What is Data Logging?

How many times have you dealt with goods that were damaged in transit? This becomes a reoccurring scenario without efficient circumstance monitoring in place to prevent it from happening again. But what can stop this reoccurring theme is by utilising data logging. It's a process that uses a data logger to collect and record data over time in different environments. Due to the advancement of technology, namely IoT, any out-of-tolerance conditions alert you even in real time. With all that said, let's discover how the logging process functions in more detail and the different types of sensors that exist.

February 25, 2019
How does it work?

Data from the logging process is recorded from single or multiple sensors (input). Examples of these inputs gathered and measured are sound, temperature, ambient light, soil moisture, etc. The actual data logger is made up of 3 components - a microprocessor, memory, and sensor(s). Generally, this electronic device is battery powered, but some can be connected to external power. This data is stored within the battery-powered electronic device, a computer or now in the cloud securely within seconds, which allows for instant access to the full history.

Logger devices take readings at predetermined times throughout that day that can range from one every few hours or more to real-time. Typically the longer the measurement interval, the longer the battery will last.

Different types of data loggers

When it comes to choosing a data logger, there are four main types: standalone, wireless, computer-based and web-based. The choice you make will depend on what kind of environment you wish to deploy the logger.

Standalone loggers are usually small, transportable and come with a USB port that allows data to be transferred to a computer. Models that have internal sensors can track data at the deployment location, whereas models that have external sensors are used for monitoring away from the logger.

A wireless logger that can access data via mobile devices and other wireless options such as Bluetooth, eliminates the manual process of retrieving and compiling data from various systems. This is because it uses a cloud-based platform. The main advantage being the speed at which upload of data is transmitted to the platform - it takes seconds which gives instant visibility all through the supply chain. Logmore's service is a good example of using wireless loggers together with a cloud-based databank.

A web-based logging system is connected online via a wireless network or ethernet cables. Collected data is transferred to a remote secure web server and stored, which can be accessed and processed later. The main benefit of web-based loggers is the capability for real-time alerts - which are also the main drawback. Operating in real-time consumes a lot more energy than periodical measuring, leading to either requiring a power cord or having a shorter operational time.

In a computer-based system the sensors module that log data is connected into the computer, which means the software on the computer provides instant data analysis — in addition to this, offering real-time visual display when the sensors are updating. While the data is instantly accessible, it's also limited by the system it is based on.

Discovering more sensors in real-world scenarios

Now that we've recognized the common types of data loggers, we can move on to specifics, namely the sensors and their typical uses. Let's find out more about the typical ones that are used for circumstance monitoring.

1. Cold chain process

It is imperative that goods sensitive to temperature changes such as food, pharmaceuticals, medical products, chemicals, etc. Must be monitored for fluctuations regularly. Failure to do this results in spoiled and potentially hazardous cargo that can only be disposed of, damaging bottom lines and reputation. In 2017, the cold-chain logistics spending was globally over $13 billion for biopharmaceutical goods alone - of which at least 20% is estimated to be damaged during shipping. 20%? Unacceptable, from both financial and environmental standpoints. But with a logging solution that logs any variations in temperature which is above a specified threshold, these incidents can be investigated even at the moment they occur because of the cloud service.

If you're particularly interested in data logging in a pharmaceutical context, take a look at Three Reasons Data Logging is Vital for Your Pharma Company.

2. Too humid or too dry? 

Being kept in too humid or dry conditions ruins a wide variety of items. Condensation due to changes in temperature combined with humidity can cause electronic devices to short-circuit, musical instruments such as guitars, violins and pianos may be damaged by drying out too much, and fine art suffers from both high and low humidity. Needless to say, all the aforementioned products are often highly valuable, and ensuring the right environmental conditions can save a massive amount of money. If the item is completely irreplaceable due to extreme rarity, losing it to such simply avoidable mistake would be tragic.

It's also easy to forget that the food we consume is every day is dependent on the plants that need to grow in stringent conditions to produce optimal yield. The sensors included in many loggers automatically record humidity and temperature data where it is accessible by everyone in the team - allowing them to utilize the data to make the growing process much more efficient in the long run.

3. Shocks that can lead to breaks

Sensing shock using a logger is vital for monitoring highly valuable and fragile goods in transit by truck, train or shipment. For shock monitoring, the logger is fixed onto the cargo to record and measure whether the item has suffered shocks bigger than the acceptable limits. All of which can provide insight for corrective action from the data history.

On the surface, a fragile electronic device may look like it is fine, but a minor impact may cause irreparable damage. By monitoring impacts, quality assurance can point out the moment a shock has occurred and possibly damaged the product, either to correct points where problems frequently occur, or simply for insurance purposes.

4. Tilts that can indicate theft

Many products, like certain chemicals and electronics, absolutely have to stay in an upright position through their shipping and storing. A tilt sensor continuously monitors the orientation or inclination of the item. If the position of the device has dramatically turned on its axis (there could be many), the product may be ruined for good.

5. Light sensors

Quite simply a data logger can detect if natural light is detected on a product. For example, paintings can degrade faster if they are exposed to light for extended periods in museums, ironically. You could also use a light sensor to verify that a package has not been opened after the sensor is activated, or to monitor light conditions in places that favour darker lighting for one reason or another.

Did you enjoy the article? Take a look at our blog posts Datafication: Using Data Logging as a Business Development Tool and Tech Innovations in Supply Chain as well.

At this point you may also be interested in taking a closer look at the Logmore service, we might be able to help you with your problems. And hey, you can also book a meeting with us if you'd rather talk!

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