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Investigating simple database size limits for useably fast ID key apps
Andrew Bewsey, Alastair Culham

Last modified: 2016-09-29


Smartphones are a potential medium to produce high quality multi-access ID keys, accessible to a wide range of the population.  Several such keys have now been launched.  Multi-access keys are suited for use on smartphones, as the small screen is well suited to delivery of a range of structured questions.  Smartphone apps are capable of delivering to multiple audience types. There is therefore the potential for more accessible electronic keys to be produced, allowing the key to be used by a greater range of users. This project aims to produce an Android based key to the UK flora, with the goal of ensuring ease of expansion and use.

To ensure ease of access, ease of modification and construction, and ease of use, the databasing method used should be as simple as possible. Ease of modification and construction will allow for rapid improvements in accuracy and size of the database. One of the simplest methods useable in Android is an SQL database and constructing a ‘SELECT ALL WHERE…’ statement. As there are different methods to insert SQL databases into Android, and different computing power levels in Android, different size datasheets were tested using different methods against different powered Android devices. The three methods were hardcoded insert statements, inserting a pre-made SQL database, and use of content values as described by the Android developers website.

The results showed that to maintain a useable app, using hardcoded SQL insert statements to construct the database is considerably faster than the other two methods tested, remaining 1 to 2 orders of magnitude faster when combining opening and search times. Using this method, datasheets over a certain size cause the app to crash. The speed advantages are great enough to suggest that this is still the best method.
If this database design is chosen for increasing the presence of electronic smartphone keys, hybrid designs of single- and multi-access keys will be needed to ensure a wide range of species are included while maintaining a fast app. This suggests use of a modular design, with module size limited by the maximum safe database size. Modular design also takes advantage of simple database expansion. This information is being used to determine the size and range of modules included in this project.