The updated 2021 guide
Data loggers for business -
The Ultimate Guide
Data loggers have become an important business tool to increase efficiency and reduce costs.
Knowledge of the real-time location and condition of assets in transport or machinery and key equipment is high on the wishlist of many business managers. This is because it can be crucial for making effective decisions in a highly competitive market.
Rising above the competition
You have probably experienced that items and cargo sometimes are lost or are not in the right condition when reaching the final customer. Or you have experienced how projects are delayed because of theft or key machinery breakdown. As you know, this can be very costly.
To rise above your competitors, you must optimize processes. And many of the issues mentioned above 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 guide aims to give you a complete understanding of data loggers and how they can improve your business.
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.
- What is a data logger?
- IoT – the technology that changes industries
- How does a data logger work?
- What can a data logger be used for?
- Networks ensure global connectivity of your equipment
- The data logger sensors
- The data logger software
- The data logger hardware
- Installation of data loggers
- Benefits of using data loggers
- How do I get started?
Enjoy your reading and let data loggers start growing your business.
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.
It is equipped with an internal microprocessor, a memory, and one or more sensors that record measurable data. Generally battery-powered, some can also be wired and will therefore 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, like the ones from Trusted, send their data directly to servers via the internet.
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 less advanced data loggers and how they compare to the IoT data loggers to give a better understanding of the value of IoT connectivity.
Simple 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 real-time to any logged incidents during the logged period.
Therefore, most 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 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 2 – INTERNET OF THINGS
IoT – the technology that changes industries
Internet of things (IoT) is a phenomenon with the potential to transform 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 sensor data over great distances.
IoT devices enable you, fast and efficiently, to collect data from the smart sensors into intelligent software solutions with which you can analyse information which has never been available before. With this data, you will be able to gain insights you can turn into operational efficiency, improvements and substantial cost savings.
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 contain and how they can bring value to your business.
CHAPTER 4 – DATA LOGGER USER CASES
What can a data logger be used for?
A data logger is an intelligent and customizable tool that optimizes your business. It can be used for tracking any asset and non-powered equipment that you need to track for a longer period.
It is especially intended for controlling cargo moving from one place to another. It is also intended for identifying conditions and incidents throughout the transportation.
A data logger can even minimize the risk of theft and be used for recovering stolen items.
The possibilities are many! We will introduce and elaborate on many different scenarios throughout this guide.
CHAPTER 5 – GLOBAL COVERAGE
Ensure global connectivity of your equipment
In order to secure global connectivity for transmitting data, a good network is required.
Data loggers communicate with different networks to make sure they can transmit data and will always communicate with the network with the best connection. The faster the network to which they can connect, the less battery is used. This means battery-life of trackers with faster network connections will last longer.
Based on the above, we recommend loggers that contain more than one mobile technology.
These technologies are most typically GSM, 3G, LTE, CAT M1 and CAT NB1.
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 can also provide a position based on triangulation.
In some countries, the 2G network is being phased out, so having a tracker with both GSM and 3G is a safe option. 3G is the third-generation cellular network with a stronger and more reliable signal.
As 3G operates at a higher frequency, it has been necessary to set up more cell towers. This in turn means that you can achieve better accuracy of your data logger, when position is based on a triangulated position.
LTE stands for Long Term Evolution and is based on the 4G network. It is an increasingly widespread technology developed on IoT standards and 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.
While it has been around for a while, it is not universally implemented around the globe. Ensure your data logger has a 2G fallback option to maintain GSM coverage.
A data logger using the Iridium™ satellite system 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 especially suitable for military, expeditions and logistics operations outside urban areas.
CHAPTER 6 – DATA LOGGER SENSORS
The sensors collect data upon the following parameters:
How does the data logger provide a position?
Knowing the position of cargo, machinery and equipment is a fundamental parameter for business managers in their day-to-day planning. And with a mounted data logger the location of assets is visualized on a map in the cloud-based software.
The data logger uses GPS to acquire a position and sends data to a server via GPRS (GSM). GPS is a global positioning system for an accurate position. To obtain a position by GPS, an unobstructed path to the open sky is recommended.
In cases where GPS is unavailable, the logger will send a position based on triangulation of the cell towers. This will give a less accurate position, but most often this is better than no position at all.
In cities, where cell towers are closer, triangulation gives you an accuracy down to 100 meters. However, at the coasts or in the countryside, the accuracy based on triangulation might be 5 – 10 kilometers, because of the longer distances between cell towers.
On the open sea and in remote areas, you cannot establish a GSM connection and as a result you cannot log position data. However, the data logger includes a log function so it will still log other data from the sensors and transmit this when coverage is reestablished.
If necessary, some data loggers can be configured to send transmissions via SMS if GPRS coverage is lost.
For truly global position coverage you can choose a data logger with Iridium satellites to receive updates even in remote areas.
Motion sensor detects when your equipment is moving
With an embedded 3-axis accelerometer sensor, a data logger can 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 idle.
This feature can optimize your business through monitoring and controlling unauthorized use of your assets or securing 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 an impact greater 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 also enable you to determine where, and in whose care, the shipment was dropped and damaged.
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’s sensor is so finely tuned it 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.
It is also possible to detect rotation. This is helpful if the logger is attached to machinery that need to in stay in rotation or should not rotate beyond a certain degree. Alarms can be sent in real-time if rotation has stopped or exceeded user-specific limits.
