Having an effective environmental monitoring strategy is crucial for organizations and businesses dealing with sensitive products and processes. It helps them keep a watchful eye on the changes in environmental conditions, like relative humidity, pressure, temperature, and CO2, to identify any out-of-range deviations quickly and promptly apply corrective measures.

With that remark, no working environmental monitoring system can ever be complete without reliable digital data loggers. This rings especially true in industries where safety and compliance are top concerns. Think pharmaceutical, food, and healthcare industries, where even small excursions can lead to costly inefficiencies, possible loss of assets, endangerment of consumer safety, and a host of regulatory ramifications.

If you ever wondered what digital data loggers are all about, you came to the right place. Here's a list of five exciting things you should know about these nifty pieces of environmental monitoring equipment.

1: Digital Data Loggers Evolved to Replace Paper Chart Recorders

That's true; digital data loggers evolved to phase out traditional paper chart recorders. And it's easy to understand why – these old-school electromechanical devices were not only cumbersome, costly to operate but also barely accurate and simplistic in terms of features and functionality. They receive electrical impulses from sensory inputs and then use an inked pen to trace the changes or variations in conditions on paper. 

Data logger technology has made an enormous leap since its first introduction in the 1990s, partly thanks to the headway realized in wireless technology and microelectronics. Digital data loggers (or DDL for short) are versatile and incredibly compact devices. 

What’s more, they can be configured to perform tasks that were unheard of two or so decades ago. Brimming with the latest technologies and state of the art bells & whistles, they are now able to:

  • Monitor, record, and store a wide range of accurate environmental data, from relative humidity, voltage, and temperature to CO2 levels, contamination, and even air quality.
  • Transfer data wirelessly to a server or cloud-based service, where it can be accessed remotely and from any device
  • Send custom notifications and alerts via instant messaging, email, etc.
  • Integrate with software applications that help gather, analyze, and archive environmental data

Together, these nifty capabilities mean DDLs are perfect for ensuring safe and dynamic production, distribution, and storage of environmentally sensitive materials, such as vaccines, medical equipment, medications, and perishable foods. 

Off the back of that information, digital data loggers empower organizations in more ways than one: 

Digital data loggers allow for seamless data collection and storage. DDLs replace the arduous annotation, organization, and filing of paper chart records. Besides, digital data loggers enable businesses to store and access vital environmental data in real-time.

DDLs help organizations pass audits and comply better with regulations. In highly regulated industries like food, pharmaceutical, and healthcare, environmental conditions must be monitored and recorded for compliance purposes. It doesn't help much that regulatory requirements do vary from industry to industry. 

Of more importance, some regulators like the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) may ask an organization to provide accurate environmental data within 24 hours. Using DDLs to keep accurate, up-to-date environmental data can dramatically simplify the audit and compliance processes.

Helps save resources and time. It’s, of course, a no-brainer that digital data loggers are easy, fast, and more reliable to use. According to Dickson, these versatile devices have fewer ongoing operational expenses and require little to no human interaction and maintenance. All that you have to do is recalibrate the sensors occasionally and pay any applicable software license fees.

DDLs can be remarkably accurate. The accuracy and precision of manual loggers like paper chart recorders are minimal. Factors like the smoothness of the stylus and the position of the paper can significantly alter data recording.

Digital data loggers are highly customizable. DDLs are jam-packed with useful features and technologies that make it easy to tailor your environmental monitoring system. For example, you can customize the data-reading intervals, when the loggers can send alerts, and where to send the data.

2: There Are Many Different Types of Digital Data Loggers

Depending on whom you ask, DDLs fall under two umbrella categories: wired and wireless. As the name tells, wired DDLs are connected physically (hardwired) to the data storage and retrieval unit, which can be a computer or an internal hard disk. USB, Modbus, and some multi-channel data loggers are part of this group.

On the flip side, wireless DDLs connect to storage/retrieval units wirelessly using connectivity technologies like Bluetooth, Near Field, and WIFI. 

Wireless digital data loggers are unsurprisingly popular and can be further sub-categorized based on their data transmission mode. As such, you can choose from cloud-based data loggers, WIFI data loggers, Bluetooth data loggers, RFID data loggers, portable data loggers, and remote data loggers.

The problem is that these categories can be pretty misleading and confusing, as most of these data loggers share many features and can, therefore, be indistinguishable. For that reason, digital data loggers are typically known by the primary environmental parameter it monitors — temperature, humidity, pressure, vibration, current, CO2, voltage, or resistance temperature detection.

3: Digital Data Loggers are ‘Mini Computers’

DDLs must be able to automatically and continuously monitor and document environmental data over an extended period. By doing so, they make it easy for organizations to measure, analyze, and validate environmental conditions like temperature —regularly, in real-time, or on-demand.

To perform this extraordinarily demanding and dynamic task, DDLs are equipped with powerful computer chips. With high-performance microprocessors, they receive signals from the sensors, interpret them into computer-readable environmental data, and transfer them to a storage/retrieval unit, all done in a split of a second.

4: Digital Data Loggers Can Be Used in Various Industries

Again, DDLs can find use in any industry where environmental conditions have to be measured and monitored consistently. It may be required for complying with industry regulations, protecting assets, or ensuring product integrity.

For these reasons, digital data loggers are most commonly used by organizations in the biologics, healthcare, medical device, and food industries. Of course, DDL application goes beyond these highly regulated industries; you can also find them in agriculture, aerospace, manufacturing, education, and shipping settings.

5: You Can Customize Alerts

Alarm/alert customization is one of the highlight features of any robust environmental monitoring strategy. You can set triggers (such as when temperatures go beyond a certain degree) to send notifications via instant messaging, email, SMS text, or even phone calls. As a result, it alerts responsible personnel to excursions, allowing for timely problem remediation.

That's the power of digital data loggers. And, as aforementioned, DDLs can supercharge your monitoring system, essentially making it a handy predictive and proactive tool for protecting your assets.