Table 1.

Electronic Data Collection Tools and Terms

Ease of ImplementationTechnologyDescription
LAN = local area network; WAN = wide-area network; VPN = virtual private network; PDA = personal digital assistant.
Easier to implementNotebook computerA portable computer that is operated by using a keyboard. Traditional notebook computers now over- lap with tablet PCs (described below). A tablet PC can be operated as a notebook. Most notebook computers do not support touch screens and cannot be configured so that the screen is accessible when flat against the body of the computer
Thick clientA system that operates with part of the software loaded on the workstation and that is continuously in contact with the data repository
Internet-based systemA system run over the open Internet (also referred to as the Web or World Wide Web) as opposed to over a dedicated LAN or WAN. Security measures can be applied to the data transferred between 2 points in the system (such as with encryption or by creating a VPN) to markedly improve the safety of data passed across these systems
Browser-based systemA system wherein the screens are loaded into the workstation’s Internet browser as needed from a central server. Information is returned to the server at a later time (seconds, minutes, or days later, depending on how the system is used). The workstation and the server only communicate with each other through “requests” from the workstation (ie, clicking the Submit button). These systems are considered “stateless” in that they only intermittently connect the server and the workstation
PDAA small handheld computer that can be easily carried, that typically has an instant-on feature, and that provides rapid access to data, software, and data input systems. These computers typically operate independent of a network or the Internet, although wireless connectivity is becoming more common. The most common operating systems within the United States are Palm OS (PalmSource, Sunnyvale, Calif) and Pocket PC (Microsoft Corp, Redmond, Wash)
More difficult to implementTablet PCA computer that, like a PDA, is operated by using a touch screen but that has a larger screen and often greater computer power. Currently, tablet PCs—with or without built-in keyboards—operate on a full version of Microsoft’s Windows XP and may contain relatively large hard drives. These computers are often operated over a wireless network, but may operate independently. Tablet PCs are configured so that the screen may be used and viewed while flat against the body of the computer, much like a tablet of paper