The arrival of low-cost smartphones and tablets is a game-changing event for mobile data collection, due to a convergence of features:

  1. Touch screen/graphics

  2. Wireless connectivity

  3. GPS

  4. Rear facing camera

  5. Programmability

  6. Ubiquity

As a result of this convergence we can, for the first time, place location-recording electronic data collectors in the hands of every team member at very modest cost. Lots of people have been experimenting with tablets, smart pens etc. but these projects, while often successful in themselves, will not generally be adopted beyond a limited public of connected projects eg. working in the same area or working out of the same institution. That is because they are adapted to specific circumstances / modes of operation; the investment in making systems generic is too high for an individual project - it is not cost effective.

Which is where FAIMS comes in. Through a $1M NeCTAR infrastructure grant plus $1M co-investment (2013) and a $400K ARC LIEF grant (2014), FAIMS has focussed on building generic customisable capabilities at a scale not available to individual projects. FAIMS started with a four day requirements-gathering international workshop (August 2012), which assembled 50 people for the full workshop (80 on the first day), 40+ partners, a very wide cross-section of the archaeological community in Australia plus international participation (ADS, tDAR, Open Context). FAIMS also has an extremely active core team with a dedicated technical lead. The team listened to what people had to say and took things on board, for instance the original plan was to do live mesh synchronisation of tablets and to support measurements using multiple tablets; the workshop suggested this would not work and that it would be better to think in terms of a daily fieldwork cycle and building a synchronisation server which would sync all the tablets in the field house at the end of the day, and that methodology has been adopted.

Components of the system:

You are going to need the following:


Android tablet(s)

A decent size for field use, eg. 7", with GPS and camera. 

Synchronisation server

A small portable server (eg. battery operated all-in-one wireless server, possibly with solar recharger) or a laptop with a Wireless Access Point. The server needs to run Ubuntu Linux. You can also use an Internet server if the field house/lab is Internet connected, which today is often the case except in remote locations.


FAIMS data collectionapp

The free FAIMS app for Android has strong mapping capabilities and internal/external sensor capture (GPS, camera, video, total station etc.), feeding an SQLite database.

FAIMS server application

The free FAIMS server application for Ubuntu provides database creation and wireless synchronisation of multiple Android tablets running the FAIMS app.

Installing the Software

  1. FAIMS app: Install Instructions.
  2. FAIMS server: For beginners, we recommend using For advanced users, see the Server installation guide.

Next Steps

See Getting started with FAIMS Guide or Download the PDF.