Updated: Dec 14, 2020
Wireless monitoring systems are becoming a greater part of business more than ever before. The ability to remotely monitor your assets is a very beneficial tool for any organisation harboring perishable assets. Whether it's food, medicine, plants, communal areas, and more, view past and present environmental data is a luxury that many are beginning to benefit from.
But how do these monitoring systems work and which one is best for your business?
In this article, I will explain the world of environment monitoring and aim to provide you with the information you need to join the automated monitoring revolution.
How do they work?
Although the measurable perimeter often changes the technology integrated into many systems is the same.
Remote sensors also known as data loggers are widely available and can monitor whatever you wish for your organisation. The most common include temperature and humidity. These data loggers and discrete, robust, and once installed require very little if any upkeep.
Wireless monitoring systems are made up of 3 parts; the sensors, the gateway, and the user interface or software.
Firstly the Sensors:
Remote sensors also known as data loggers are widely available and can monitor whatever you wish for your organisation.
The most common include temperature and humidity they are often discrete, robust, and once installed require very little if any upkeep.
The sensors come in a range of different shapes and sizes and although the measurable perimeter often changes the technology integrated into them is the same.
The sensors then take continuous and automated readings for whatever perimeter you wish to measure. This is very dependent on the industry so let’s take catering as an example.
To comply with HACCP regulation cold storage units must be checked twice a day as a minimum in the AM and PM.
Therefore when installing a temperature monitoring system that takes a reading every 15 minutes this not only meets the requirements of your regulatory body but also provides you with enough historical data to analyses the performance of your fridge/freezers but more on that later.
The sensors are often constructed from food-grade plastic and have been able to be placed almost anywhere and have a battery life of between 3-4 years.
The battery life can differ however if the transmission interval is higher or depending on where the sensor is placed. Much like your iPhone, electronics perform less efficiently at colder temperatures, we can expect to see battery life reduced to around 18 months when placed below -10 degrees.
However external wired probes through the door seal often combat this issue perfectly resulting in restored battery life. The recorded data is then transmitted via Bluetooth to a local gateway stored onsite.
A gateway is a box that connects you with your data. It is connected to the internet and receives information from your sensors in real-time and relays it to you.
The way you can connect to the internet is up to you however a prominent Wi-Fi signal is often the most accessible however a wired LAN connection or 4G cellular network can also be used.
Much Like sharing a picture on your old Nokia the Bluetooth transmission is instant however limited by range, there is no limit to the number of sensors or amount of data that can be received from one gateway.
However, there is a limit to the distance data can be transmitted over. Currently, sensors have a range of 75 meters line of sight, this is more than enough for most organisations however bear in mind this figure is often greatly reduced when walls, machinery, and people are introduced into the environment.
Once the data reaches the gateway, it is sent to a secure server where you can then access your data via your smartphone, receive real-time temperature alerts, and print audit trials in seconds.
Ultimately the most important part of the puzzle is how you access this data. The software must be easy to navigate and suite the type and size of your business.
Data must be displayed logically and detailed data must be teamed with brief overall snapshots to provide the greatest value.
However, the most important aspect of temperature monitoring software is reporting. Organisations must be able to easily and quickly access historical data to complete compliance reporting.
Our software provides you with the ability to simplify this process and print reports for each of your cold storage units or your entire business in seconds. These reports can even be automated so you never need to check your fridge or freezer ever again.
Years ago monitoring systems using radio frequency were commonplace however these often suffer from unreliable data transmission, they were far too expensive and often immensely complicated.
That’s why these days monitoring systems like our utilise the most relevant and accurate tech. Such as Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi as everyone knows is a technology that allows electronic devices to connect to a wireless network. The connection this provides to gateways allows for seamless data transmission.
Bluetooth is a means of short-range wireless interconnection between various electronic devices.
Most sensors use the latest Bluetooth 4.0 technology to send data up to 300ft to a wireless gateway, however the range for Bluetooth is also effected by materials such as walls, machinery, and people.
The latest breakthrough that can be incorporated into a monitoring solution is LoRaWAN or Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN).
This technology is a renewed form of radio frequency tech, however data transmission is far more reliable, accurate and can even be transmitted over miles instead of meters.
The specification for these battery-operated wireless sensors involves connecting to a regional, national, or global network of LoRaWAN gateways.
Once an infrastructure of LoRa gateways is installed there is infinite ability to add various data loggers/sensors and grow your network of data points. This kind of technology will greatly aid in the development of smart cities.
Which system is right for you?
With the system and technology explained it’s now time to figure out which one works best for you, your team, and your organisations.
Option 1: Local Plug and Play Solutions
Local monitoring solutions are simple and cost-effective. They often do not require a fixed internet connection therefore perfect for offsite locations.
The temperature data is transmitted directly to your mobile device via Bluetooth therefore does not require a gateway.
