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On the design of smartphone based plant ID guides

Bewsey, A. (2019) On the design of smartphone based plant ID guides. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00088500


The work presented here is the exploration and discussion of multi-access smartphone-based plant ID guides. The aim of this work was to explore the possibilities of using detailed multi-access keys on smartphones to identify taxa in the field to a professional standard. This involved establishing the most effective method of gathering data, deciding on the best design, evaluating whether users prefer this design over traditional media, and establishing whether or not continuation of this project would be financially sound. As they represented the best source of information, the decision was taken to extract data from extant paper-based ID guides. Two methods were attempted, automatic extraction through pattern matching techniques, and manual extraction. The automatic extraction technique was tested as paper-based ID guides were thought to use a very regular language. It was found, however, that the language used was not regular enough, and manual input of data was required. The design of the app was built from the designs of existing apps, and the principles of ‘simple’ and ‘consistent’, which were found to be the main themes of many design guides. When the design was evaulated, it was well received, only requiring refinements. After several rounds of updates, the app reached about 30% accuracy, similar to traditional paper-based ID guides. The similarity in accuracy to paper-based ID guides is indicative of the difficulty in identification of Equisetum specimens, thus is a positive indication of the quality of the app. The app was preferred by users, who found it easier to use. When the costs of continuation of this project were examined, it was quickly found that, despite a potential market of several thousand, the production costs were simply too high. Continuation was therefore deemed to require financial assistance, via grants or otherwise. This leads to a final suggestion that species x character databases are published with all novel taxonomic works in a standardised format, and that this is a requirement of grant funded work.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Culham, A.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Biological Sciences
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Biological Sciences
ID Code:88500
Date on Title Page:December 2018


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