Data loggers allow enterprises and researchers to record accurate data over time, which is necessary for many organizations to maintain compliance and for researchers to discover scientifically significant trends.
Conditions that data loggers can be used to record include:
If you are considering buying your first data logger, make sure to prepare for the buying process and familiarize yourself with both your own needs and the parameters available to you.
Here are five tips for first-time data logger buyers.
1. Make Sure the Data Logger Matches your Need for Accuracy
Before you start shopping for data loggers, take inventory of how accurate your readings have to be. Do you need to measure temperature with an accuracy of ±2 degrees? ±0.2 degrees? Different functions require different degrees of accuracy, often as determined by regulators.
Accuracy is a function of two different parameters: sensor accuracy and resolution.
The sensor accuracy depends on how powerful the sensor in the data logger may be. A strong enough sensor can detect conditions to a high degree of accuracy.
Whether or not the logger is capable of recording that level of accuracy depends on the data logger’s resolution. Resolution is a function of the processor’s bit rate. How many bits the processor is capable of determines how many discrete pieces of information the logger is capable of recognizing.
If the logger is calibrated for a range of 0-1,000 degrees, for example:
- An 8-bit processor is capable of recognizing up to 256 pieces of information. Therefore, dividing 1,000 by 256, it could only recognize changes of 3.9 degrees. Not very accurate.
- A 12-bit processor is capable of recognizing up to 4,096 pieces of information. Dividing 1,000 by 4,096, we find that the data logger can recognize temperature in units of 0.24 degrees—much more accurate.
- A 16-bit processor is capable of recognizing up to 65,536 pieces of information. Dividing 1,000 by 65,536, we discover that the data logger can detect temperatures in units of 0.015 degrees, even more accurate.
2. Make Sure the Data Logger Matches your Sample Rate and Collection Speed Needs
Sample rate is the number of data readings the data logger records over time. The sample rate required by your enterprise depends on the enterprise.
Biological and life sciences, for example, usually only need one sample every minute or several minutes. Physics experiments and electronics, by contrast, may need sample rates as large as 20,000 readings per second.
The sample rate is determined by the data logger’s processing speed and memory, the same as with a personal computer or mobile device. Make sure you know the sample rate you need and that the data logger you choose is fast enough to do the job. Companies such as Dickson that supply data loggers can help you make a determination as to whether or not the product you’re choosing fits your needs.
3. Make Sure The Data Logger’s Software and Networking Capability is Compatible with your Goals and your Computing Environment
Most data loggers interact with the outside world courtesy of a software interface. This could either be a natively installed app or a Cloud-based app available by login credentials from anywhere with an internet connection.
Don’t give yourself extra headaches by accidentally choosing a data logger that is incompatible with your computing environment. If you operate a Mac computing environment and the data logger’s software is PC-only, it’s not the right data logger for you. The same is true if you use PCs, and the data logger software has its best expression on a Mac.
The same situation applies if your enterprise uses iOS, Android, or Windows mobile platforms.
If you plan to network the data logger via wireless local area networks, make sure the data logger is compatible with your network parameters.
Every data logger has different capabilities. Make sure the software has the functions you need. Try to steer away from software that has a bunch of features you don’t need. In the long run, that will make the data logger harder to use.
4. Consider the Conditions to which the Data Logger Will Be Subjected
Some data loggers get subjected to more abuse than others. If the data logger is destined to live in an air-conditioned office, durability is not a leading concern. However, some data loggers are used in water, installed into internal combustion fuel tanks to gauge flow pressure, subjected to harsh weather or high heat.
The data logger you choose must be adapted for the conditions it will face. Consider:
- Do I need a water-proof data logger?
- Do I need a heat-resistant data logger?
- Do I need a data logger that will not collapse under pressure?
The most breakable parts of a data logger are the LCD view screen, keypad, and/or battery pack. The microprocessor and data drive can also be threatened by harsh conditions.
If the data logger is to be exposed to conditions that could damage its components, it may behoove you to look for a data logger that has an external probe as its sensor. That way, the durable probe can be subjected to the harsh conditions to be measured, while the fragile components are kept in stable conditions far from harm.
5. Make Sure You Consider Whether you Need the Data Logger for Field Work
If you are considering a data logger for fieldwork from a company like Dickson, there is a chance you don’t even need a data logger. A basic electronic meter is often the right choice to take individual readings while in the field.
However, if you need to monitor field conditions over time, consider not only the durability and hardiness of the data logger you are considering, but also its portability, battery life, and suitability to be installed in the position where it will take the best readings. In-field data recorders may need to be mounted at high altitudes, or deeply submerged underwater, in order to monitor environmental conditions for the purposes of meteorology, climatology, and environmental sciences.
By taking the time to master these five tips, you can be an informed buyer of your first data logger. Take advantage of this information to make the right purchase for your organization.