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Junelyn Little

Why Dyacon MDL-700 Data Logger?

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Data Logger Problems

Data loggers are relatively esoteric devices, utilized by a narrow field of experts for industrial and research activities. Each data logger has its unique characteristics, differences in I/O, accessories, programming language, power profile, and cost. Of these, the complexity and cost can be intimidating, forcing new users to explore alternatives.

The growing availability of capable project boards, such as Raspberry Pi, BeagleBone, Arduino, and others has changed the value proposition for data loggers. Budget-conscious researchers and professionals have found that these cheap embedded platforms can be programmed using familiar (or easy-to-learn) languages. Open-source tools, a broad range of peripherals, and community support add to the attraction.

Even though general purpose project boards may be a good starting point, they are optimized to be cheap and compact, not robust industrial platforms. Project boards may fail when low-power, wide operating temperature range, robust memory, or multiple sensor inputs are needed.

A national environmental monitoring program is an ongoing case study of the above trend and challenges. Program managers are currently soliciting bids to replace their existing custom data loggers. The BeagleBone project board has been selected as the basis for the new product because it offers good processing power, a wealth of I/O, and open-source safety. However, BeagleBone cannot meet the sensor input, power robustness, connectivity, and operating temperature range requirements.

To correct these deficiencies, they have launched a large development project to create a robust (and proprietary) version of the project board. Even with this effort, two additional peripheral boards are needed to augment the power and I/O limitations. This custom development project is expected to cost in excess of $500,000, just for the design work.

This new data logger is supposed to be ready to deploy next year. We’ll have to see how it goes.

For user’s not backed by government money, a different solution is needed.

MDL Proposition

So, what’s an alternative that balances the value and flexibility of a project board with the robust features of a conventional data logger?

Dyacon MDL-700 was developed specifically to address this space.

The following table may illustration the differences.
1 – Indicates that the platform is likely to meet the requirement.
2 – Indicates that the feature is possible or available in some variants.
3 – Indicates that the feature is unavailable or uncommon.

Low score wins.

Data logger users will likely take issue with the lumping of all data loggers together. There is no question that Campbell Scientific’s CR1000X and ThermoFisher’s dataTaker DT8 are formidable products with a wealth of highly-optimized features and a number of variants. But, even with these features, they fall short for those seeking an open-source knowledge base, Linux capability, robust programmability, extensive connectivity, and mid-range cost.

In the end, it is a matter of selecting the right tool for the job. MDL-700 adds a value proposition to the range of options and we hope that we can serve your needs.

Eugene

*Dyacon’s own Chris Cox has developed two open-source Python data logger projects, dataBear, and pyMDL. DataBear is a platform-neutral data logger program that can run on any Linux computer. PyMDL adds hardware-specific functionality for Dyacon MDL-700. Both projects are active and ongoing.

Dyacon MDL-700 with Serial Expansion Module

What is a Data Logger?

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Device Names

A data logger (or datalogger) is a device that retrieves data from sensors and stores it for later retrieval. While the word “datalogger,” and its variants (“logger,” “data recorder,” “programmable data logger”), are common in the environmental monitoring industry, other industries sometimes use slightly different terminology.

For laboratory settings, a “data acquisition system” (DAQ or DAS) is a common description. These are typically bench-top instruments and may be focused on high frequency, or specialized data measurements. The connectors, enclosure, and operating temperature are intended for indoor applications.

In the industrial sector, “data recorder” or “process recorder” might be used to monitor ongoing automation system activities. The data recorder in conjunction with the software has been given the verbose description of “operational historian”. Regardless of the differences in terminology, the basic idea is to measure and store data from sensors.

Common Data Logger Features

Data logger features can vary substantially, with different designs for specific applications and cost constraints. However, a general purpose data logger typically has some features that go beyond simply measuring and storing data. These features include:

  • Structured data storage (example: CSV)
  • Broad sensor electrical and protocol compatibility (analog, digital, pulse, frequency)
  • Scheduled and programmable measurements
  • Basic processing of raw data, such as average, min, max

Data Storage

Data storage can be as simple as the raw numbers in a text file, but generally there is structure such as an associated time stamp. These may be stored as columns in a CSV file. Storage of metadata (equipment used, units, and so forth) is also important to record.

