Environmental monitoring is the process of tracking and recording changes in specific conditions within a specified area. The information collected is stored on an apparatus known as a data logger. Applications where environmental monitoring is essential include areas within the healthcare and food manufacturing industries.
In these examples, environmental monitoring would be employed to ensure that temperature and humidity levels do not slip outside of a predetermined range. Having monitors in place to ‘watch’ these levels provides a layer of security that may prevent losses due to spoilage.
In this article, we will take a look at what brought this system for the monitoring of conditions about, how it has advanced and where the process is heading in the future.
Section 1: The Past
Environmental monitoring has been with us for several years in many different forms. The need for such data collection originated when technological achievements permitted more accurate and constant (unattended) monitoring. Before technology advanced to the point where chart recorders became commonplace in such applications as weather stations in airports, all data was measured manually and recorded using pen and paper. According to Dickson, data loggers are not only cost-effective, they are more reliable and can record multiple conditions simultaneously.
Section 2: The Present
Today’s data loggers are fairly high-tech compared to their predecessors. There are many different types of data loggers with sensors to monitor such diverse conditions as temperature, humidity, pulse, soil conditions and most any other type of condition that requires tracking of changes or maintenance of stability within a dedicated zone and timeframe.
The loggers contain a microprocessor that is used as a memory. Once programmed, the logger can be left alone to conduct regular sampling of conditions for a period of time. Some battery-operated stand-alone models are portable and can record information while in transit. Other monitors can be linked together and wirelessly connected to a computer.
Technology continues to evolve in the world of environmental monitoring. Software and mobile apps can be used to analyze the data being recorded. For models that do not connect to computer systems wirelessly, a USB connection can be used to download the information to be analyzed. These monitoring systems are becoming widely adopted in many industries.
Section 3: The Future
The future looks bright for data loggers because the need for constant monitoring of conditions in an enclosed area such as a factory, warehouse, storage locker, medical supply storage facility or food manufacturing complex continues to be required. In most of these cases, the environmental conditions must remain within a specific zone to maintain compliance.
Below, we will take a closer look at some of the most recent innovations related to data loggers:
We mentioned that data loggers can wirelessly connect to computers, smartphones, and other handheld devices. This was primarily to permit ease of data transfer from the logger memory to a computer or other device for analyzing. However, wireless technology has taken data loggers much further into the future to the point where they can activate alarm systems to indicate a rapid change in conditions that might require human intervention to correct the issue.
Taking wireless communication a step further, data loggers are now equipped with the ability to automatically report data and be remotely controlled. This means that you could be away from the building site and get a push notification on your smartphone regarding an event. Rather than taking the time to return to the location of the data logger, you can sign in and adjust the monitor, correct the problem, increase sampling rate or whatever you need to do from your remote location. If you get a notification late at night or while on vacation, you can address the situation quickly, without much loss of time-both in response to the notification or the interruption of your vacation.
While on the subject of wireless communication, data loggers are capable of serving web pages with current readings. An example of this is the website for your local airport weather station. You can see exact readings of various conditions as they currently are rather than from an hourly observation made either by a human weather observer or an hourly data logger sampling conditions. For industrial applications, the data sent to web pages will assist in showing potential clients or regulatory bodies that compliance levels are being met at all times.
Data loggers can e-mail their alarm notifications to whoever needs to be made aware of an issue related to the recorded conditions. They can also remotely upload their daily results into databases or directly to users via FTP protocols.
The use of various digital interfaces will eventually eliminate the need for software and hardware devices. These digital interfaces will permit a direct interconnection between the onboard data logger digital sensors and a computer.
Currently, there are only so many configurations available for data loggers. Some only record temperature, others have sensors for temperature, humidity, and other conditions. As technology continues to evolve the environmental monitoring industry will respond by developing systems able to accommodate an unlimited number of configurations. These measurements could be shown in real-time online and used to instantly process the data, plot charts, draw diagrams, compare daily, weekly, monthly and annual data and reveal changes noted within a fraction of a second.
Greater Demand For Data
Probably the biggest change to come in the future for environmental monitoring is that there will continue to be a growing demand for the recording and tracking of conditions in many different applications. That demand will grow with pressure being applied for compliance in multiple industries.
Data loggers have come a long way from humans recording observations with pen and paper. Technology has provided a means to record data with greater accuracy and consistency. The growing demands of various industries requiring compliance will continue to fuel the environmental monitoring industry as data loggers evolve with technology to become better at the task they have been given and outperforming human data collection.