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The 2018 guide

Data loggers for business - The Ultimate Guide (2018 update)

Data loggers have become an important business tool to reduce costs and be more efficient. Knowledge of real-time location and conditions of items and vehicles can be crucial for making central decisions in a highly competitive market. It’s a high priority on many managers list to know the current location of asset and equipment and how it has been used and handled during transport.

You are probably experiencing that items and cargo sometimes are getting lost or not in the right condition when it reaches the final costumer which can be 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’re interested in digitalizing your business and don’t know how a data logger works, you can start here. This guide will give you a complete understanding.

It will guide you through all the technical element and specifics around the sensors that a data logger contains. You’ll get a basis for how a data logger works, the benefits and how you get started.

It covers all the important areas about data logging and how you can create full visibility of your equipment, entire fleets, and in 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?

Generally, a data logger allows users to track position, conditions, and other parameters of asset and equipment depending on the particular data logger type. Technically, a data logger is an electronic device that can be used to collect and store data over time at set up intervals.

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

Types of data loggers

In fact, there are different types of data loggers but when talking about data loggers, most people think that a data logger as a device where data retrieves at the final destination.

More simple data loggers must be read off directly from the device or when connecting to a computer while more advanced data loggers collect and send real-time data that can be view and analyzed on a software portal. These data loggers are based on IoT and global connectivity.

This guide will primarily relate to IoT data logger, as it is based on the new technology and brings the most value and flexibility. However, firstly, it will across the more unadvanced data loggers and what they can compare to the IoT data loggers to give a better understanding of the value.

Let’s start with the simpler data loggers

A data logger in a sense is a device you place on equipment but is never retrieved data in real-time. It collects data during transport, and when it arrives at the final destination, you physical have to get it and empty it for data when it reaches a computer at the final destination or read it directly from the location.

The thing is, you can’t react at the moment an incident occurs.

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

The IoT data logger is also logging data during transportation but is continually transmitting the data automatically to a server.

In case of incidents, it also provides alarms if chosen thresholds have been exceeded. Thereby you can follow your equipment during transport in real-time by setting up the data logger to transmit data to the software in a predetermined period and intervals.

Chapter 3 - How does it work?

How does a data logger work?

The data is information recorded by small sensors that are built into a hardware. The sensors are small elements that measure different parameters – including GPS position, temperature and, accelerations. Data loggers include a range of sensors that can be configured after your needs.

The data loggers are embedded with a cloud-based software that visualizes and analysis 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 that streamline 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 to fast and efficiently exchange 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

For securing global connectivity for transmitting data, it requires a good network. The data logger communicates with different interfaces to make sure it sends the data. It can transmit through GSM, 3G, LTE, CAT M1, and CAT NB1.

The better connectivity, the more accurate position you get. Actually, the data logger uses less battery the faster network it communicates with which means it will last longer. The 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 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 faded 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 masters, which means that you can actually achieve better accuracy at a triangulated position.

4G

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 just transferring data at a very fast speed.

The communication system is offered by the two operators Cat M1 and Cat NB1 that are using the 4G cell towers to transmit data. The method is very applicable to this type of data a data logger provides.  It is a brand-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 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. Knowledge of time and position of items is fundamental parameters for business managers for decisions from day to day planning to optimize logistics. That can reveal essential factors to determine where equipment and cargo are located and make sure that the cargo and equipment are in the right location or on schedule.

The location of equipment and cargo are visualized on a map on a 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 can’t get GSM connection, and therefore, the data logger has included a log function that logs the data and transmits it when coverage is reestablished. Further, you can choose a data logger with iridium satellites if it is necessary to be updated 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, it will provide a triangulation via GSM cell towers. The GSM will give a less accurate position, but often it is better to get a less accurate 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 is using an embedded 3-axis accelerometer sensor that measures the amount of acceleration due to gravity. The 3- axis accelerometer is based on movement, direction, and speed. Therefore, it can be used for detecting when and in what direction an asset or equipment are moving.

The 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 indented to manage operation behavior by measuring actual working hours and performance of assets and equipment to optimize the usage of it. It enables you to know when and where an asset is working or when it is in idle time.

It can be used to monitor and control unauthorized use of your assets and to secure that they are operating as intended. the knowledge of asset utilization improves operations and reduces costs.

Movement is often a prerequisite for utilization can be determined. It is displayed after an item has been in motion or not in motion for a 1 minute. If the data logger has been in motion for a half minute, then it is determined as in motion. However, it can also be determined by light and temperature. For example, if a generator is warm, it defines as in use, or if the data logger is in light, it is in use too.

Shock sensor detects G-force

A shock sensor is a highly valuable tool during shipments and transportation to control potential damage and drops.

The shock detector is the 3-axis sensor that records acceleration forces. It provides real-time data of impact your data logger has resisted.

It enables you to set up a value, and if the value exceeds, it provides an alarm upon excessive G forces. You can thereby control if your equipment has been exposed to potential damage. E.g., when cargo is being transferred from a ship to the harbor, it can record if the cargo has been exposed to a significant impact. The alarm provides time and position of the incident. It can measure up to 8G – it corresponds to 8 times the earth’s gravity.

You can thus set the data logger to provide a shock alarm if the equipment is exposed to a greater impact than the one it is intended for. For example, set up a threshold to 5G. When the data logger records an impact on more than 5G, the server will send an alarm. This means that the equipment has been subjected to a greater impact than the equipment may sustain.

The 3-axis sensor includes X Y Z direction and can tell you which direction the equipment potentially has been dropped.

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 for detecting if, e.g., a box or a container is opened. For example, it is useful to keep an eye on when something is being opened – it can thereby provide an alarm when it registers light. It can be used as an additional help in reducing the risk of theft. The data logger can also measure the 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 limed 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 the 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 rote 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