Why blueBill Mobile?

My first experience with birds has been through photography so, in the past, I didn't pay care to merely taking note of an observation: my photos were my field notes. But in the recent years, after getting in touch with EBNItalia, I started enjoying the pleasure of the pure observation - in addition to photography. Since I easily loose paper notepads, I don't like them so I first developed  an application to take field notes on the mobile phone, geotagging them with the GPS coordinates. It was a generic note-taking application, used also for other journey notes, such as monuments and landscapes discovered along the road. As a consequence, taking specific and precies birding notes was not a quick task, often not easier than the paper notepad.

That's for this reason that the past year I started developing blueBill Mobile, which explicitly focuses on taking birdwatching field notes. It contains a taxonomy (in the initial version, the one developed by EBNItalia with more than nine hundred species of the Wester Palearctic) and allows to smartly pick species, with just a few gestures on the screen or the keyboard of the mobile phone. In particular, blueBill Mobile includes a smart filter function that works by typing just a few letters. For instance, "gll" allows to bring up all the gull species, while "hrggl" drills down to the Herring gulls, ready to be picked with a final click. Of course, blueBill Mobile is also a GPS-enabled application that automatically records the coordinates of observations.

The result is that, in a few seconds, it's possible to write down accurate observations (including count, gender and other information), ready to be copied to a computer and archived.

blueBill Mobile allows to work at the same time with a primary language (for instance, english), with scientific names and eventually a secondary language (for instance, italian): a thing that may prove useful during journeys abroad, to communicate with foreign birders or just to facilitate the learning of the names of our feathered friends in a different language.

Since I've learned from EBNItalia the meaning of the community and of sharing data, blueBill Mobile allows to share immediately the recorded observations, using SMS or email, straightly from the phone - of course, including the GPS coordinates. An experimental function, that I'm playing with and will be made available in future, will render on a map the real-time positions of birder friends and their observations - so, if you picked an unfortunate spot, our friends will eventually help to have a better day.

blueBill Mobile has got some peculiarities. For instance, it allows to keep under control the mobile data traffic (thus costs), since it connects to the internet only when explicitly allowed. But, above all, blueBill is Free/Libre and Open Source Software, that is I've made both the application and the source code freely available to everybody.

Developing applications that need to be deployed to multiple devices is a challenging task. The initial development of blueBill Mobile has been slowed down by the slower-than-expected spread of a new technology that I chose for implementing it. Moving to another horse, I was able to roll down a working version running on the devices in the Android family, while I'm already working on another version that should be able to run on a number of other devices.

It's a young product and, as such, it suffers from youth issues... but everything can be solved if the issues are properly reported.

Thanks to Sebastiano Ercoli for having contributed the wonderful logo of the bluebill duck.

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