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Data Loggers - What Are They and What Do They Do?

Specialists in data logging technology, we offer a broad range of advanced sensors and data loggers designed and manufactured in-house. Many customers come to us having never heard the term ‘data logger’ or ‘data logging’ before. This can make it extremely hard to know what they are looking for. However, this article is here to help!

Our team is available Mon-Fri 08:30-17:00 on +44 (0)1425 651111 and happy to offer advice and support.

What is a Data Logger?

Data Loggers are advanced sensors that automatically collect and store readings.

Imagine you want to record certain conditions, perhaps temperature or humidity. In the past, you would probably use a thermometer or hygrometer, go to the measurement point and manually measure these conditions. You could then manually record this yourself, perhaps on paper or in an electronic spreadsheet.

A data logger is effectively an automated solution for this requirement. You can leave the logger positioned at the measurement point, and it will automatically sample the conditions and record this data for you. Different data loggers will do this in different ways.

EL-WiFi-VACX: Wi-Fi connected data logger recording the temperature of a vaccine refrigerator.

EL-USB-2-LCD: USB data logger recording the temperature and humidity of museum artefacts.

Different Types of Data Logger

Data loggers can vary in many different ways. The following are some of the most significant factors that dictate how a data logger works and what type of data logger a user will require.

Measurement Parameter

The measurement parameter is the condition which the data logger measures and records. Common examples include temperature, humidity, air pressure, electrical current, electrical voltage, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, light, air quality, event or state, and more. In theory, a data logger could be used to measure/record virtually anything! If your application has high enough demand, a data logging specialist may even be prepared to develop a data logger for your specific measurement parameter and application. Contact our team if you wish to discuss this further.

Connectivity/Data Download

Connectivity/Data Download is the way in which the user gets data readings from the logger to a readable format such as PDF file, CSV file, PC software (online or local), mobile app, or other. Some of the most popular connectivity options include:

  • Wi-Fi

A popular option because often the infrastructure is already in place, which makes it a low-cost and flexible solution. Most Wi-Fi connected data loggers will automatically upload data readings to an online/cloud-based data storage system. Meanwhile, some others upload to a local Wi-Fi connected device such as a PC or laptop with data logging software installed. Either way, there is not typically any input required from the user to transfer data from the data logger to the Cloud or the PC.

Another key advantage of Wi-Fi connected data loggers is that you can usually connect large numbers of devices in one system, giving you access to all data from multiple devices, across multiple locations, in one user-friendly platform.

EL-MOTE-T Wi-Fi connected temperature data logger.

Data Loggers connected to the EasyLog Cloud via Wi-Fi.

  • USB

For applications that don’t have a reliable Wi-Fi signal available, for example, goods in transit or agricultural/environmental monitoring, USB data loggers are a reliable alternative. These loggers will store data readings on-board, ready for the user to download, via USB connection to a PC, laptop, or specialist data collection device. The benefit of using a specialist data collection device is that it is usually mobile so you can go to your logger and easily download data in the field, rather than having to take your logger out of service to plug into a PC. Most USB data loggers will come with software to streamline the download process and offer a user-friendly platform for analysis/reporting.

EL-USB-TP-LCD monitoring beehive temperature.

EL-Datapad used for mobile data collection from EL-USB products in the field.

  • Bluetooth

Similar to USB loggers, Bluetooth data loggers initially store data readings on-board the device, ready for the user to collect at their convenience. Data collection usually involves using a mobile app to download data to a Bluetooth-enabled device such as a mobile phone or tablet.

EL-BT-2 temperature and humidity Bluetooth data logger.

Power Supply

Data loggers tend to use battery power so that they are not reliant on a mains power connection (in the event of a power failure). A lot of data loggers will still give the option of using a mains power adaptor (thus eradicating the need for recharging or changing batteries as often), with battery power available to power the device in the event of a mains power failure.

EL-WiFi data loggers can be powered by rechargeable battery or mains power via USB cable.

Alarming Functionality

In lots of applications, it’s beneficial to the user to know when conditions are not at the desired level. For example, food and pharmaceutical applications often deal with temperature-sensitive goods. Vaccine fridges must generally be kept between +2 and +8°C. If the vaccines experience a temperature excursion outside of this range, they ‘lose potency’ and become ineffective. Therefore many data loggers incorporate alarming functionality. This can vary from a simple warning light on-board the device, up to a large combination of warning lights, audible beepers/sounders, email alert notifications etc.

EL-WiFi-TPX+ alerts users to temperature issues via flashing warning light, alarm sounder, on-screen alarm symbol and an email notification via the EasyLog Cloud.

Live Data Readout (via Display Screen)

Data loggers will record data readings to internal memory and/or PC or cloud-based systems. However, some can also show real-time data live on a display screen. Real-time data can include current reading, min/max readings since a particular time or event, battery level, connectivity status, alarm status, alarm settings, and more.

EL-WiFi products have an LCD screen capable of displaying live temperature and humidity, min/max readings since last reset, Wi-Fi signal, alarm status and battery level.

EL-SIE products have an LCD screen capable of displaying live temperature, humidity and pressure, min/max readings since last reset, alarm status and battery level.

Number of Inputs

Some data loggers can cope with multiple inputs of data, often referred to as 'channels'. For example, a temperature and humidity data logger often records three channels of data (temperature, humidity and dew point). Alternatively, some multi-channel loggers can monitor multiple channels of the same measurement parameter in different locations (usually using probes).

Temperature and humidity recorded by an EL-MOTE-TH+ in a greenhouse (with dew point calculated automatically).

EL-MOTE-TH+ high-accuracy temperature and humidity data logger.

Size/Shape/Environmental Protection

These three loosely connected aspects of the device’s physical appearance can differ significantly. Sensor position is something that will play a part in this. Data loggers with internal sensors can be slightly tidier in appearance (due to the absence of probes or cables running into the device). However, bear in mind that this will reduce the operating temperature range for the device. As a result, many data loggers will use external probes/sensors, for example, a thermistor or thermocouple for temperature. Other factors that will affect size and shape include display screen size and shape, power supply (e.g. size of batteries), level of robustness needed for device exterior, alarming functionality (e.g. lights or sounders).

Data loggers can also offer varying protection to their environment; a particularly important consideration for any applications exposing the device to dust/dirt and moisture. Products will have an IP rating that indicates exactly what environments it is suitable for use within. For example, IP67 rating indicates that the product is dust-tight, and waterproof for immersion in water (up to 1m).

EL-MOTE products are IP67 rated making them perfect for indoor and outdoor applications.

Uses of Data Loggers

Data loggers are useful in any application where there is a desire or requirement to record certain conditions. This can range from monitoring the temperature of refrigerated units in food and pharmaceutical industries, to monitoring the air quality of a classroom or office environment.

Benefits of Data Loggers

  • Reduced time, effort and stress in comparison to manual data collection.
  • More reliable than manual temperature checks that can be missed or recorded incorrectly.
  • They can potentially alert you to adverse conditions before the conditions cause severe damage to the goods in that environment.
  • Data logging software can provide a user-friendly platform for data analysis and reporting.

Finding the Right Data Logger for Your Application

Hopefully, the information in this article will be a great start, giving you the background information to know approximately what sort of data logger you require. None-the-less, it is always a good idea to speak with potential suppliers and ensure that their solution is a good fit for your unique application.

Why not contact our team to discuss your requirements today?

Call: +44 (0)1425 651111


Created on 18/09/2020