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The 2019 guide

Data loggers for business - The Ultimate Guide (2019 update)

Data loggers have become an important business tool to increase efficiency and reduce costs.

Knowledge of the real-time location and condition of items and vehicles is a high priority on the wishlist of many business managers. This is because it can be crucial for making central decisions in a highly competitive market.

You have probably experienced that items and cargo sometimes get lost or is not in the right condition when it reaches the final customer. As you know, this can be very costly.

Therefore, there is an increasing need for optimizing processes and securing planned delivery without damage. These issues can be handled and controlled with a simple data logger that provides valuable digital information.

Digitalizing the business

If you are interested in digitalizing your business but do not know how a data logger works, you can start here. This data logging guide aims to give you a complete understanding.

It will guide you through all the technical elements and specifics around the sensors that a data logger contains. You will get a basic understanding of how a data logger works, the benefits of data logging and how you get started.

It covers all the important areas about data logging and how you obtain full visibility of your equipment, entire fleets, or your supply chain.

Learn how a data logger can grow your business and convert data into valuable insights.

Chapter 1 - The data logger

What is a data logger?

A data logger is an electronic device that tracks the position, condition and other parameters of the asset, machine or equipment it is attached to.

A data logger is equipped with an internal microprocessor, a memory, and one or more sensors that record measurement data. They are generally battery-powered, but some can be wired and need to be connected to an external power source.

Depending on how advanced the logger is, its sensors collect data and store it on the device. This data can later be retrieved either directly on the logger or by connecting the logger to a computer. Advanced IoT data loggers send their data directly to servers.

Types of data loggers

Most people think of a data logger as a device where data is retrieved on the logger itself. However, more advanced data loggers collect and send real-time data that can be viewed and analyzed on a software portal.

These data loggers are based on IoT and global connectivity.

This guide will primarily relate to IoT data loggers, as these are based on the newest technology which brings the most value and flexibility to you as a user.

However, let us firstly look on the more unadvanced data loggers and how they compare to the IoT data loggers to give a better understanding of the value of IoT connectivity.

Simpler data loggers

Simple data loggers are placed on equipment where they collect data during transport or use. When the asset arrives at the final destination, you physically have to go to the logger to empty it for data using a computer or by reading the display of the data logger.

This gives you historical data which can be very useful. However, this data logging solution has at least two major flaws.

The first flaw is that you must read the device data onsite which is costly if you have multiple loggers. The other is that you are not able to react in realtime to any logged incidents during the logged period.

Therefore, most of the supply chain managers prefer a real-time tracking system because it enables them to react when it is necessary.

The solution for them is an IoT data logger which logs data during transportation and continually transmits data automatically to a server. In case of incidents, it provides alarms when predetermined thresholds have been exceeded.

By setting up the data logger to transmit data to the software in a predetermined period and intervals or based on predetermined triggers, you can follow your equipment during transport in real-time.

Chapter 3 - How does it work?

How does a data logger work?

The data collected by a data logger is information recorded by small sensors that are built into the hardware.

The sensors are small elements that measure different parameters such as GPS position, temperature, shock and more. Data loggers include a range of sensors that can be configured after your needs.

IoT data loggers often connect to cloud-based software that visualizes and analyses the data. In chapter 5, you can read more about the types of sensors an IoT data logger can include and how it can bring value to your business.

Chapter 2 - Internet Of Things

IoT – the technology that changes industries

Internet of things (IoT) is a new phenomenon that transforms all industries into more intelligent businesses by streamlining processes. The new technology has made it possible to connect any machine, asset or item to the internet and wirelessly transfer data over great distances.

IoT devices enable you, fast and efficiently, to change data from smart sensors into intelligent software that allows you to visualize data that never have been available before. It creates insights and operational efficiency you can turn into value, improvements and substantial cost savings.

Chapter 4 - Global Coverage

Ensure global connectivity of your equipment

In order to secure global connectivity for transmitting data, it requires a good network. Data loggers communicate with different interfaces to make sure the can transmit data. They can transmit through GSM, 3G, LTE, CAT M1, and CAT NB1.

