Version 22.10

New Features

Case Monitoring tab

A tab has been added to the monitoring page to show the number of new cases created per day and the number closed. The period defaults to 7 days but can be extended to 30 days. Select a survey that has case management enabled to show data on the chart.

Monitoring of cases being opened and closed

Documentation is available here.

Archiving of Survey data

Commonly people are creating surveys to manage their day to day operations. These can become large with millions of rows and because they are accessed frquently this can also cause performance issues. Another common feature of this sort of usage is that only the last 12 months, or an even shorter period, of data might be frequently accessed.

To support this use case we have added the ability to archive data older than a specified date into a new survey. This can be done from the analysis page using the aside. Refer to documentation here.

Archiving data submitted up until the 1st January 2022

Data older than the specified date will be moved into a new survey, identical to the current one with the archive date enclosed in square brackets and appended to its name. The survey with the archive data will be blocked by default.

That may be where you want to stop or you could move this survey to a project dedicated to backups so that it is out of the way or you could just delete it if the old data is of no use.

Minimum Password Strength

It has previously been possible to set minimum password strengths for the server or an organisation however to do this you would have needed to have organisational administration privilege. There is now a new tab on the users page called “Other Settings” that allows an administrator to set the minimum password strength for their organisation.

Other Changes

  • The appearance of the monitor page has been changed so that tabs are now used to separate different types of data.
  • Add a control to select “placement-map” as an appearance in the online editor for geotrace, geoshape and geocompound type questions.
  • Modify the chart view in the console to allow users to add charts. In the future it will be possible to add charts on question data however for the moment these charts still need to be related to case management.
  • Performance improvments to the console
  • Allow ampersands ‘&’ to be used in a choice value
  • Allow the source of a static map included in a PDF to be specified as an appearance setting on a question. The source can be google or mapbox.
  • When a survey is tested on the admin page that survey is now set as the default survey show that its results will show automatically in the console.
  • Removed the ability to forward a submission to another server.
  • Add a monthly report on events such as static map views.

Version 22.06

This release is focussed on improvements to case management. The changes have been requested specifically for an accountability system however they should be useful for any case management system that you implement.

New Features

Escalation / Assignment

Cases can be automatically assigned to a user or reassigned to a different user. The latter potentially being an “escalation”. The rules for an automatic escalation are specified in a notification and can be triggered by the updating of data in a case or a case alert (another new feature described below). For example you might create a notification that is triggered by the submission of a completed survey and that then “escalates” the new case to someone. In this case the escalation is just doing the initial assignment. However if an alert is triggered indicating that the case has not been closed within a specified time interval then this alert can also trigger a notification to escalate the case to a new user.

Completed Case

Completed cases are defined as a case that is not assigned to anyone and that has a status equal to the “final status” for the case. These will be hidden by default in the console. A case will enter the completed state automatically when its status is set to the specified value.

To enable “completed cases” use the online editor for a survey to select the tools menu and then Case Management Configuration. You can then specify the question that holds the status and the value that indicates that the case is complete.

Case Alerts

Alerts can be added to a survey bundle. These are triggered a specified period of time after the case is created if the case has not been closed. The alert can then be viewed in the console and used as a trigger to a notification to escalate, send an email or create a task.


Case Management Charts on the Console Chart Tab

There are currently 4 fixed charts that are related to case management.

  • Status. Frequency of each status among the current cases.
  • Assigned. Who has been assigned cases.
  • Alert. Frequency of alerts triggered by the cases.
  • Criticality. Frequency of each value in the criticality column.

The charts are on the chart tab of the console. They will use data from the current set of cases after filters have been applied. So if you have specified that only cases between two dates should be shown, the charts will only use that data.

Mobile Devices

A user who is assigned a case will see that case in the tasks tab of fieldTask. The case will remain on the device until either the user completes it or it is re-assigned to someone else.

