PostgreSQL set of functions to get data from Central

Hi to all,
here is a first shared version of a recent hard work, which allow us to automate data retrieval from Central into PostgreSQL/PostGIS database.
Functions dynamically create PostgreSQL tables from Central's json and keep geojson fields as geojson.

Functions are here :

Feel free to comment, criticize and improve the work. Coming features into central will facilitate its improvement.
I will have some questions about some details ;

I just pasted the readme file below.



PostgreSQL's functions to retrieve datas from ODK Central's OData API to a PostgreSQL database

Fonctions pl/pgsql de récupération des données d'ODK central vers une base de données PostgreSQL

Those functions make use of the "COPY FROM PROGRAM" PostgreSQL capability. The called program is curl. So curl need to be installed on your database server.
Security issues are for the moment bypassed with the use of -k function, considering we know the server called by curl.

How to use it - Example

Complete update process from Central

SELECT odk_central.get_submission_from_central(
FROM odk_central.get_form_tables_list_from_central('','my_passw0rd','',	4,'Sicen');

SELECT odk_central.feed_data_tables_from_central('odk_central',concat('form_',lower(form),'_',lower(split_part(tablename,'.',cardinality(regexp_split_to_array(tablename,'\.'))))))
FROM odk_central.get_form_tables_list_from_central('','my_passw0rd','',	4,'Sicen');

	This is a view build upon generated data tables for our particular needs
REFRESH MATERIALIZED VIEW odk_central.donnees_formulaire_sicen;

	here we get attachments 
SELECT outils.get_file_from_central_api(
	lower(concat(unaccent(replace(user_name,' ','_')),'_',prise_image))
) FROM odk_central.donnees_formulaire_sicen
WHERE prise_image IS NOT NULL;

	And here we ull data from the materialiezd view to our internat tool table, 
	to show ODK Collect data within our web internal tool and also QGIS or Redash
	This function just perform an 
	INSERT INTO table(data_id, col1,col2...)
	SELECT col_a, col_b,... 
	FROM odk_central.donnees_formulaire_sicen 
	LEFT JOIN data_already_there USING(data_id) 
	WHERE data_already_there.data_id IS NULL --to insert only new datas
SELECT odk_central.formulaire_sicen_alimente_saisie_observation_especes();

Functions are created in a schema named "odk_central". Adapt it to your needs.

"Main" functions



Returns the lists of "table" composing a form. The "core" one and each one corresponding to each repeat_group.

parameters :

email text				-- the login (email adress) of a user who can get submissions
password text			-- his password
central_domain text 	-- ODK Central fqdn :
project_id integer		-- the Id of the project ex. 4
form_id text			-- the name of the Form ex. Sicen

returning :

TABLE(user_name text, pass_word text, central_fqdn text, project integer, form text, tablename text)



Get json data from Central, feed a temporary table with a generic name central_json_from_central.
Once the temp table is created and filled, PG checks if the destination (permanent) table exists. If not PG creates it with only one json column named "value".
PG does the same to check if a unique constraint on the __id exists. This index will be use to ignore subissions already previously inserted in the table, using an "ON CONFLICT xxx DO NOTHING"

parameters :

email text						-- the login (email adress) of a user who can get submissions
password text					-- his password
central_domain text 			-- ODK Central fqdn :
project_id integer				-- the Id of the project ex. 4
form_id text					-- the name of the Form ex. Sicen
form_table_name text			-- the table of the form to get value from (one of thoses returned by get_form_tables_list_from_central() function
column_to_filter text			-- the column (__system/submitterId or __system/submissionDate  on wich you want to apply a filter (only works on Submissions table
filter text						-- the filter to apply (gt = greater than, lt = lower than)
filter_value text				-- the value to compare the column with
destination_schema_name text 	-- the name of the schema where to create the permanent table 
destination_table_name text		-- the name of this table 

returning :




parameters :

schema_name text	-- the schema where is the table containing plain json submission from the get_submission_from_central() function call
table_name text	-- the table containing plain json submission from the get_submission_from_central() function call

returning :




Download each media mentioned in submissions

parameters :

email text				-- the login (email adress) of a user who can get submissions
password text			-- his password
central_domain text 	-- ODK Central fqdn :
project_id integer		-- the Id of the project ex. 4
form_id text			-- the name of the Form ex. Sicen
submission_id text
image text				-- the image name mentionned in the submission ex. 1611941389030.jpg
destination text		-- Where you want curl to store the file (path to directory)
output text				-- filename with extension

returning :


"Shadow" functions needed



-> adapted from (thanks again)
CREATE a pivot table dynamically, withut specifying mannually the row structure.
Returns a cursor use by both following finction to create a table and feed it

parameters :

central_query text 	-- the query defining the data
headers_query text		-- the query defining the columns
INOUT cname refcursor	-- the name of the cursor

returning :




-> inspired by
Create a table corresponding to the curso structure (attribute types and names)

parameters :

_table_name text 		-- the name of the table to create
_ref refcursor			-- the name of the refcursor to get data from

returning :




-> adapted from
Feed the table with data

parameters :

_table_name text, 		-- the name of the table to create
_ref refcursor			-- the name of the refcursor to get data from

returning :


Some news from this work :wink:

I moved the functions set to github :

Feel free to improve it ! I am not a pl-pgsql guru and I am sure it could be cleaner / safer... I would be glad to discuss about that work and on how to improve it with anybody else.