Sensor Compatibility

It is difficult for manufacturers to design a device that is compatible with every possible sensor, but general purpose data loggers support a broad range of digital and analog sensor outputs.

Data loggers may be limited by the number of ports on a device, program inflexibility, and incompatibility with sensor output type. This means that data logger hardware must be evaluated in conjunction with the sensors required for a particular application.

Programmability

Sensor measurements typically occur on a schedule that ranges from milliseconds to hours, depending on the application. Programmable data loggers allow for adjusting measurement schedule. Often calculated values, such as minimum, maximum, and average can be stored.

Advanced Data Logger Features

More sophisticated general purpose data loggers have a number of advanced features:

  • Concurrent sensor measurement timing
  • Advanced programmability
  • Data quality monitoring
  • Sensor equipment controls
  • Data transmission
  • Field Serviceability

Measurement Timing

Timing of measurements is often crucial for data interpretation and advanced data logger software is structured to execute measurements concurrently rather than sequentially. For example, if two sensors are connected to the data logger and one of the sensors requires 10 seconds to perform a measurement while the other sensor only requires 1 second, the faster measurement should not wait for the slower measurement to finish. Concurrent execution enables both measurements to stay on schedule.

Timing can also be important for the operation of secondary sensor equipment like wipers on optical sensors and sensor heaters. Advanced data loggers can control secondary equipment and be programmed to activate it on a schedule or in response to events.

Advanced Programmability

Data loggers have a wide variety of user interfaces. Many programmable data loggers use a proprietary script language or configuration wizard. Proprietary software tools will facilitate configuration, data collection, and data visualization, but may limit program flexibility. Whereas a data logger built from a small micro-controller device like Arduino may have more flexibility, but will require high-level programming skills to configure and collect data.

Data Quality Monitoring

Advanced programmability allows users to perform data quality monitoring at the point of measurement. The data logger can then react to sensor readings by initiating a new measurement, resetting a device, or sending alerts to operators.

Control Output

Some data loggers also include control outputs, allowing them act on measurement conditions, such as turning off a pump when water level reaches a set point.

Data Transmission

Historically, getting the data off of the data logger has required a manual task involving connecting the device to a computer and transferring files using proprietary software. Modern data loggers use automatic data transmission via the internet, cell phone, satellite, or radio. Data transmission enables live monitoring of the data collection and automatic data monitoring helps ensure the data is immediately useful. Real-time transmissions ensure that operational problems can be rapidly identified and addressed.

Field Serviceability

Field serviceability is critical for environmental data loggers. They are often deployed in remote locations. Any features that limit the equipment required for service or facilitate troubleshooting will result in time and cost savings to the user, as well as improve up-time.

An LCD or OLED display can allow for better on-site system monitoring and troubleshooting.

In addition, a user input method is a necessary companion to the display. Even paging through current measurements or error codes can be an invaluable aid to field service technicians.

Animal damage, weather damage, and normal wear and tear will damage cables. Field serviceable connectors can be important for unexpected repairs.

Overall, system design that minimizes tools, cables, software, and equipment required for field activities is an important design priority.

Dyacon MDL-700

This spring, Dyacon is introducing the MDL-700, a fully featured data logger that is modular in design to accommodate a wide range of applications. One unique feature of the MDL is the Linux operating system. Rather than using proprietary software that offers a limited number of features, the MDL can be programmed however the user desires. It is compatible with languages like C and Python out of the box.

We also provide open-source Python based software (pyMDL – https://github.com/dyacon/pyMDL) with the goal of implementing as much of the functionality discussed above as possible. PyMDL is still in early development stages, but should be usable by almost anyone by the time the MDL begins shipping to customers in March.

Since the software is open source, people are welcome to contribute new features or to take the code and customize it to their unique needs.

Summary

No tool is right for every job. Data loggers come in unique flavors for each application.

Please contact Dyacon if you have any data logger questions. We are happy to help if we can or refer you to another source if we can’t.