Note the case is only downloaded if a final status has been specified for the bundle of surveys. That is if the case can be completed.

Cases are shown with a “folder” icon with a blue background if the case has not been modified on the device, once the case is modified it is shown with a purple background. However unlike tasks or other completed survey instances a modified case is always editable so the user can make multiple updates before synchronising.

Unmodified Case
Modified Case

The case will be labelled with the instance name of the record. If the instance name of the record is not set, then the key for the record will be used. Finally if that is not set the primary key of the record will be used to identify it.

Other Changes

  • Allow calculations to be used to create media file names in the media export
  • Allow setting of password strength requirements

Version 22.02

New Features

Improved Performance

The number of submissions processed by hosted server has continued to increase with a corresponding increase in the size of datasets that are being analysed and reported on. The average submission rate is nearly 15,000 per day and 11 Million forms have now been completed on our hosted servers.

To address the increasing load we have made some minor performance improvements and scheduled additional improvements for the next release.

Multiple PDF Templates For One Survey

Previously you could add a single PDF template to a survey using the settings dialog in the online editor. That template would then be used anytime a PDF of submitted survey results was generated. The new functionality is much more flexible. You can have multiple templates that you can select when generating the PDF and you can also select not to use a template.

The settings dialog no longer has the PDF Template loading function, nor can you download the template from there.

Instead PDF templates are accessed in the online editor from the menu “Tools” and then “Templates”.

PDF Templates page with 3 available templates

Templates loaded via the old settings approach will be found here along with any new templates that you load. Those old PDF templates cannot be disabled (set as not available), set as default or have a rule specified for when they should be automatically applied. If you want to use these new features you can download the template, delete the old one and reload on the templates page.

Templates can be set not available if you don’t want one to be used. One template can be set as the default.

Rules can be added to automatically select a template to be used in an email notification of submission results. These rules use the standard server expression syntax. For example:

${region} = 'region1'

Compound Question Type

This feature builds on the announcement in the previous release of a “pdf_field” question type that could be used to combine geopoint location questions into a single compound map or image.

Now by using a “geocompound” question type you can consolidate the data collection into a single question.

geocompound question type

Geocompound works like the geotrace type in that a line can be sketched out over a map. However points on the line can also be tagged with a marker. In this release there are 3 marker types; none, pit and fault. In a future release these will be specified as parameters.

Geocompound questions are supported in webforms. They can be edited after collection and can be applied to PDF exports in the same way as the pdf_field type.


  • Added an option to webform settings to disable “Save as Draft” checkbox.
  • Add an option to survey settings to compress PDFs
  • Add support for an attribute “pdfshowimage”. This can be used with select questions that include an image with each choice. The image for the selected choice will then be shown in the exported PDF
  • Add support for an attribute “pdfstretch”. This can be used with image type questions and will cause the image to be resized to fit into the space allocated for it in the PDF. The default action, without this attribute, is to fit the image into the space while keeping the height and length in their original proportions
  • Make the default source of audio for an audio question be internal rather than an external audio app
  • Allow traffic light symbols in PDF exports to be “crossed out”. Allow labels to be added to traffic light symbols.

Version 21.11

Here is the November release of Smap. We did not release an update in October, although you may have noticed that the version number of some server installations said 21.10, but if you clicked on the link for changes it just took you back to the September changes. Unfortunately I never got around to creating the release notes so officially October never existed.

New Features

Specialised PDF components

There is a new question type “pdf_field” so you can specify specialised components to be included in a PDF report. Documentation is here. Currently two new components are available and they are intended for use in reporting faults in cables or pipelines. However now that the framework has been created, we can add additional components. Let the Smap team know if there is anything you would like.

Component 1 – Fault Image

This component is given the names of the questions that record, start of cable segment, end of cable segment and fault position. It then shows these in an image that includes the distance from the cable segment start to the first fault and the distance from the end of the cable segment to the second fault.

