Image: Data collection with the FAIMS Mobile App in the Blue Mountains with Georgia Burnett and Penny Crook. CC-BY Shawn Ross 2014

About the FAIMS Project


What is FAIMS?

The Field Acquired Information Management Systems Project (FAIMS project) is an eResearch initiative developed at UNSW, Australia and currently housed at the Department of Ancient History at Macquarie University. Led by two archaeologists, a historian and a digital humanist and aided by casual programming staff, the FAIMS team has delivered 25 field recording systems over its lifetime (2012-present) to various field disciplines from archaeology, ecology, to geochemistry. We have a history of excellence in requirements elicitation, testing, delivering, and maintaining research-capable digital recording modules.

The project builds or interoperates with tools for the management of archaeological data across its entire lifecycle, from digital field data collection, through online data processing, to dataset archiving and publication.

FAIMS includes three principal tools:

  • The FAIMS mobile data collection platform, developed internally;
  • Heurist (University of Sydney), an online data refinement system;
  • The FAIMS online repository, an adaptation of the Digital Archaeological Record (Digital Antiquity).

The FAIMS project was launched in 2012 at the UNSW, Australia, with funding from the National eResearch Collaboration Tools and Resources (NeCTAR) initiative - an Australian government initiative to build digital infrastructure. The project began with community stock-taking activities, including surveys and workshops incorporating US, European, and Australian archaeologists. Based on their requirements, we joined existing open-source projects for a data refinement web application (Heurist) and an online repository (the Digital Archaeological Record). Since no software for field data collection existed that met the needs of our stakeholders, we also initiated our own development of an open source Android-Linux mobile data collection platform.

Development continued in 2014-15 thanks to funding from the Australian Research Council’s Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LIEF) scheme, which supports cooperative initiatives to develop expensive infrastructure for higher education researchers. LIEF funding has continued earlier activities. It also allows us to extend FAIMS interoperability to additional online data services (Open Context, Mukurtu, and OCHRE) and supports a portal for research access to Australian state heritage registers through a partnership with the University of Queensland.

Field Data Collection

The FAIMS mobile data collection platform helps researchers document cultural and natural heritage. The app allows people to collect information using their personal Android devices in many settings including remote locations with no internet access. As well, we help organisations get the information they need to improve awareness and develop appropriate management strategies. Better strategies have the potential of building more readiness and engagement in the participating communities, thereby boosting our social and natural environment.

It is is a world-class, open-source platform for developing mobile systems to acquire structured, text, geospatial, and multimedia data during field research. Designed cooperatively with practitioners to address the requirements of research under difficult conditions, it can be customised for projects across many domains, with applications in university, government, and business sectors. It is being used across Australia and internationally

FAIMS developed and deployed community-driven software developed in response to researchers’ expressed requirements. The development consists of a flexible data capture platform consisting of a ‘core’ Android application that can be deeply customised to particular research activities. Customisations can be readily shared, adapted, and redeployed. The system accommodates gigabyte-sized datasets and hundreds of devices. FAIMS works offline, automatically synchronises data collected by multiple teams, eliminates double-entry, and automates export - saving time and reducing errors. It also fosters the creation and sharing of syntactically and semantically interoperable datasets by, e.g., embedding URIs in records to link to online ontologies. All software is licenced GPLv3 and freely available on GitHub.

The mobile platform consists of an offline-capable Android mobile application supported by an Ubuntu server. The server may be local (for projects working in remote areas without internet access), but in many cases it is delivered as a cloud service (for projects that have regular - but not necessarily continuous - internet access).

We offer extensive documentation on how to get started with the FAIMS Mobile app. Or contact us at for help making your module.

Heurist Collaboration

Heurist is an online data analysis and visualisation platform developed since 2007 by Arts eResearch at the University of Sydney (, as an option for data refinement, analysis, export and project creation.

Heurist can be used for routine data editing, but it also facilitates fundamental reorganisation and rethinking of data. For example, its visualisation and association capabilities help decisions regarding which excavation contexts should be included in which horizons, or which individual artefacts should be classified as which types. FAIMS is working with Arts eResearch to ensure a smooth, automated workflow that takes data from creation in the mobile application, through refinement in Heurist, to processing in ArcGIS (and other commercial software), and finally archiving and dissemination in tDAR, Open Context, or other online repositories.

Visit for more details.

The Repository

The FAIMS repository is a digital archive for storing data sets, documents, images, and sensory data produced by archaeological research in Australia or collected by Australian archaeologists working abroad.

The repository is powered by the Digital Archaeological Record (tDAR) software which was developed by Digital Antiquity, and incorporates the Australian Historical Archaeological Database (AHAD) which was developed by VeRSI and La Trobe eResearch in partnership with Digital Antiquity.

Visit our Repository today!

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