The filtering capability on submission_date has been removed as it only applies to Submissions table, not to its "daughters".
So we are in a "all data download" scenario and I hope we will be able to improve it later to improve bandwidth and resources consumption.

A top level function was added to simplify the procedure with only one function call, retrieving all data from a given form of a given Central instance to the PostgreSQL schema you want :

select odk_central.odk_central_to_pg(
  'geo_question,to_ignore' );
select odk_central.odk_central_to_pg(

This simple query will automatically :

  • ask Central (at for the table list of the form "my_form_about_birds"
  • get data for each table composing the form
  • create those tables (one text attribute per form question) in the schema "odk_data" of my database, except for questions listed in the last parameter (geo widgets columns)
  • feed those tables with the retrieved data

And at next call :

  • check for new form questions / table attributes
  • create it if needed
  • insert only new data

With my knowledge of the form, I now only have to query the tables to do whatever I need with the data, and to choose the best frequency for the cron task wich call the function, to serve data as fresh as possible in our internal tools.


Hello @mathieubossaert , This is amazing, I will test my forms in ODK Central.

1 Like

Thank you for your enthusiasm @famador :slight_smile:
Feel free to report any bug or suggestion on the github page !

1 Like

Very nice work @mathieubossaert , but i still confused how to apply it in my own server. Where do i put the sql script? I use docker to serve odk central.

1 Like

Hi @ridho and welcome to the ODK community. When you get a chance please introduce yourself here.
Thank you for your comment :blush:

Those functions are useful to get ODK data in an external database. So you have to run it in this destination database.

I understand your confusion because Central uses its own database wich is not exposed to the world and does not stores the data in a relationnal way.

Oh, sorry about that. So, if i want to retrieve data from ODKCentral postgresql database, I just need to run this script only central2pg.sql?

This will create the fonctions in the schema you want (default is odk_central).
Once installed you will need to call the odk_central_to_pg() function has shown earlier in this thread.
Please report any bug or comment on github. I already found and fixed issues but external uses will be important to find and fix more ones :wink:

Hi @mathieubossaert thank you very much for putting your effort in this script. It looks wonderful. Currently, I rely heavily on ruODK package and Central API (with PHP). But they are not much flexible to my need. I gave your script, central2pg.sql, a try. It made the schema. But when I try odk_central.odk_central_to_pg function, it gives me this error:

ERROR:  structure of query does not match function result type
DETAIL:  Returned type unknown does not match expected type text in column 1.
CONTEXT:  PL/pgSQL function odk_central.get_form_tables_list_from_central(text,text,text,integer,text) line 11 at RETURN QUERY
SQL statement "SELECT odk_central.get_submission_from_central(...
SQL state: 42804

I consulted other forums to address this column type compatibility error. But I am not much familiar with SQL. I know just the basics. Could you please help?

Hi @shashpal !
First of all welcome to the ODK community. When you'll get a chance, please introduce yourself here to the community.
And thank you for your interest to that work !

Cental2PG is not an ODK official tool, maybe we should discuss about this bug and solve it on github ?
Anyway, did you download the files from the master branch ? The release is old and not up to date.
Could you share your form with me, here or in a private message, then I can try it with central2pg and find the problem ?
It may be possible that you use characters I do not use and I did not escape in the functions ? Or something else ?
A colleague of mine used it for the first time on Friday and succeed.
Thanks again for your feedback !

1 Like

Dear @mathieubossaert, thanks for your time. I used the files from the master branch. Sure, I can share the form details in a private message.

1 Like

Thanks to @mathieubossaert for his kind support. I was using Postgres server v9.6 on my host, which was too old and didn't have the json functions used in the script. I upgraded to PG v14, and I can confirm that the script works. :tada: :confetti_ball: @mathieubossaert confirmed that the script works on PG v12, too.


Last week I did a short demo to my french colleagues and I just added some subtitles to share it here :slight_smile:


Thanks Mathieu for sharing these functions. I'm using them with pg_cron to automatically pull ODK_central data every night into a PostgreSQL database. I've connected that database to Metabase to produce up to date dashboards of field activities.

I've also connected that database to a map created with the QGIS2WEB plugin so we have an up to date, detailed map of field activities.

I explored several ways of handling data from ODK_central and this is the simplest. Once the data is in a PostgresSQL database, the options for analysis and sharing are limitless.

I've made a post on my application here.

1 Like

Saturday homework!

central2pg now uses bearer token to connect to Central :slight_smile:

Testers welcome to find and fill issues on github :wink: .