Component 2 – Fault Map

The input to this component is the same as the input to the image component but this time the information is shown on a map.

Background Report Generation

Just as the new PDF components are specialised, this new background report generation may not be useful for many organisations. However it has been added to help large organisations.

The first report that has been converted to background generation is the user usage report on the form management page, if your organisation has thousands of users and millions of submissions then this can take a long time and report generations for these large organisations have been failing.

Selecting a usage report on the form management page

Now once the report has been requested a message will be displayed saying that the report generation is in progress and the completed report can be found on the reports page.

To access reports select the menu “modules” and then “reports”. The reports generated for the last two weeks are shown here and can be downloaded by clicking on the report’s blue button. If the report is taking a while to complete you may see its status as “Pending” rather than “Complete”.

The previous functionality available on the reports page can be found under the tab “Public Reports”. This still allows you to define a report and then get the URL to that live data report that you can share with other people.

Allow webform links to tasks to be completed multiple times

Previously if you created a task as part of an email campaign then that task could only be completed once. However there are applications where you want a task, preloaded with some specific data, to be completed multiple times. For example if you have a barcode that links to a task and you want that task for that url to be preloaded with a venue location say. Documentation.


  • The version of fieldTask used to synchronise with the server is now included in the user audit log. This also requires fieldTask version 6.515+. Documentation.

Bug Fixes

  • Survey forms that do not have any questions no longer cause an obscure error to be displayed when they are downloaded on to fieldTask. Instead when the user opens the survey on fieldTask they will see a helpful message stating that the form has no questions.
  • When getting an email address from survey data in order to send a notification, previously the name of the question was used in the data query instead of the column name of the question. If the question name contained characters that were not valid as table column names then this would not have worked.

Version 21.09

New Features

Lookup reference data using an expression

Using the pulldata() or lookup() function you can now specify an expression. For example the following pulldata calculation will get the average age of people older than the answer set in the “age” question. The reference data is taken from a csv file called “people”. More information can be found in the documentation.

if(${age} >= 0, pulldata('people', 'age', "cast(#{age} as integer) > ${age}", 'mean', 'eval'),'')

Consistent reference data support on FieldTask and WebForms

Well more consistent anyway, there are still a few idiosyncrasies as you move between fieldTask and webforms. So for example the new feature of using an expression to lookup reference data works in both fieldTask and WebForms.


  • Links created for mailouts can now accept multiple submissions. To allow this select the checkbox “multiple submissions” when specifying your campaign.
  • User locations page
  • Template upload checks for missing end repeats

Version 21.08

New Features

Digest Function in Webforms

The digest function now works in both FieldTask and Webforms. One application of digest is to obfuscate sensitive data while still retaining a unique identifier for that data. For example instead of recording a person’s name you can record the digest. If you then complete another survey and the name of this new person is the same then the digests will also be the same. So you will know that the people in these two surveys had the same name you just won’t know what that name is.

Example Digest Application

In this example we are going to hide the persons name and use the digest of the name as the key for the record so we can update the data on that person.

1. Specify the survey.

calculatedigest_namedigest(${name}, ‘SHA-1’)
The survey

Note the appearance of “phoneonly” on the name will prevent the name from being stored in the server database. It will be replaced with “xxxx”.

2. Set the survey key to be ${digest_name}. This means that when we submit another record with the same digest as an existing record then the existing record will be updated.

3. Results as shown in the console

Submitted data

Note I have clicked the option to “show deleted data”, So you can see that record 1, which had an age of “23” was merged with record 3 that updated that age to “57”. Both of those records had the same digest_name. The actual name however is not recorded and only “xxxx” is stored in the database.

4. Final thoughts

Using the digest of a name as a key is probably not a good idea in the real world. This is particularly true where the recorded name is a transliteration from another language. Minor spelling mistake would result in a completely different digest so the value of the digest is probably low. However you could absolutely use the above approach with passport numbers or identity card numbers.

