DATA MANAGEMENT

Census deploys Windows Mobile for field data collection

Bureau installs Windows Mobile on 140,000 handheld PDAs to collect census data

The U.S. Census Bureau is deploying the Windows Mobile operating system on 140,000 handheld personal digital assistants being used for the 2010 census.

This is the largest single, one-time deployment of Windows Mobile devices to date, said Randy Siegel, Microsoft Federal telecommunications and mobility strategist.

Harris Corp., the system integrator for the 2010 census, has selected Sprint to be the wireless data provider for the census. About 140,000 field workers are collecting census data using handheld PDAs operating on the Sprint network.

The Census Bureau and each of the three competing integrator teams — Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Hewlett-Packard — decided to go with the Windows Mobile platform even before they decided on the hardware, Siegel said. “It was a unanimous decision,” he said.

The PDAs are also equipped with the ArcPad geographic information system application from ESRI, Siegel said. The app is being used to verify and update every U.S. address, or at least as many as possible, he added.

“Census made a large investment in Microsoft technology for their backend regional and local offices, including server and desktop technology,” Siegel said. “The addition of mobile devices leverages prior investments and automates formerly paper-based systems, resulting in higher efficiency,” he said.

The Field Data Collection Automation database, designed and supported by Harris, will automate the collection and management of the addresses, Sprint representatives said.

In the past, much of the census data was collected manually by field workers using paper address lists and printed maps. The 2010 census will be “virtually paperless,” at least in the address canvassing phase, Sprint said.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

Reader Comments

Mon, Sep 28, 2009 California

Having just completed training for the next phase of the Dept of Census address gathering, I was shocked to find the handheld computers (from Harris with Microsoft software) we used earlier this year in the field were retired (all 140,000 of them?) the end of August. Training centered on gathering addresses using paper and pencil. What happened to the use of technology?

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