 

 

Weather station data to cell phone

DyaconLive Growers Report

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DyaconLive provides our customers with an easy to use website for staying up to date with current weather conditions and makes it easy to download historical station data. However, we know that for many applications weather data is just the first component of more in depth analysis. Indeed, the key value provided by a station may not necessarily be the raw measurements, but rather the derived quantities that can provide actionable information. The question a business owner faces might not be “What is the temperature?” but rather “What is the trend in average temperature?”.

At Dyacon, we strive to facilitate this need for actionable insights. As part of this effort, we are introducing DyaconLive Reports. These are application-specific reports that are downloaded from DyaconLive and provide sophisticated data analysis in a user friendly interface.

One of the reports now available on DyaconLive is a “Grower’s Report”. This report is specifically targeted at agricultural producers and helps monitor crop growth by calculating Growing Degree Days (GDD) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Growing_degree-day). GDDs are calculated from air temperature measurements above (or sometimes below) a certain threshold.

Mathematically:

This equation is often simplified by using daily max/min values. Temperature is an important factor in plant and insect growth, so GDDs provide a means of evaluating when a particular crop or insect will reach maturity. This helps grower’s anticipate problems and plan for harvest.

The figure below shows a typical Grower’s Report for one of Dyacon’s test stations in Logan, Utah. The key components of the report, common in many different reports, are highlighted yellow. Near the top is an overview of station metadata and the dates associated with the output. A data quality assessment table is displayed next to the station table, and this is arguably one of the most important components of any report. Without good quality input data, the report output is meaningless. Input data quality is assessed automatically by the DyaconLive server when the report is generated. Measurements are assessed for reasonableness in terms of data values, behavior, and in some cases consistency with other measurements. The details behind these algorithms will be discussed further in a future blog.

 

 

The main output of the report consists of a summary table detailing settings and totals, and interactive charts for visualizing report output. The Grower’s Report charts temperature over the report timeframe and shows where the GDD threshold is located relative the temperature measurements. The GDD chart shows accumulated GDD and how it is changing through time. Users can assess current GDD values to determine how their crop is maturing.

Weather Station Requirements

  • Temperature
  • DyaconLive connection

Compatible Dyacon Weather Stations: MS-120, MS-130, MS-135, MS-140, MS-150

The only measurement required for this report is air temperature, which should be present on all Dyacon meteorological stations. It is worth noting that other reports will require a wider variety of instruments not present on every station.

How To Generate Your Report

Report generation currently requires Manager or Admin level access to DyaconLive.

  • Log in and navigate to the “Reports” section of the Data Page for your station.
  • Select a start date, temperature threshold, and temperature units.
  • Select ‘Generate Report’ and the report will be displayed in the browser.

Chris Cox

Burning Man Weather Station

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Building a functional, temporary city in the desert every year is a remarkable challenge. The Burning Man organization does a remarkable job of pulling off one of the biggest and most challenging events in the world. Throw in a temporary airstrip (88NV) with thousands of aircraft flights and you now have a unique challenge that most event organizers don’t have to face.

Ben, a staff member and pilot explained:

I don’t know [the number of flights] off the top of my head. If I recall correctly it is in the low thousands of ops. Like 2000-3000 over the course of the week that it is open.

Just to give you an idea of what it is like, I made 27 ops last year myself there are about 10 pilots who fly people around like I do. The ultralight guys do close to a hundred each. Then we have the charter ops, I have no idea how many of those there are but it is lots, and parachute operations and medivac… We had something like 160 planes on the field for the people who flew their own planes in.

It is pretty impressive, we spend most of the year planning and then put it all together in a week use it for a week and then tear it apart in a few days.

To the air boss, local and remotely accessible weather data is an important component.

Dyacon weather stations provide surface weather data through a cable connection to a local PC while also sending data to DyaconLive and Weather Underground. Additionally, text messaging is used for weather reports, remote debugging, and configuration.

Burning Man first deployed a Dyacon station in 2017.

These stations are erected every year by their aviation staff and stored until the next year.

After sitting idle for the year, the 2017 station required a firmware update when it was deployed. This was easily done over-the-air, no programming tools, cables, or software utilities required, just a simple text message command.

 

The Burning Man staff do a remarkable job. We are proud to be a part of their dusty venture. (And we are glad that they now have two Dyacon stations serving their needs in 2018, one with cell phone and one on WiFi.)

