Whether you are buying a data logger for the first time, or are experienced in purchasing them, this article gives you the top 5 tips to assist you in your purchasing decision. So let’s get started.
Tip One: Buy a data logger that fits your purpose
Pretty simple, but important. There are a wide variety of data loggers with an equally wide variety of price points. They all have different features and different accuracy levels. Before buying one with extensive features, ask yourself “is this feature necessary?” If your data logger needs to run on battery power for a long time, does it need an LCD display that will significantly shorten its battery life? How accurate does it need to be? There is a marked increase in cost the more accurate the data logger is. If you are purchasing a data logger for regulatory purposes, look at what the rules state regarding accuracy and buy your data logger accordingly. Don’t buy a more accurate thermometer than is needed else you won’t see the benefits and it will be more expensive.
Tip Two: Do not buy a data logger that uses proprietary radio technology or is a closed system
For decades data loggers have been closed systems where special software was needed in order to extract logged data and wireless communication protocols were proprietary to the manufacturer. This added significant cost and complexity to the data logging system and “locked” you in to that supplier. The advent of the smartphone, in particular iOS and Android, together with the advances in Bluetooth Low Energy technology has virtually made proprietary data loggers obsolete overnight, albeit they still count for the biggest share of the market at the time of writing this article. But this won’t be the case for long. By using a data logger based on Bluetooth means:
1. The communication protocol is inter-operable meaning the manufacturer of the data logger does not need to supply the software;
2. You are no longer tied to that supplier for future upgrades and expansion; and
3. You aren’t subject to that supplier either going out of business or making the technology obsolete leaving you unsupported.
Tip Three: Understand the “true” cost of the data logger
There are two big costs to data loggers that are not obvious from its stated price. The first is the cost of any software/online service necessary to extract the logged data and the second (and sometimes more significant) is the human element that goes into (i) setting it up, (ii) extracting the data, (iii) interpreting the data and (iv) maintaining it. There has been a ruse played on customers by manufacturers for decades whereby they sell the hardware cheap with a view to making money on any system required to read the data. Be sure to understand what these costs are.
The human cost will often be many more times the cost of the data logger over its useful life. And here manufacturers tend to exaggerate claims about battery life and range to make their devices appear better than their competitors. Very rarely are they accurate and by the time the user discovers the battery life is a fraction of that claimed and they are having to spend 2x, 3x times the amount of time changing the batteries than they thought they would be they are already a customer. Don’t just look at the stated battery life claimed by the manufacturer of “2 years”, “5 years” etc. Look to see if they provide numbers regarding actual power consumption to back up their calculations. If they don’t it is a good sign the battery life cannot be relied upon.
Tip Four: Look at the future upgrade path
The Internet of Things has brought about a huge acceleration in open wireless protocols. In particular the growth of Bluetooth Low Energy technology has been extra-ordinary driven largely by its compatibility with iOS and Android smartphones/tablets. The guiding body of Bluetooth, called the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, is the best organised and most powerful amongst all of the guiding bodies on wireless protocols. This makes Bluetooth Low Energy have one of the brightest and most exciting of future upgrade paths with Bluetooth 5 being announced to have 4 x the range, 2 x the speed and 8 x the information payload over Bluetooth 4,0.
Tip Five: Look for a system that integrates well with other solutions
Data loggers should not be islands to themselves simply providing data. The ideal data logger should be able to trigger events to better manage themselves, prevent spoilage and reduce manual input. For example data loggers should alert users automatically without users having to check the data logger. The data logger could even control thermostats if needed to keep goods at the correct temperature. Look for data loggers that either do this now or will do this in future. In particular Eddystone and iBeacons have the potential to do these but this is the subject of another blog post.
Having read this you want to bounce ideas off one of our sales representatives, feel free to get in touch.