteries.

– Therefore, we were considering purchasing one of those small "Mifi"
units to place inside that cabinet. The Mifi generates a wifi router that
can handle 10 devices. (happily, that is the exact number of phones that
will be stored there.) The Mifi unit has its own SIM chip and its own
postpaid data plan. So it shares its data connection to all the phones.
… therefore, as the mobile worker collects data during the day, it
simply stores up its forms… who knows, maybe 10-20 forms in a day at the
most. The phone won’t even be equippped with a SIM card… so it will not
have a data signal and will simply store up its forms. Then, when the
phone comes back to its cabinet at night, it will see the wifi signal,
connect, and sync all the forms up to the database.

I can only think of two warning flags that I will have to consider:
(1) I’ll have to configure google play to not do auto update of the dozens
of apps even when connected to Wifi… otherwise it will eat all my data
(2) Also, of course, a given client’s info will not reach the database
until that night. So not fully real-time.

What other worries am I forgetting?

Huge thanks, and happy weekend to all –

Eric


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Jeremy Wacksman
Dimagi http://www.dimagi.com, Inc.

Eric,

You can also configure most Android Devices to treat certain "Wifi"
connections as if they were mobile data in order to correct this problem.

How you configure it depends on your device, but it’s generally either in
the mobile data usage screen or on the wifi AP config.

-Clayton

··· On Fri, May 1, 2015 at 8:11 AM, Jeremy W. wrote:

Hi, Eric,

That all sounds right to me. There are many CommCare projects that use a
workflow similar to this, so provided you are okay with the delay in data
(plus the inability of the users to use the phone as a phone) this should
be a good approach to submitting data when you don’t have SIM cards in the
phones. You also have to make sure that users log in the first time when
they are connected to the MiFi unit - but that is just a one-time issue.

I would also recommend that you disable other phone settings that will
cause updates, like making sure the phone is not syncing email, calendar,
etc. to a google account all the time.

One other issue with this approach would be if you are using case sharing

  • not sure if you are but that would require that users be diligent about
    syncing data at the start and end of the day.

Jeremy

On Fri, May 1, 2015 at 1:09 AM, Eric Stephan estephan@fhi360.org wrote:

Hi all…

We are looking for the wisest method of providing data connections for
our mobile workers. In the country in question, purchasing post-paid mobile
data for the workers is pretty expensive, and the process of buying a stack
of pre-paid top-up cards seems somewhat cumbersome (but might be our final
plan.)

We were considering one more method involving a small portable "Mifi"
wifi unit… and I’d like to know if this would raise any worries for you.

– Our program actually involves outreach workers that return the phones
to the same central location every evening. the phones all go into a
cabinet and will be plugged in to charge their batteries.

– Therefore, we were considering purchasing one of those small "Mifi"
units to place inside that cabinet. The Mifi generates a wifi router that
can handle 10 devices. (happily, that is the exact number of phones that
will be stored there.) The Mifi unit has its own SIM chip and its own
postpaid data plan. So it shares its data connection to all the phones.
… therefore, as the mobile worker collects data during the day, it
simply stores up its forms… who knows, maybe 10-20 forms in a day at the
most. The phone won’t even be equippped with a SIM card… so it will not
have a data signal and will simply store up its forms. Then, when the
phone comes back to its cabinet at night, it will see the wifi signal,
connect, and sync all the forms up to the database.

I can only think of two warning flags that I will have to consider:
(1) I’ll have to configure google play to not do auto update of the
dozens of apps even when connected to Wifi… otherwise it will eat all my
data
(2) Also, of course, a given client’s info will not reach the database
until that night. So not fully real-time.

What other worries am I forgetting?

Huge thanks, and happy weekend to all –

Eric


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"commcare-users" group.
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Jeremy Wacksman
Dimagi http://www.dimagi.com, Inc.


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I appreciate these tips much!

I’ll check out the "treat this wifi connection as if it were mobile data"
function.

And, in fact, our situation DOES use case sharing, to track referrals to a
clinic – I have to ask our team if it is rare that the client goes in the
very same day, or if they can assume that the person will always take the
trip to the clinic on a subsequent day.

thanks again –
eric