The better connectivity, the more accurate positions you get. Actually, the data logger uses less battery the faster network it communicates with which means it will last longer. A data logger will always communicate with the network with the best connection. Therefore, a data logger should contain more than one mobile technology.

GSM

GSM – Global System for Mobile Communications is a digital cellular network that carries real-time services for transmitting voice and data. GSM is based on two-way communication for data transmitting from a device to a server.

A sim card is built into the data logger that enables it to send the collected data to a server. GSM also can provide a position based on triangulation.

3G

3G is the third-generation cellular network with a stronger and more reliable signal. In some countries, the 2G network is being phased out. Therefore, a 3G module is a good choice for a data logger if you would like an accurate position and sensor data from your data logger.

As 3G operates at a higher frequency, it has been necessary to set up more cell towers, which means that you can actually achieve better accuracy at a triangulated position.

4G (LTE)

LTE stands for Long Term Evolution which is based on the 4G network. It’s a new technology developed on IoT standards. It is designed for transferring data at a very fast speed.

The communication system is offered by the two operators Cat M1 and Cat NB1 that use 4G cell towers to transmit data. The method is very applicable to the type of data a data logger provides.

It is a somewhat new technology which is so far only widespread in some countries.

Iridium satellite

A data logger using Iridium™ satellite maximizes coverage for mission-critical operations. It sends data through satellites which are intended for tracking equipment in areas without cellular network. Iridium is the only network that supports true global coverage as it communicates with 55 satellites.

It is suitable for military, expeditions and logistics operations outside urban areas.

Chapter 5 - Data Logger Sensors

Smart sensors

The sensors collect data upon the following parameters:

How can the data logger provide a position?

Position can be used for giving location-based analytics to make smarter decisions.

Knowing the position of items is a fundamental parameter for business managers in the day to day planning when optimizing logistics. It can reveal essential factors to determine where equipment and cargo are located and make sure that cargo and equipment are in the right location or on schedule.

The location of equipment and cargo is visualized on a map in the cloud-based software. The data logger uses GPS to acquire a position and send data to a server via GPRS (GSM) or acquire a position based on triangulation. Some data loggers can also be configured to send reports via SMS if there is no GPRS coverage.

On the open sea and in remote areas, you cannot establish a GSM connection. Therefore, the data logger includes a log function that logs data and transmits it when coverage is reestablished.

For truly global coverage, you can choose a data logger with iridium satellites. Then you can receive updates even in the remote areas.

Position based on GPS

GPS is a global positioning system for an accurate position. To obtain a position by GPS it requires a clear sky. If GPS signal cannot be found, a logger will provide a triangulation via GSM cell towers. The GSM will give a less accurate position, but most often this is better to than no position at all.

In the cities, the cell towers are often closer, and you will get an accuracy on 100 meters. But at the coasts or in the countryside there will might be accuracy on 5 – 10 kilometers because there is longer between the cell towers.

Motion sensor detects when your equipment is moving

The data logger can use an embedded 3-axis accelerometer sensor to measure the amount of acceleration due to gravity. The 3- axis accelerometer is based on movement, direction and speed. Therefore, it can be used to detect when and in what direction an asset or equipment is moving.

The IoT data logger can trigger an alarm when an asset is moving. This is very useful in case of theft.

Utilization measures the use of equipment

Utilization is a software feature which is intended to manage and optimize operational behavior by measuring actual working hours and performance of assets and equipment. It enables you to know when and where an asset is working or when it is in idle time.

Optimize your business by monitoring and controlling unauthorized use of your assets or secure that they are operating as intended. The knowledge of asset utilization can greatly improve operations and reduces costs.

Movement is often the logical prerequisite for when utilization is determined, such as when a vibratory plate compactor is in motion. However, it can also be determined by light and temperature. If a generator is warm, it will be defined as being in use, or if the data logger is exposed to light, it is in use too.

Shock sensor detects G-force

A shock sensor is a highly valuable tool during shipment and transportation of cargo as it enables you to react to potential damages and drops. The shock sensor is also known as an impact recorder in some industries.