Also using digest does not in itself provide complete security for sensitive information. If you were using identity card numbers a determined attacker could generate a digest for every possible number in order to work out the original identity number. However if combined with other security procedures to limit access to data it does offer enhanced protection.


  • You can hide / show blocked forms on the form management page by selecting a checkbox
  • Set a users timezone automatically to the timezone of their organisation unless they have specified their own specific timezone
  • Added a checkbox to the monitor page to ignore issues that are older than 100 days. This option is enabled by default.
  • More log event types older than 100 days are now moved into archive which should further speed up access to the logs.
  • Make duplicate choice names a warning in the online editor rather than an error.
  • Label the prime survey in a group of surveys as being part of that group. Previously it was only implied that the first survey in a group was part of the group since its name was used as the group name.
  • Make questions that are hidden in fieldTask also hidden in webforms
  • Add support for remote postgresql database installations, in particular AWS RDS.

Version 21.05

New Features

Local reference data

A great long standing feature of Smap is to allow surveys to lookup reference data that has been collected by another survey. This data can be used in calculations or as a list of choices in a select question and is downloaded onto your phone or tablet when you refresh fieldTask. The new “Local reference data” feature now allows you to also request that reference data be searched in survey instances that have been completed on your phone but not yet sent to the server. More details here.

One example of where this might be useful is; say you are working offline in a remote area with agriculture producers. Perhaps you have workers going to farms and recording details of a shipment using a survey. One of the questions in the survey could be to look up the farmer code from the list of registered farmers. However what if you find a farmer with a shipment ready to go who is not yet registered in the system? With this new feature you can register the farmer in the registration survey and then when you complete the shipment survey and select the farmer this new farmer’s identifier will be available along with all the other farmers in the system.

Searching of local reference data is completely transparent you just need to specify the normal pulldata or search function. You do however need to enable local reference lookups for each survey that uses it.

Get choice lists from repeats

Often in surveys you may collect repeating groups of data such as members of a household or faults in a piece of equipment. You can now refer to repeating data as the choice list in a “select one” or “select multiple” question.

So for example your select question might be “Select the household members that are attending school” and the list of choices would be the names of the household members. Details on how to do this including how to filter the choices is available here.


Web hooks are a way of calling other systems and passing them data when an event happens. For example you could go to your CRM system and ask it to create a “callback URL”. You can then go to Smap and on the notifications page add a notification that will call that URL whenever a completed survey is submitted. Data from that survey will then be immediately added to your CRM.

A great way to use these is by building a workflow in a tool like Zapier or one of the many other middleware tools out there. You can get a callback URL from zapier, add it to a smap notification and then specify a workflow in Zapier that will update your CRM, write to google sheets send an SMS or an email or all of these things. This can be done in a few minutes with no coding required. Details.

Specifying a Zapier Workflow action to write some answers from a Smap Survey into Google Sheets


Performance improvements

  • Archiving of log entries older that 100 days. Some of these are now being moved to an archive table so that queries of the log are faster. Access to this archive is not currently available from the Smap Server user interface so if you need to review old logs contact support.
  • The “all projects” option in monitor is no longer available as this could result in detailed data for dozens of projects and hundreds of surveys being searched which will probably be slow. Now you need to select the project that you want to monitor.
  • Additional information on submission and notification errors are now being written to the log file. This shows errors for the whole organisation so it is a more efficient way to find any errors than using the old “All Projects” search on the monitor page.
  • Prevent clashes when reference CSV files are being frequently updated. Previously under heavy load it had become common for a CSV file to be replaced while being read by another device downloading reference data causing the CSV read to fail.

Version 21.03

The March release of the Smap Server has been combined with a new version of FieldTask (v6.3000). For each new feature described below there is an indicator of whether that feature requires the updated SmapServer or FieldTask or both.

New Features

Change Organisation from within FieldTask

Requires FieldTask 6.300 as well as SmapServer 21.03.