Eugene

Ethiopian Weather Station

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Getting a sophisticated weather station deployed in remote areas can be a challenge. Equipment that requires custom programming and setup by outside engineers adds to the overall system cost. Maintenance by similar outside resources means that systems may be down for extended periods of time until funds can be allocated and engineers scheduled.

We recently provided a weather for a Small-scale & Micro Irrigation Support (SMIS) Project in Ethiopia. We shipped the equipment, manuals, and a USB drive and DVD with our YouTube videos. The users did the rest.

The following are some pictures that tell the story better than I.

We strive to build the most practical industrial weather stations on the market. This is a good example of the usability.

Eugene

DyaconLive Part 2

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Read part 1 here. Updates are being made to as quickly as we can get them out.

Update: 10 July 2018

The work goes on to make DyaconLive more and more useful. Two table options were added to DyaconLive with the July release, a daily summary table and an aviation advisory table. One of these will be enabled on your login depending on the function of the weather station.

DyaconLive Panes

Last Observation is now give as an age rather than a date. This makes it more intuitive for users to see how old the data is.

We have also rearranged the dashboard to make room for the new table and improve readability. The new dashboard looks beautiful.

DyaconLive Weather Station Dashboard

 

Update: 29 June 2018

One of the features we have added to DyaconLive is the option to set alarms based on instrument conditions.

DyaconLive Alarms

Users can not only set the value, but can also specify instructions and a specific email recipient.

Are there any conditions for which you would like to receive alerts? Dewpoint, heat index, cloud base? Let us know.

Update: 29 March 2018

Chris and Eric released a new version of DyaconLive. The coolest part is the weather station status page that charts the battery voltage, solar panel voltage, and charger state. This gives users an excellent tool to evaluate battery condition. (You have to be the station admin user to see this, it doesn’t show up on the public link.) Read More

Stay Up to Date With Us

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There are a variety of ways you can stay up to date with the staff here at Dyacon. Our social media will direct you to new blog posts and ideas, and our quarterly newsletter is an email sent out once per quarter informing you of significant Dyacon updates.

Quarterly Newsletter:





 

 

 




AGU Fall Meeting 2017

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December 11-15th 2017, Dyacon will be exhibiting with over 300 other companies at the American Geophysical Union’s Fall Meeting. The meeting will be held at the New Orleans Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Stop by Booth #644 to meet Eugene Bodrero, the owner of Dyacon.

Check the AGU website for more information and to register to attend.

Winston Drag Racing 1994

Dyacon Weather Stations For Drag Racing

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In racing, there are two reasons for collecting weather data.

  • Engine performance analysis – Density altitude (DA)
  • Public safety – Lightning detection and heat index

Weather and drag racing

Density altitude is used to describe the density of the air using temperature, barometric pressure, and relative humidity. In a hot and humid location, the density altitude may be much higher than the actual altitude. Why does it matter? When the density altitude is higher than the actual altitude, engine performance may be decreased. Inversely, when DA is lower there is more oxygen available resulting in faster cars and better ET’s.

An on-site weather station can provide wind speed and wind direction measurements. These are important considerations for vehicle control during front-wheel lift and chute deployment. Wind conditions may also have an affect on ET. Read More

American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting

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American Meteorological Society annual meeting 2017

Dyacon is pleased to announce attendance at the American Meteorological Society‘s 97th annual meeting as an exhibitor.

 

The American Meteorological Society (AMS) is the nation’s leading professional scientific organization, with over 13,000 members. Members come from many different professions including weather enthusiasts, educators,  researchers, scientists, broadcast meteorologists, students, and other professionals in meteorological fields.

The annual meeting will be held in Seattle, Washington from Monday, January 23rd through Thursday, January 26th. Our booth number is 718 in the main hall. Stop by to talk with Eugene and get face-to-face consultation. We hope to see you there!

Exhibit Hours:

Mon, 23 January 4:00–7:30 p.m. (Intn’l Walk-Around 4–5:30 p.m.; Ribbon Cutting at 5:30 p.m.)
Tues, 24 January 9:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m.
Wed, 25 January 9:00 a.m.–6:30 p.m.
Thurs, 26 January 9:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m.

Exhibitor list  |  Additional Information

 

Update 2/17/17