Implementation of a multimodal mobile system for point-of-sale surveillance: Lessons learned from case studies in washington, dc, and new york city

Jennifer Cantrell, Ollie Ganz, Vinu Ilakkuvan, Michael Tacelosky, Jennifer Kreslake, Joyce Moon-Howard, Angela Aidala, Donna Vallone, Andrew Anesetti-Rothermel, Thomas R. Kirchner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: In tobacco control and other fields, point-of-sale surveillance of the retail environment is critical for understanding industry marketing of products and informing public health practice. Innovations in mobile technology can improve existing, paper-based surveillance methods, yet few studies describe in detail how to operationalize the use of technology in public health surveillance. Objective: The aims of this paper are to share implementation strategies and lessons learned from 2 tobacco, point-of-sale surveillance projects to inform and prepare public health researchers and practitioners to implement new mobile technologies in retail point-of-sale surveillance systems. Methods: From 2011 to 2013, 2 point-of-sale surveillance pilot projects were conducted in Washington, DC, and New York, New York, to capture information about the tobacco retail environment and test the feasibility of a multimodal mobile data collection system, which included capabilities for audio or video recording data, electronic photographs, electronic location data, and a centralized back-end server and dashboard. We established a preimplementation field testing process for both projects, which involved a series of rapid and iterative tests to inform decisions and establish protocols around key components of the project. Results: Important components of field testing included choosing a mobile phone that met project criteria, establishing an efficient workflow and accessible user interfaces for each component of the system, training and providing technical support to fieldworkers, and developing processes to integrate data from multiple sources into back-end systems that can be utilized in real-time. Conclusions: A well-planned implementation process is critical for successful use and performance of multimodal mobile surveillance systems. Guidelines for implementation include (1) the need to establish and allow time for an iterative testing framework for resolving technical and logistical challenges; (2) developing a streamlined workflow and user-friendly interfaces for data collection; (3) allowing for ongoing communication, feedback, and technology-related skill-building among all staff; and (4) supporting infrastructure for back-end data systems. Although mobile technologies are evolving rapidly, lessons learned from these case studies are essential for ensuring that the many benefits of new mobile systems for rapid point-of-sale surveillance are fully realized.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere20
JournalJMIR Public Health and Surveillance
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2015


  • Implementation
  • Marketing
  • Mobile technology
  • Point-of-sale
  • Public health surveillance
  • Tobacco
  • Tobacco industry advertising

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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