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10 Questions to Help You Select a Portable Data Acquisition System

Find the Ideal Data Logger to Suit Your Application

Every day hundreds of calls and emails come in to data logger distributors and systems integrators asking: “Which product is best for my application?” Whether you’re a technician planning your latest project or you’re a buyer filling a requisition, the sheer number of data logger manufacturers and models can be overwhelming. To make your selection easier, CAS DataLoggers has come up with ten questions to help you through the decision process.

1. What Are Your Data Acquisition Needs?

Typical data logging and Data Acquisition (DAQ) applications focus on collecting data to make a determination about efficiency, maintenance timing, or R&D. These systems feature flexible programming and communications capabilities, and include portable systems powered by battery or external power supply.

2. How Fast Can the Logger Record Data?

An important question to ask yourself is how often you need to record a reading (i.e. the logger’s sampling rate). Most data loggers can record data at rates of up to 1Hz (once a second). This is often a determining factor in the overall cost of the system.

Our High Speed dataloggers support fast sampling rates to capture data such as pressure transients, pulses, strain and acceleration, etc.

3. Will You Need Alarm Capability?

Ask yourself if you need to receive an alarm when your measurement value goes out of specification. If so, how do you want to be notified? Data loggers can give a warning via bright red LED, alarm noise, SMS text message, email, and even send out sequential phone calls to a list!

4. How Many Inputs Do You Need?

Do you just need to log a single measurement value (Temperature) or several types of measurement values (Current and Voltage)? Some models are designed to measure a single value, while multi-value loggers include models to monitor AC Voltage/Current, DC Voltage/Current, or Temperature/Humidity. For example, Universal Input Data loggers are designed to record almost any physical value.

Data loggers are also available in configurations capable of handling anywhere from one to hundreds of inputs.

5. What Type of Sensor Will you Need?

Knowing your sensor type is important when selecting a datalogging system. The most common reason our callers need a data logger is to monitor and record Temperature. Temperature Data Loggers are ideal for many industries including Food & Beverage, Life Science, and more. Other possible options include current/voltage sensors for electrical applications, SDI-12 (‘smart’ sensors) for environmental monitoring, Modbus sensors, etc.

6. How Much Memory Does the Logger Need?

Consider how much storage space you’ll really need. Depending on your application, you may want to capture only a few minutes’ worth of data, several months’ worth, or to continually monitor and archive all the data. Depending on the data logger, there may be an internal memory limit, or the logger may offer the option of using external memory such as a USB memory stick.

7. Where Do You Plan to Install the Logger?

Naturally, there are data loggers which are designed for fixed installation and others which are intended for more portable applications. For an easy-to-install device, look no further than our Portable Data Logger page. When considering how the logger will be used, ask yourself these questions:

  • How will the datalogger be powered? Battery, AC adapter, solar panel, etc.
  • Does the data logger need to be protected from moisture and dirt?
  • Does the system need to be completely self-contained so that it can be used outside or in a hazardous environment?

8. Wired or Wireless?

Before looking at communications options, first decide how you’d prefer to retrieve the data. Do you plan to bring the logger to an office PC to download data, or do you want a system to download it to your PC remotely? Communication with the data logger for viewing and downloading data can be done in many different ways including:

  • Serial or RS-232/RS-485 interface
  • USB interface
  • Ethernet interface
  • Wireless including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and proprietary RF links
  • Cellular modem (CDMA or GPRS/GSM)
  • Satellite modem

9. Where Can You Get Additional Help?

Given the large selection of data loggers on the market, make sure you speak with a trusted solutions provider to find out how to get the most suitable device at the most affordable price. Some providers also offer value-added services such as customization, configuration, training, programming, etc. At the end of the selection process, you should have an ideal product for your needs.

10. How Do I Keep Track of All This? Our Checklist!

 

1. System Application:

  • □ Stand-alone Data Logging
  • □  Data Monitoring
  • □  Data Acquisition

2. System Installation:

  • □ Permanent
  • □ Temporary
  • □ Portable
  • □ Vehicle or mobile

3. Measurement Requirements:

  • □ What is the quantity and type of each signal/sensor measurement?
  • □  Where are the measurement points located relative to each other?
  • □  Will the signals be wired back to a single location?
  • □  How fast will you need to sample each sensor/signal?

4. Memory for Recorded Data:

  • □ How many measurements are you recording?
  • □  How fast will you record a measurement?
  • □  How long is the system expected to retain stored data between downloads?

5. Data Retrieval:

  • □  Manual download with physical connection – USB, SD card
  • □  Remote download via network, cellular
  • □ Automated data download
  • □  Cloud storage

6. Communication Interface:

  • □ USB
  • □  Ethernet
  • □  Wi-Fi
  • □  Cellular
  • □ Other

7. Alarming / Notifications Requirements:

  • □ Local alarms – light, buzzer
  • □ Phone call notification
  • □ E-mail
  • □ Text message

8. Regulatory concerns:

  • □ Do you have any ISO / Quality or regulatory standards that apply to this system?

9. System Environment:

  • □ Will the system be used outside, in wet, cold or humid environments?
  • □  Does the system need protection from physical damage?
  • □ Does the system need to be protected from unauthorized access?

10. System Power:

  • □  Standalone battery-powered
  • □  AC or mains adapter
  • □ External DC
  • □ Solar panel

For more information on Portable Data Acquisition and Control Systems, or to find the ideal solution for your application-specific needs, contact a CAS Data Logger Applications Specialist at (800) 956-4437.