The result of this is that the data is live and in real-time but only accessible from the location in which the sensors are placed.
The temperature checks can be made and historical data will still be provided for compliance however you will not benefit from the real-time alerts and you will not be able to access the data anywhere.
Who is this good for?:
Single site Independent catering establishments
Mobile retailers (e.g. Ice cream etc.)
Monitoring non-essential assets
Option 2: Cloud-based Monitoring
Cloud-based monitoring is the new standard of monitoring within large organisations, with the ability to provide insight and analysis of your critical assets it is no wonder why systems like these have become so popular in recent times.
The major benefit of cloud-based monitoring is instant access to live data anywhere in the world.
Through any web-enabled device, users can print reports and view live temperature data, ordinarily this would require physical access to your cold storage units and physical temperature readings to be taken.
By automating this manual process you benefit from:
Increased equipment insights
Better quality control
Reduced inventory waste
Less manual operations
Better operational efficiency
Cloud-based monitoring systems are by far the most popular choice for most organisations. Systems are easy to install and infinitely scalable.
Once gateways are installed sensors can be added to your system as and when, therefore if you want to start by monitoring only your most valuable assets and then choose to expand over time, you can!
Different levels of access are also a major aspect of these systems. Each user will be provided an individual login which dictates their level of access into the monitoring system.
From ‘View Only’ to ‘Admin’ each user depending on their role within the organisations can use and benefit from a cloud-based monitoring system independently.
The temperature monitoring system will also alert you most commonly via text or email to forewarn you of any impending malfunction to your cold storage units, giving you the time to move stock and save your perishable goods.
This feature gives anyone harboring perishable goods, especially those used for commerce ultimate peace of mind that their stock is always protected.
The cost can vary greatly for temperature monitoring systems however your assets can often be monitored from as little as £2 a day!
Depending on your organisation and the assets of which you are monitoring the contents of your cold storage can be worth thousands, therefore a £2 a day investment to eradicate any stock loss can be very worthwhile, not to mention the cost saving from automating a manual process.
We estimate that based on 2 manual checks throughout the day performed by a minimum wage employee the annual costs equate to £1591.40!
With most asset monitoring systems costing a similar figure your return on investment is 12 months maximum! However, far more often the return on investment is much greater due to the real-time alerts provided to you for fridge/freezer breakdowns.
One breakdown is all it takes to recoup your initial investment. And of course the more assets you need to monitor the greater that ROI becomes!
Option 3: Enterprise Monitoring
As the name suggests enterprise monitoring is reserved for larger organisations who want to monitor many different parameters over many different sites.
This option uses LoRaWAN technology as touched on above. The long-range radio signals can span up to 20km therefore any large hotel, museum, farm, hospital, office, restaurant, and more can all be monitored using 1 centrally located wireless gateway.
With the gateway infrastructure in place, there is no limit to the number of sensors nor sensor types that you can add to your custom dashboard.
These sensor types include:
Temperature monitoring (-200 to +500)
Light monitoring (Lux, Lumens)
Door open/closed monitoring
Gas monitoring (CO2, Formaldehyde, etc.)
Water flow monitoring
People and motion monitoring
Air quality monitoring
And many more!
No matter what your organisation wishes to monitor the enterprise solution can custom create a solution to your needs, offering the latest in remote sensor technology to provide the perfect solution for you.
The LoRaWAN industry is ever-growing and is paving the path for Smart Cities.
With endless scalability and hundreds of sensor types, the potential for this type of monitoring is huge.
Long-range monitoring will help organisations perform better by being able to:
Analyses each aspect of your operation and identify bottlenecks.
It will allow government bodies to conduct more research and gain accurate and valuable data for analysis
Everyday citizens will benefit through improved transportation networks, reduced environmental footprint, safer communities, and better public utilities.
Although LoRa is the most expensive option the opportunity for growth it provides is endless and will be a greatly worthwhile investment for larger enterprises.
Which one is right for my Business? – Recap
Local Temperature Monitoring
Easy to install
Low initial cost
Accurate and reliable
Live data onsite
Perfect for small to medium entities with low-value perishable goods.
Cloud monitoring system:
Improve quality control
Reduce inventory shrinkage
Print instant audit reports
Access anywhere in the world
Receive alerts 24/7
Perfect for a business of all sizes with multiple sites, who want instant access to temperature data and live temperature alerts, with multi-level access.
Enterprise monitoring with LoRa:
Unlimited insight and control
Comprehensive reporting and analysis
Huge range of measurable parameters
Endless future opportunities
The solution for large organisations spanning great distances and with multiple operations performing simultaneously.
I hope this guide has been useful. Please visit www.logicall.co for more guides or sign up for our monthly newsletter to make sure you don’t miss out on any future posts.
Written by Curtis Taylor
Logicall Wireless Solutions email@example.com 07436 227378