The constant stream of new technology impacts every facet of our lives. It has changed how we communicate, shop, and seek information. It has provided industry with new and powerful means of operating and monitoring—without human intervention—many processes and functions essential to the production of goods and services. For industries in which regulatory compliance is fundamental to their business, technology has provided cost-effective means of maintaining that compliance. This article examines how the IoT (Internet of Things) has changed the ways industries conduct environmental monitoring to maintain compliance.
What Is The IoT?
The Internet of Things consists of interrelated computing devices along with mechanical and digital machines that are assigned unique identifiers (UIDs). These devices’ interconnectedness enables them to transfer data over a network. While that may not sound too impressive, the key to IoT is that the data is transferred without human interaction. That means no human-to-human or human-to-computer contact is required for the system to perform its primary function—which is to report data.
What Is Environmental Monitoring?
According to Dickson, environmental monitoring is the process used by industries to sample, record, and track various conditions in an enclosed space and/or surrounding area. Environmental monitoring samples specific conditions (for example, temperature or humidity) and verifies that compliance standards are being met. A data logger is used as an environmental monitor. Once programmed and set up, the data logger operates for the duration of its battery life, without the need for human interaction.
The Key Components To IoT-Based Environmental Monitoring
Four critical elements of environmental monitoring can be impacted by human involvement and improved by using IoT.
1 – Monitoring of the Physical Location
When personnel conduct hourly or shift readings of monitors, their mere presence can affect the integrity of their readings. Ambient temperature can change due to their physical proximity and throw off a temperature or humidity reading. In addition, regulators or safety experts can challenge the accuracy of human-recorded environmental conditions. In addition, the means of measuring the data can suffer from manual readings. However, with data loggers connected to the IoT, sampling can be conducted simultaneously at all monitoring points. And digital measuring tools can assure both accuracy and timeliness of samples and readings.
2 – Measuring and Logging the Data
How efficiently, accurately, and easily can the measuring and logging of environmental data be accomplished? If your company uses analog and manual measuring, the data that’s collected must be converted into digital format for use in compliance monitoring, a cumbersome and potentially problematic step that might compromise accuracy. Digital sensors in data loggers provide precise measurements of whatever environmental conditions you need to track. The digital measurement is later assigned real-world values when it is downloaded so that proper analyses can be performed.
3 – Cataloging the Collected Data
Your data loggers have memories, of course, and store your data for periods of time, but you can also use an app to download data from them to your computer or smartphone. Cataloging your saved data is much more than dumping files off the data logger to open up some memory. The IoT can provide numerous ways to store the information related to how you intend to use it. For example, if the data you’re collecting verifies temperature compliance levels, then the cataloging process would focus on that. The IoT can provide endless cataloging solutions that can address any format.
4 – Analyzing the Data
Probably the main reason you are collecting environmental monitoring data is so that you can analyze the findings of the measuring devices. The overall process is that sensors record the data; cataloging converts that data into formats that are useful to you; and analysis gives you the means to gain insight from the data. The IoT provides you with systems that have advanced analytics components. These comprise two elements: perspective and context.
Because you can access data points in the millions, thanks to the many different cataloging options available to you with IoT, it also makes it easier to lose track of the big picture that you need to develop from all the data. You need to be able to see if all sensors are recording consistently and are recording compliant measurements and if there is a problem developing. With the right perspective on the data, you’ll be able to act before a problem erupts and potentially compromises your work processes. The perspectives provided by IoT advanced analytics can help inform you of budding issues that may not be otherwise apparent.
Without context around the data you have collected, you’ll have difficulty interpreting and understanding the information. After all, data is useless unless we know what to use it for and how to understand it. IoT and its advanced analytics can smooth that process. For example, say that a series of readings have been taken of a specific refrigerated area. The compliance temperatures have been noted and you have been able to benchmark the high and low temperatures recorded in this space over six months. With this information (highs, lows, duration of monitoring) you will have a comparative context with which to assess readings that may be abnormal and determine where and when alerts should be triggered.
New technology has changed the way we conduct many different personal and business processes. It provides some of its most important solutions in the environmental monitoring industry. Not only has new technology led to the development of digital data loggers, but with the ability of these devices to join systems as part of the IoT, the task of trying to stay compliant in regulated industries has both eased and become more complex with more information.
IoT advanced analytics can smooth the way in which you access, analyze, and understand your environmental monitoring data. From tracking to recording and storing data, new technology continues to better enable industries to maintain compliance and verify that compliance with solid, accurate, and accessible data.