The shock detector is based on a 3-axis sensor that records acceleration forces up to 8G, which corresponds to 8 times the earth’s gravity. The 3-axis sensor includes X Y Z direction and can tell you which direction the equipment has been dropped.

Protect your shipment by attaching a data logger and specifying it to provide a shock alarm if the equipment it is attached to is exposed to a greater impact than it is intended for.

When impacts exceed the predetermined value, the logger can provide an alarm of excessive G forces, enabling you to check for damages immediately. The log function can enable you to determine where and in whose care, the shipment was dropped and damaged.

Light sensor

The data logger has a built-in light sensor and can determine whether the data logger is placed in light or not.

The light sensor can be used to detect if a box or a container is opened. This is useful if you want to keep an eye on when something is being opened. You can even set an alarm when the logger registers light which can be used as additional help in reducing the risk of theft.

The data logger can also measure light intensity.

Tilt detects orientation

Tilt is the direction and inclination detected by the 3-axis accelerometer. The tilt sensor detects if the device is tilted or turned upside down. Tilt is often used for theft protection.

Temperature sensor

The data logger is intended to control cold chain compliance. The temperature sensor is used for full monitoring, recording, and documentation of temperature conditions for longer periods, e.g., during transportation.

The temperature sensor wirelessly transmits valuable temperature data in a high level of accuracy that is visualized on the cloud-based software. In order to surveillance temperature changes, the data logger automatically provides instant alarms if allowed limit has exceeded. This may be important for minimizing temperature-related spoilage costs. Very usefully for cold chain monitoring.

TAG sensors support the data logger

There are two types of tags RFID and RHT. Tags are small wireless identity sensors you connect to the data logger. When the data logger wakes up it will first try to get a position, and then it would see if it is connected to any tags, and then collect data from the tags and then transmit to the server.

 

Measure Temperature and Humidity with a small RHT tag

RHT is a Relative Humidity and Temperature sensor tag that is indented for controlling temperature and humidity in refrigeration, freezing and other equipment who need temperature or humidity monitoring on a high accuracy level.  You can connect up to four RHT tags to one data logger.

 

Humidity sensor

The humidity sensor ensures and documents safe environmental conditions and other condition parameters. The tag automatically records the humidity and transfer the data to the server. It helps to track the optimal humidity and control the right conditions of, e.g., products and the environment of electronic comportments during transport that in many cases must not exceed 75% moisture.

 

Dewpoint calculation

Calculate the dew point based on the data collected from the temperature and humidity sensor. If you know these two parameters, you can calculate the dew point. It is important in some industries to know if there has become dew on metal, as it may cause a risk of rust.

It is important to be able to prove to companies that their items have not been exposed to moist or has been below the dew point.

 

RFID makes sure assets are kept together

RFID is a Radio Frequency Identification tag that communicates to the data logger. Its function is to identify and to make sure that equipment is kept together. For example, it is important for the construction manager to know when the tool is in the van, and with it is not. You can connect up to 8 RFID tags to the data logger.

Chapter 6 - Data Logger Software

So far, this guide has focused on the sensors and functions of the data logger hardware. The next chapter will be focusing on the software that visualizes and analyzes the data collected from the data logger.

Data visualization in a cloud-based management software

The data logger communicates to an interface software. The software allows you to visualize and analyze data the data logger collects. It is designed to analyze smart data and revealing actionable insights that make your business more efficient and intelligent – it notifies you when conditions or location changes.

It allows you to set up a timeline, coordinate and organize your assets online. Moreover, set up alarms, dashboard, and reports. Further, document factual data like driver information or incidents with text and pictures.  The system is available across all platform, and it allows you to integrate all data into your business system via API.

Log function logs the data over time

An IoT data logger includes a log function in case of the connectivity fails or is located in an area without coverage where you need to store data. Thereby, it logs the data instead of losing it. When it gets a signal, it will transmit and save all the data it has collected while the data logger has been without coverage.

It can save data of position, date, time, and sensor data like temperature and shock. It can thereby provide complete data visibility and insights for documentation and knowledge of the incidence.