Organisations allow you to define personal profiles for users, they contain other people, surveys and projects. The role you play in each organisation can be different as you can have different security groups making you an administrator in one organisation and an enumerator in another. Previously you have been able to switch organisations by selecting your user profile from the website menu however you can now do this from within fieldTask. Details.

Selecting a new organisation from within FieldTask

After you change organisation a refresh will automatically be initiated, replacing the surveys in FieldTask with those from the new organisation.

In App Audio Recording

Requires FieldTask 6.300 as well as SmapServer 21.03.

This feature is part of a new capability for recording audio within FieldTask without having to open an external audio app. This also allows you to continue recording audio while answering other questions. Details.

Recording audio while answering questions

Background Audio Recording

The new in-app audio recording also supports recording in the background. In this case background recording is specified as a meta question and is started as soon as the survey is opened. The first time it is used, permission is requested of the data collector. Then it is always turned on when the survey includes the meta question. However the data collector can turn off background recording using an option in the menu if necessary.

The audio recording is included with the survey results when the survey is saved as final. Details can be found here.

No More Device ID in FieldTask

Requires FieldTask 6.300

Returning the device ID was a privacy issue as it meant that different applications could correlate data submitted from the same device. Google no longer allow device device identifiers to be accessed so this has been replaced with the Firebase Installation Id. This ID is unique for each application on each device.

The impact of this is that if you are using the unique device identifier to determine which user submitted survey results then you will need to update this identifier after upgrading to FieldTask 6.300+. This might cause some inconvenience when monitoring submissions if it happens in the middle of an evaluation. However I would expect most organisations would update FieldTask between evaluations.

More secure storage of data on FieldTask

Requires FieldTask 6.300

Files and databases used by FieldTask will be automatically migrated to “scoped storage”. This will add additional restrictions on access to these files by other applications on the device.

When you first startup FieldTask after the upgrade you will see a message that the storage is being migrated.

Version 21.02

New Features

Making Web Forms a Web App

You can now install Web Forms as an application on to your iPhone, iPad, Android device or laptop as an application. This allows you to easily use all of the surveys that you have access to whether your are online or offline. If you have an internet connection opening a webform will get the survey from the network. (Although it may still be cached by your browser so its worth pressing the browser refresh button). Else, if you are offline, the last downloaded version of the survey will be downloaded.


If you are using a laptop then this should work well with Chrome. Use Chrome to logon to your server and select Web Forms. An option to install the web app should appear in the browser bar as shown below.

Installing the Web Form app using chrome on a laptop


  • We are still working on automatically downloading surveys that are present on the webforms page. For the moment you should make sure that you open the survey in the webforms web app or in your browser before going offline.
  • Even when auto pre-downloading of surveys is available, this downloading will not include images. Hence if you use these in your survey you definitely have to open the survey itself before going offline.
  • Apple devices have to have iOS 13+ and you need to use Safari as your browser.

Personal Organisations

Organisations are one of the tools you can use to structure your surveys. Surveys are collected into projects and then projects are collected into organisations. Administrators can determine the enumerators or analysts that are given access to a project and the surveys it contains. But what if you want to have separate work areas where the administrators in one area cannot access and manage the second area? This is where organisations come in. A user with the “organisational administration” privilege can create organisations and give people access to them. Documentation on this existing feature is available here.

“Personal Organisations” now allow this feature to be used by administrators (that is an administrator who does not also have organisational administration privilege). An administrator who creates an organisation can control who has access to it. No other user can take it upon themselves to give themselves access with the exception of users who have the “organisational administration” privilege.

Creating a personal Organisations

As an administrator select the users menu in the admin module. Then click on the organisations tab. Click the “Add Organisation” button.

Adding a personal organisation

You need to give the organisation a name and if you like you can set some options for it. Normally though the default options are fine.

Note as an administrator you will only see your personal organisations on this tab. Someone with org admin privileges will see all organisations.