A data logger can also control cold chain compliance. The temperature sensor is used for full monitoring, recording and documentation of temperature conditions for longer periods such as during transportation.
The temperature sensor wirelessly transmits valuable temperature data to a high level of accuracy which can be visualized on the cloud-based software. In the event of any unacceptable temperature changes, it can automatically provide instant alarms, for example if an allowed limit has been exceeded.
This could be an important tool to minimize temperature-related spoilage costs, something which is very useful for cold chain monitoring.
Tag sensors provides external temperature and humidity features
Measure Temperature and Humidity with a small RHT tag
The humidity sensor ensures and documents safe environment conditions and other condition parameters. The tag automatically records humidity and transfers data to the server.
Tracking humidity is a great way to control the right conditions of certain products such as electronic components during transport, where moisture in many cases must not exceed 75%.
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, which is important in some industries where dew on metal can cause a risk of rust.
It is very important for some companies to be able to prove that their items have not been exposed to moisture and have remained 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 a construction manager to know when his tools are in the van, and when they are not.
You can connect up to 8 RFID tags to the data logger.
CHAPTER 7 – 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 with an interface software which allows you to visualize and analyze the data collected from your assets. It is designed to analyze smart data and reveal actionable insights that make your business more efficient and intelligent. It is also this software which notifies you when conditions or locations change.
The software allows you to set up a timeline and coordinate and organize your assets online. You will be able to set up alarms, group multiple units and schedule frequency of transmissions from the data logger. You can also document factual data like driver information or incidents with text and pictures.
A great software system is available across all platforms and 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. This enables you to collect big data sets from the sensors with minimum battery consumption, as the logger keeps sensor data in logs instead of transmitting it to the server immediately.
The log function is also important in the case of connectivity failure or if the data logger is moved into an area without coverage. In these events, data is logged instead of lost. When GSM coverage is re-obtained, it will transmit the data it has collected while having been without coverage on its scheduled time of transmissions.
Logs can contain data of position, date, time, and sensor data like temperature and shock etc. Thereby it can provide complete data visibility and insights for documentation and knowledge of any incidences.
For example, an advanced log function will enable you to follow a breadcrumbs route of a shipment. It will also enable you to track the temperature of a shipment to see if there has been any fluctuations during transport.
In the latter case, a data logger without a log function on a freight ship would only be able to transmit a temperature right before leaving data coverage and not again until reaching harbor. With the log function, it has collected data during the whole trip.
This is crucial in cold chain cases where the temperature in food containers must not exceed a certain temperature limit at any point. Now you would know if temperature control has failed during transport and for how long time limits have been exceeded.
Create a geo site
Geo site is a software feature that offers location-based insights. It enables you to set up a virtual boundary around a geographical location. The server can notify you if your equipment is inside, outside or if it leaves this chosen geographic location.
This is very useful for construction managers among others. They can set up a geo site around a construction site and hereby receive alarms when equipment leaves the construction site.
Recovering equipment with Radio Beacon
The radio beacon feature is only used for recovering lost or stolen items.
If an item has been stolen and is stored in a building or a basement where you cannot obtain a GPS signal, you can switch on the radio beacon sensor on the software platform. Your data logger will then start sending radio signals which can be detected using a Marshall scanner.
The combination of triangulation data and the radio scanner, makes it possible to locate the items that were otherwise stolen and gone.
CHAPTER 8 – Tough, Durable HARDWARE
How durable 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. A great data logger is designed for the heavy industry in very robust hardware that is suited for the toughest environments and weather conditions.
Especially data loggers that operate with batteries and don’t need a power connection must be tough and durable. This is due to the fact that their ability to stand alone enables you to place or hide it anywhere on assets or equipment.
Battery-powered data loggers are designed to be in a very low power state when the device is inactive, so they need not be changed due to low battery too often.
With the right settings data loggers can exploit the full battery lifespan and offer a very long battery life – sometimes up to 15 years depending on how many transmissions the data logger is configured to send to the server.
CHAPTER 9 – DATA LOGGER INSTALLATION
Installation of data loggers
Data loggers are easy to install. You can also quickly move a data logger from one asset to another.
They can be mounted with strong magnets, 3M adhesive tape and/or with 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 10 – DATA LOGGER BENEFITS
How can it benefit my business?
This guide has gone through all the technical details about data loggers, and we hope it has given you a better understanding of the core functionalities and what they can be used for.
But how can a data logger more specifically benefit your business?
Below you will find many of the usual benefits we hear from our customers at Trusted, when they report back to us.
- Complete visibility of business equipment
- Improve productivity and efficiency by knowing position of assets
- Optimize logistics
- Improve safety of goods
- Minimize delays by reacting immediately
- 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 speed up the recovery in case of theft
- Reduce insurance costs
- Keep track of factual data
- Control unauthorized use
- Reduce fuel costs
- Maximize the use of business assets and equipment
If you find solutions to any of your challenges on the list above, do consider investing in data loggers and give your employees the best tools available to work with.
We believe you will identify similar results and maximise the return on your investment in data loggers.
CHAPTER 11 – GET STARTED
How do 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.
We 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 they are able to read data and alarms
- Describe the purpose and processes and clarify these for your employees
- Understand the technical part of your data logging solution and integrate it into the company’s existing it-systems