Digital data loggers (or DDLs for short) are modern data logging instruments that represent cutting-edge technology for environmental monitoring. They are versatile, compact, and operate almost autonomously, making them ideal for mobile, precise monitoring.
The digital data logger market has experienced a surge in demand in the last year, driven primarily by the increased need for Covid-19 vaccine logistics monitoring. The global data logger market is forecast to reach a valuation of over $937 million during the period between 2021 and 2025, according to Yahoo! Finance.
DDLs now come with many different functions, features, and technologies. Models can vary significantly based on the environmental parameters they monitor, plus how they collect, store, and transmit data.
Here, we take a quick look at the world of digital data loggers. Look ahead for what they are, how they work, and how to choose loggers suitable for your needs.
What are Digital Data Loggers?
Digital data loggers are system-on-chip devices used to automatically measure, log, and store location-based, time-stamped data via built-in or external sensors. They are usually equipped with wireless transmitters, enabling them to send the logged data directly to a server, mobile device, computer, or the cloud via cellular networks, WIFI, RFID technology, or Bluetooth.
Typically, a series of DDLs are deployed as part of a more comprehensive environmental monitoring and quality control system. They can be placed inside a cold chain shipment, freezer or packaging bay, or installed at various warehouse zones. These digital instruments are designed to monitor multiple environmental variables, ranging from temperature and humidity to voltage and the concentration of certain gases such as CO2.
In Covid-19 vaccine logistics, for instance, several digital temperature loggers can be placed inside each shipment where they will transmit temperature data directly to the cloud. The data can then be accessed via a web-based platform. The collected data can be used to generate detailed reports and insights into temperature variations so that relevant personnel can respond to variations in environmental conditions and protect vaccine potency.
Most digital data loggers today can do much more than take measurements and log environmental data. The latest models integrate analytics and software tools for gathering, archiving, and analyzing data. Most models can also be customized to act as alarms that alert personnel — via text, email, or phone call — to hazardous situations and undesirable fluctuations in conditions.
How Do Digital Data Loggers Work?
Modern digital data loggers are typically standalone devices that monitor various environmental conditions, often in warehouses, production workspaces, refrigerators, shipping equipment, heat ovens, and other areas where close monitoring of environmental controls is critical.
How DDLs work is pretty straightforward: a set of sensors (or a single sensor) measures an environmental variable (e.g., differential pressure, humidity, or temperature) at set intervals. The sensors send environmental readings in the form of electrical signals to a microchip or microprocessor unit, which converts them into computer-readable data.
Most digital data loggers store the data in an internal memory chip to be downloaded and analyzed later. However, advanced devices are designed to transmit the collected environmental data directly to a server or the cloud via wireless transmitters.
In addition, the data logger is integrated with a web-based application or software that enables personnel to visualize, analyze, and (if necessary) validate the data. As already mentioned, they can also be configured to transmit automatic alerts when certain events like deviations, equipment failure, or power loss occur.
What are the Types of Digital Data Loggers?
As with traditional data loggers, DDLs are often grouped or categorized based on the conditions they observe and document.
Temperature digital data loggers are the most commonly used type of DDLs. They measure, record, and document either the temperature of a product (such as a vaccine) or environmental temperatures over a given period of time. Their sensors often come in the form of thermistors, thermocouples, or thermal probes.
Humidity digital data loggers are another popular product used to monitor moisture levels, water vapor concentration, dew point, and relative humidity. DDLs that can obtain both temperature and humidity readings are known as thermal data loggers. The information they collect is crucial because poor humidity controls can result in microbial growth, according to Dickson.
Most pressure digital data loggers measure and monitor vacuum, atmospheric, water depth, or gauge pressure, but some specialized models can also obtain differential pressure.
Other common types of DDLs include open/close data loggers, CO2 data loggers, indoor air quality (IAQ) data loggers, and voltage loggers.
Why Digital Data Loggers Are Important
Digital data loggers are indispensable in areas where environmental monitoring can be critical to quality control, safety, and demonstrating compliance with industry-specific standards and regulations. When correctly engaged, DDLs can document and provide verifiable data that can be used to:
- Ensure consistency in environmental conditions, such as vaccine temperature
- Expose hidden problem areas that need prompt attention. For instance, an unexpected uptick in warehouse temperature can reveal insulation problems.
- Serve as evidence that [and how] problems like deviations were addressed.
- Establish compliance
Each of these factors is crucial when it comes to passing regulatory, consumer, or industry audits. This is particularly important in the case of an impromptu audit. Having well-documented and verifiable data can make the whole process easier and hassle-free for everyone, thereby reducing the chances of failing an audit.
DDLs transfer collected data in real-time to the cloud or a centralized server. Analytics software can be used to collate, analyze, and visualize the data to detect fluctuations and illuminate trends. Data can also be used to generate reports, insights, and suggestions, which can help improve performance, enhance quality, and identify potential problems before they cause further damage.
For instance, analyzing vaccine temperature data can help track down cold chain logistics problems that contribute to the wastage of more than half of the vaccines shipped worldwide. With location-based tracking, it’s easy to narrow the source of the problem to a specific point in the supply chain.
DDLs are essential for monitoring conditions where environmental and quality controls are required. For instance, digital data loggers are needed whenever dealing with dangerous chemicals, sensitive materials, or otherwise mission-critical environments like clean rooms, autoclaves, and lab refrigerators. They can be integrated into a remote monitoring system to provide real-time information on these environments even when no personnel is on-site.
Depending on the industry to which you belong, failure to use DDLs properly can lead to costly loss of assets, soured business relationships, and operation-disrupting investigations. Messy lawsuits, hefty fines, and loss of reputation could also ensue. Correct use, however, can help keep regulatory agencies off your back and save money