Many industries depend on accurate recording of data like temperature, pressure, voltage, and humidity to comply with regulations or even to remain operational and avoid a shutdown or disaster.
If your enterprise falls into this category, it’s understandable that you want a data logger you can rely on. With a variety of price points and configurations on the market, it helps to know what you’re looking for before you start shopping.
Here are seven qualities to look for in a data logger.
Accuracy refers to how close the data logger’s sensor comes to correctly detecting the condition it was designed to detect.
You might think that the more accurate the sensor, the better. However, the accuracy required may depend on the industry or the use to which the data logger is to be put. It may not be worth it to shell out extra money for the most accurate sensor on the market.
For example, the air temperature of an office may be able to be logged within +/- 2 degrees margin of error with no problems.
However, when you need to measure the safe storage temperature of blood samples or transplant organs, the humidity in a clean room, or the fuel pressure inside a jet engine, it’s hard to argue against the importance of getting the Rolls Royce of data sensors.
Another component of the accuracy of data loggers is the resolution, which refers to how many specific values a microprocessor is capable of detecting. A 12-bit microprocessor, for example, is capable of detecting 4,096 specific values.
If you have a sensor with a range of 0-100 degrees of temperature, a 12-bit microprocessor could recognize values at increments of 0.024 degrees. If, however, the range of the sensor is between 0 and 4,096 degrees, the microprocessor could only detect values in increments of 1.0 degree, producing a much less accurate reading even if the sensor is capable of more accurate readings! 8-bit microprocessors have even less resolution.
If you need highly-accurate readings, make sure to consider the sensitivity of the sensor and the resolution of the microprocessor according to DicksonData.
2. Easy to Offload Data
The data stored on a data logger is no good to you if you can’t access it easily. Make sure to consider how painless it will be to harvest your data records for internal use and compliance purposes.
“Easy to offload” means different things to different people. Most modern data loggers come with a USB or mini-USB data port, which allows you to plug a computer or other device directly into the data logger unit to read the data.
If data loggers must be spread out over several football fields’ worth of manufacturing space, however, you may prefer a data logger that connects over a local area network (LAN), Bluetooth signal, or WiFi signal, so you can collect the data from any WiFi-enabled device with access to the network, according to this article on Forbes.
If data loggers are spread over several acres or even miles, the best option may be a data logger that syncs its records to the Cloud, so you can access it from a digital back office anywhere in the world where you have internet connectivity.
3. Software Capability
The data may be easy to retrieve, but what do you do with it once it’s retrieved? Does the included software make the data easy to manipulate and synthesize into reports that can be exported to PDFs and spreadsheets? Is the interface for setting parameters and performing analysis intuitive, based on point-and-click logic and common software macros?
Consider whether you will be comfortable working with the data logger’s software interface. The shorter the learning curve, the sooner you can put your recorded data to good use.
No one wants to buy a piece of junk that will break down in less than a year. Look for durable, quality construction in any data logger you consider, even if it will just sit on the wall in a room-temperature office.
Beyond the basics, how durable the data logger must be depends on the environment it will be subjected to.
If the data logger must record high temperatures, it must be constructed to withstand them, or feature a sensor mounted to an external probe so delicate components like the battery and microprocessor can be kept at a safe distance.
If it must be kept in high-pressure, high-moisture, submerged, or underwater environments, make sure your data logger is built to withstand those conditions.
5. Reliable Power Source
Data processors do not require a lot of power in most cases. Some data loggers plug into grid power, but more commonly data loggers have internal battery power.
Technology has produced smaller, cheaper, and longer-lasting batteries. This is important for data loggers, which typically require continuous and reliable operation to maintain compliance and safety.
Look for a data logger with a battery that can survive for at least one year, under the conditions it will be subjected to. Environmental factors like temperature can cause drastic variance in battery life.
Find out, too, if the battery can be replaced by the user, or if manufacturer replacement is required.
Some data loggers can run off household batteries, making battery replacement very convenient.
A good data logger should be durable and user-friendly, reducing the need to reach out to the manufacturer for support.
However, data loggers are not toys. Questions may arise, roadblocks may occur, and eventually things break.
Look for a reputable supplier with a record of excellent customer support, either by telephone, chat, email, or all of the above. This is an important safeguard to your investment.
7. Affordable Value
This section was initially going to be called cost, but as mentioned before, neither the cheapest data logger nor the most expensive one is the right choice in every circumstance. You want the best value out of your data logger, meaning the most relevant features at an acceptable price.
This is why it is important to clearly establish what your data logging needs are in terms of accuracy, ease of use, and long-term viability, and then set a budget.
Technological advances have conspired to make data logger technology more affordable than ever.
Different enterprises have different needs. However, the basics of data logger best practices suggest that every shopper look for:
- Accuracy, in terms of both sensitivity and resolution.
- Data offload options convenient for your enterprise, ranging from USB to WiFi to Cloud syncing.
- User-friendly software with robust functions and a low learning curve.
- Durability tailored to the data logger’s function.
- A reliable power source, with static battery life of at least one year and/or easily replaceable batteries.
- Reliable technical support throughout the life of your investment.
- The right value in exchange for your investment.
Keep these seven parameters in mind, and you’re on the way to finding the perfect data logger for your enterprise.
Interesting related article: “What is technology?“