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10 Things to Know Before Purchasing a Data Logger for Remote Monitoring

Fast Data Collection and Retrieval for Remote Monitoring Applications

Remote monitoring applications in fields such as oil and natural gas extraction, environmental monitoring, and fleet management often require close attention to detail. Users need to accurately record and track several variables including temperature, flow, strain, stress, vibration, and more.  Therefore, when purchasing a new data logging solution, it’s crucial to understand the exact capabilities and specifications of the device you need. However, the sheer variety of data loggers and data logging systems can often make it difficult to choose the best model for your application. With this in mind, the applications specialists at CAS DataLoggers present 10 things to ask before purchasing a data logger for remote monitoring.

  1. According to Pete Martin, Sales Manager for CAS DataLoggers, “To begin searching for the right product, always keep in mind your starting point–what do you want to accomplish? Consider whether you need a quick fix for a specific problem or a long-term solution providing a general need with room for expansion. Details such as knowing how many and what types of inputs are required are important, along with how often readings need to be taken (determining the logger’s sampling rate) since there’s such a wide range of options open to you. Often users believe they need to record multiple channels of data at hundreds of Hz, not realizing that this will soon exceed the logger’s available memory and require more frequent downloads.”
  2. You’ll also want to take into account are whether the data logger must be equipped with external sensors or built-in sensors, or if programmed alarms are needed. Will the logger need to perform real-time calculations on the measured data? This could be avoided by installing an RTU (Remote Telemetry Unit). Will the device need output signals? Having a clear initial idea of what requirements are needed and what features might become necessary in future are key factors in making the most suitable choice.
  3. The type of sensors being recorded is also critical in the decision process. Ideally, the data logger will have the versatility to accommodate the wide range of sensors you may need to connect it to. For instance, if you’re planning to use thermocouples, the logger must support TC inputs. Likewise, if the application must accommodate several different inputs (including current-loops, voltages, pulses, etc.) then you’ll require a more flexible, powerful data logger. CAS DataLoggers offers a diverse selection of data loggers compatible with most types of signal inputs including AC Voltage, Process Current, Bridge, Strain, Load, Pressure, Dew Point, Event (or State), Frequency, Level, Process Voltage/Current, PH, Relative Humidity, RTD, Shock, Acceleration, Sound, Temperature, Thermocouple, Pulse, Serial and more.  Are you going to need a large number of inputs to adequately monitor your conditions? Are you expecting to only measure and log analog signals, or will you also need to record digital signals?
  4. You’ll definitely want to consider a ruggedized device which can survive hazardous working conditions including dust, dirt, and accident. The bestselling dataTaker line of products has long been known for their study construction, and depending on your application, you may need to safely enclose the logger in a sturdy industrial or portable enclosure. Also decide how often you need to transport the data logger. Will the device need to be moved between jobs, which could jostle an unprotected unit and reduce its longevity? Will it be installed in a vehicle? These questions will help you protect your investment.
  5. Also determine how the logger will be powered for remote monitoring. Will you need a battery-operated device for extended operation? Again, this depends on the logger’s location, whether it’s going to be installed inside a vehicle or in a more stationary location.
  6. Ensure that your data logger has a visible LCD display which clearly shows measurements in its given environment, whether in dim lighting, underground, or outdoors. This will especially help when presenting the data to clients, instructing personnel in its use, or when showing your project to others.
  7. No matter what your budget is, look for cost-effective options which give you extensive features for an economical price. If you anticipate future expansion for your project, search for data loggers with a modular design so you can simply add other capabilities when needed.
  8. Most data loggers can record at a rate up to about 1Hz (once per second), although many faster recording frequencies are available. When speaking with a representative, it’s important to determine the right recording rates for your application. When recording from a K-Type thermocouple, for example, the sensor/sample may take several seconds to change temperature, making a high-sample device give you redundant data. Depending on the application, it may only be necessary to capture a few minutes’ worth of data or you may need to store entire months of readings. This can be easily determined the amount of data storage required by multiplying the number of channels by the sample rate and recording duration, given in this quick formula:

Total Number of Points = Number of Channels x Sample Rate x Recording Duration.

Since model specifications vary, there may be a limit based on the total amount of internal memory, or the data logger may offer the option of using external memory such as a USB memory stick to expand the available memory. Options like these can significantly cut down your costs.

9. Many data loggers are designed for fixed installation, but other devices are intended for portable applications, such as those commonly required for environmental monitoring. How remote is the office from where you’re collecting the data? Is the logging environment located underground? For many industrial applications, a USB memory stick serves as the fastest way to get your data, especially when the data is in unalterable format intended for clients to view. This method also lets you quickly get set up onsite and then gather all the data using USB. Communication with the data logger for setup, monitoring, and downloading data can be done in many different ways, including those which continuously send the data directly to the software interface. An example of this solution is dataTaker’s M-series of cellular modem-equipped dataloggers, which help you avoid the time and cost of gathering real-time data from remote sensors, instruments and control systems, offering a complete solution in one battery-operated box.

10. When it comes to software, look for a user-friendly interface that enables fast configuration. Preferably the software will be included free with the datalogger, such as the dEX graphical interface that comes with every dataTaker logger. This intuitive Windows Explorer-style software comes pre-installed and enables quick logger setup and configuration. Suitable for both novice and advanced users, dEX is configured and run directly from a web browser, accessible either locally or remotely over the Internet. Software should be accessible by both novice and veteran users.

Pete Martin adds, “Above all, go with the capabilities which prove the most practical for your application and analysis. If you’re looking for data trends, we recommend that you use the statistical capabilities offered by certain data loggers to summarize the data over an interval. If you’re looking for anomalies, use the triggering features in many data loggers to simply capture a window around the event. All of these features and more are available to ensure that your logger handles every aspect of your application.”