The Simplest Technology You Aren’t Using: How Data Loggers Can Save Hours

The Simplest Technology You Aren’t Using:
How Data Loggers Can Save Hours

Data loggers can save time

Once upon a time, chart recorders logged data inputs using several different inks on circular charts or strip charts. They monitored environmental conditions such as temperature and humidity and provided visual feedback to assess trends. Specific field applications—or situations in which computer access is not available—may still rely on this technology. However, it has largely been replaced by the easy-to-use and economical data logger.

Data loggers record properties including temperature, barometric pressure, humidity, carbon monoxide, water levels, and/or processes. Some units are designed for documenting dynamic environments such as moving vehicles, trucks, containers, ships, and more. Others log voltage and current in industrial processes, productivity checks, and troubleshooting. The common element in all data loggers is the ability to track, record, and in most cases, download or export readings to a computer. Although the expense involved is minimal, many still rely on outdated technologies or even manual input to create records of data that are easily compiled electronically.

In industries ranging from pharmaceuticals, food and beverage, energy, warehouse storage, and testing and calibration, data loggers have tracked crucial variables that impact the quality of products. Winemakers use data loggers to monitor the climatic conditions in their cellars. Pharmaceutical manufacturers verify temperature readings in plants with data loggers. The devices may also be used to audit power quality and profile energy use in facilities and even homes. Data loggers help save on expenses, ensure quality, and are a tool for adhering to compliance with specific industry regulations.

How They Work

Data loggers use sensors to pick up the information to be collected and employ microprocessors to convert the information received into a voltage or current and transform or digitize it into binary data to record it in memory. If software is included with the data logger, this is used to program the logger and analyze and store the data.

Most loggers are initially set up through a connection to a PC via a USB port or serial cable. The software enables users to configure and activate their unit. The units are fairly compact and some are designed for small or hard-to-reach areas.

From Multiple Channels to e-Mail Alarms: Features that Expand Efficiency

The three types of data loggers are stand-alone units, web-based systems, and wireless models. The battery-operated stand-alone units contain inherent memory that stores data. Many have a date-and-time stamp feature (see below) to help create a chronology of captured data.

Web-based data loggers go beyond the basic connectivity offered by stand-alone models. They are programmable, enabling the user to select the intervals at which data is captured. They also allow for real-time access to the data being collected, typically via Wi-Fi or similar connection. Some are used for remote monitoring.

Wireless data loggers transmit data within a specified distance to a computer. They typically include a receiver to take in the signal and perhaps a combined repeater for remote areas that need to relay the signal, the data logger itself, software, and a USB cable.

The various types of loggers may offer features ranging from nice-to-have to must-have. Here are some of them:

Date-and-time stamped readings via data logging software. This is a common feature for indicating information such as when a temperature dropped (or increased) or, in the case of shock data loggers, at what point peak acceleration was recorded.

Dual or multichannel functionality allow users access to more than one parameter or measurement. Some units are capable of handling up to 32 channels.

High or extreme temperature handling to measure within a wide range of conditions. Typically, these loggers are durable and waterproof.

Jumbo LED display for viewing across a room.

Over- and under- alarm threshold settings alert users when parameters have exceeded or dropped below a pre-established level. This functionality can be handy for refrigerators, freezers, museums, and any setting in which a constant temperature range is mandatory.

User-selectable alarm limits indicate status via LED light indicators, which helps in ensuring perishable goods maintain quality standards during storage and transit.

Submersibility, with a waterproof casing for applications in the food, pharmaceutical, and petroleum industries.

Increasing Usage

Data loggers already operate within technology such as weather stations, sound level meters, and manometers to record relevant information. More and more often, a meter may be described as containing “data logging capabilities.”

Yet, because of their versatility, the uses for the devices as separate units are continually expanding. When transporting vaccines, food, plants, instruments, or any item that requires temperature monitoring, a data logger can capture consistent data that indicates whether the reading has fluctuated even a few degrees. In transportation, from tracking railway switches to vehicle testing, loggers record the data that help keep passengers safe. In maintaining the efficacy of HVAC systems, data loggers cull the variables of power, temperature, and humidity to reveal where a system may be weak.

Although the technology is simple and the price modest, the data logger is in demand as a key contributor to enhanced efficiency.