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.
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.
*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.