Giving other users access to your organisation

Click on the users tab and then edit the users you won’t to allow access to your organisation.

Adding sally to the organisation that I just created

You will see a section labelled organisations. This will have a list of your organisations and you can add and remove access for other users as you wish.

Switching to another organisation

Users can change organisations by selecting their profile. (The icon at the top right of every page that looks like a person’s head and shoulders).

Click on the organisation drop down and select the one you want to be. Then press save. The page will refresh and you will find yourself in the new organisation.

Bulk import and Export of users

User roles are now included in an export of users to a spreadsheet. They are also included when importing users from a spreadsheet.

Bug Fixes

  • Fixed issue with duplicate surveys being created when uploading a survey in XLSX format. This was caused by clicking multiple times on the upload button.
  • Fix colour of menu button in webforms when run on a mobile phone. Previously, if the background colour of the header bar had been changed then the menu button might not be visible.
  • Automatically return to the page you were trying to access after performing a logon
  • Problem with display of “Rank” widget in web forms when the appearance “minimal” was included
  • Add logging of changes to role settings to the application log

Performance Issues when looking up reference data

Yesterday I encountered a really good example of how using an online lookup of reference data from a survey can dramatically improve performance. The follow image shows the CPU usage on an 8 processor data collection server at the point when a single survey was modified to use online lookups instead of downloading all the reference data to the phones.

The heavy load prior to the switch was negatively impacting all users.

The cause of the problem

A large number of field workers were updating a survey with a hundred thousand records that was the source of reference data for other surveys. These people were working online with data sims in their phones. So as soon as a field worker completed a survey the results were sent to the server updating the reference data. That automatically triggered the downloading of the 100 thousand records, now including updated reference data, to all the other field workers. Each field worker would have the latest reference data each time they completed a survey but the load was high and response times were getting slow.

Choosing a solution for using reference data

The decision about how to access reference data depends on the type of work your field workers are doing and whether or not they have a network connection while they are doing it. Here are three scenarios to help you choose:

Scenario 1 – Working offline without a network connection

In this scenario your workforce might return to a central location that has wi-fi every evening where they will refresh their phones, uploading any data they have collected and downloading changes to surveys and reference data. The next day they head back out into the field and work offline.

The surveys can use the following functions to get reference data from other surveys and from csv files:

  • search. To get choices for a select question.
  • pulldata. To lookup reference values.

So what happens if the reference data gets really large and is updated continuously by the field worker. Well this is not actually a problem. The server will not be overwhelmed since the workers are only synchronizing their phones once per day. They should actually press the refresh button twice, maybe once in the evening and once in the morning. The first time it will upload all the new data and the second time they will download the updated reference information that includes all of the previous days work from all of the field workers.

Scenario 2 – working online with a permanent network connection

Now the field workers are submitting data as they complete surveys and getting updates to reference data whenever that changes. Because they are online you can use the following functions to get reference data:

  • lookup_choices. To get choice for a select question
  • lookup. To lookup reference data.

Now when completing a survey, if reference data is required, there will be a small delay while the network call is made and then the required reference data will be made available. It is no longer necessary to download large amounts of reference data, most of which will never be used, and store it on the phone. If the reference data is large you should find this a faster approach on the phone as you no longer need to wait for the reference data to be loaded into the survey when you open it.

If your reference data files are small, only a few thousand records, or they are not updated often then you can use either the online or the offline functions in this scenario.

Scenario 3 – A hybrid approach

In this scenario perhaps the workers are online most of the time and want immediate updates to reference data but occasionally they wander outside of the network and still need to lookup those references.

At the moment you would need to use the offline approach and look out for potential performance problems from large frequently updated sets of reference data. However we do have a change request pending to only synchronise the updates to the reference data and not to download all the data each time a single record changes. This change request will allow the hybrid scenario to scale without causing performance problems. Let us know if you need it and I will increase its priority.