The log function enables you to for example follow the route of a shipment, the temperature and if there has been any damage during the shipment. A typical example could be tracking a container in a shipment over the Atlantic where there is no coverage. Without the log function, it will just transmit a position when it reaches the harbor, but with the log function, it has collected data during the whole trip. For example, if the temperature in a food container has exceeded the temperature limited, you would not know for how long time the temperature has been exceeded and where it happened.

 

Create a geo site

Geo site is a software feature that creates a location-based insight. It enables you to set up a virtual boundary around a geographical location. The server can notify you if your equipment is inside or outside a chosen geographic location. A geo site is set up by a customized area.

This is very useful for construction managers. They can set up a geo site around a construction site and get an alarm when the equipment leaves the construction site. This is very valuable in case of preventing theft or to control inbound and outbound logistics.

Recovering equipment with Radio Beacon

The radio beacon is only used for recovering lost or stolen items.

For example, it is difficult to find a stolen item in a city with a lot of buildings or in basements where you can’t obtain a GPS signal. Therefore, you switch on the radio beacon sensor on the software platform. Then it starts sending radio signal in the form of sounds. After that, you use a Marshall scanner that can listen for these signals to find the item.

Chapter 7 - Ruggedized Hardware

How ruggedized is the hardware?

IoT data loggers are based on advanced and intelligent technology that are designed for long-term tracking of heavy assets and non-powered equipment.  Data loggers are designed for the heavy industry in very robust hardware that is suited for the toughest environment and weather conditions.

Some data loggers operate with batteries and don’t need a power connection. This enables you to place or hide it anywhere on assets or equipment.

Battery operated data loggers are enabling to manage low power state when the device is inactive. This means that it can exploit the full battery lifespan and offer a very long battery life – sometimes up to 15 years depending on how many reports the data logger is sending to the server.

Chapter 8 - Data Logger Installation

Installation of data loggers

Data loggers are simple and easy to install. You can also quickly move a data logger from one asset to another.

It can be mounted with strong magnets, 3M adhesive tape and/or with two 4mm cylinder head screws. Use an app for a quick and easy installation by placing the data logger on the asset and scan the QR code – then you are ready to go.

Chapter 9 - Data Logger Usage

What can a data logger be used for?

A data logger is an actionable and reliable tool that optimizes your business. A data logger can be used for tracking any asset and non-powered equipment that you need to track for a longer period. It is especially indented for controlling of cargo moving from one place to another.

It’s also intended for identifying conditions and incidents though transportation. Further, it can be used for tracking the usage of equipment. For instance, managers who own and leases their assets, it is ideal to control how and when it has been used or handled. A data logger can even minimize the risk of theft and be used for recovering of stole items. The possibilities are many.

Chapter 10 - Data Logger Benefits

How can it benefit my business?

Now we have been through all technical details about data loggers, and I hope it has given you a better understand on the core functionality and what it can be used for. But how can a data logger more specific benefit your business? A data logger creates a lot of valuable business insights that you can turn into substantial cost savings.

The possibilities are many, so here is a list of the most likely benefits a data logger bring to your business.

  • Complete visibility of business equipment
  • Improve productivity and efficiency
  • Optimize logistics
  • Improve safety
  • Minimize delays
  • Improve customer satisfaction
  • Create overview and optimize processes
  • Fewer calls to drivers about changes
  • Reduce loss of equipment and time of searching for tools
  • Reduce the risk of theft and fast recovery
  • Reduce insurance costs
  • Keep track of factual data
  • Control unauthorized use
  • Reduce fuel costs
  • Maximize the use of business assets and equipment

These benefits enable you to fast and quickly identify changes that maximize ROI!

Chapter 11 - Get Started

How I get started?

If you are considering implementing data loggers for your business, it is essential to identify your business needs for digitalization to ensure you are choosing the right technology and solution.

I’ll suggest these considerations before getting started.

  • Make it clear which tasks you want to solve, what kind of data you want to retrieve and what they should be used for
  • Allocate resources and educate your employees, so it enables them to read data and alarms
  • Describe the purpose and processes and clarified for your employees
  • Understand the techniques and integrate it into the company existing it-systems