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How to Choose the Best Temperature Monitoring System for Industry or Government Projects

By Andrew Erickson

January 8, 2023

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The best temperature monitoring system depends on the specific needs of your operation and, to a certain extent, your industry.

Let's walk through all of the major scenarios where temperature monitoring is required and look at the system that best fits each one.

NetGuardian analog temperature display
NetGuardian RTUs (with the web interface shown) are commonly used to create an effective remote temperature monitoring system.

If you're an enterprise (telco, power utility, railway, public agency...), then don't settle for consumer-grade temperature monitoring.

When I go home at the end of the day after working with DPS clients on monitoring projects, I'm a consumer just like anyone else. I enjoy working on hobby projects and using modern "smart home" systems to keep tabs on my house.

Like almost anything, however, we all need to separate the needs of a consumer from the needs of a major business or public agency.

If you waste a few dollars on your home heating/cool or burn up your gaming PC, that's a problem with very limited scope. That's what makes consumer-grade equipment, which works pretty well most of the time, just fine for the task.

Compare these examples with the risks of overheating equipment or fire at a police or fire radio tower. Think about what would happen if you have thermal runaway of your UPS batteries. These are dire situations that can cause hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage and even put lives at risk.

It's for this reason that it's important to remember: business and government enterprises have fundamentally different requirements from consumers. This is entirely based on the differing importance of uptime that allows massively different cost justification.

So, if you're here because you need to monitor home PC temps or track your home air conditioner, you'll probably have good luck with any of the major commercially available options from $50-$300. That's what I do in my own home. The "best" option will depend on your personal budget and how the particular features align with your project goals.

If you're here because you have remote sites that need the best temperature monitoring system possible, that's what I'm here to talk about today. Let's get started now.

Wireless sensors are easier to install, but can sometimes create additional opportunities for failure

One of the biggest questions I get asked when talking about temperature sensors is wired vs. wireless. In many facets of life, what was once wired 30 years ago is now wireless. That same option now exists for temperature sensors, but it's certainly not true that wireless sensors are always better.

PROS: With wireless temperature sensors, you do gain several advantages:

  1. Wireless sensors give you more placement freedom.
  2. Wireless sensors don't require labor to run wires.
  3. Wireless sensors create an "air gap" for immunity to surges.

CONS: Unfortunately, there are also limitations associated with wireless sensors when used for telecom infrastructure:

  1. Wireless sensors require a power source. This usually means that you'll have to replace a battery at least once every few years. Others might be hardwired. Battery temperature sensors can conveniently be powered from the batteries they're monitoring.
  2. Wireless sensors can have flaky connections from physical blockages and electromagnetic interference (EMI), especially in a dense telecom hut.
  3. Wireless connections of any kind create a heightened security risk. Admittedly, the security risk from temperature data being spied on or modified seems pretty low. Some organizations, however, do not tolerate any unnecessary risk.
  4. Modern wired temperature sensors are often bus-powered, so you only have to run one cable for both power and the temperature data from the sensor. This limits the advantage of wireless technology.

Analog is the modern standard for remote temperature monitoring, so don't accept digital

This might sound backwards to you. Let me explain.

Decades ago, it was common to monitor temperature with simple discrete sensors that operate much like your home thermostat. These are "digital" in the sense that there only two possible states: "on" or "off".

Compare a simple thermostatic "click" with a thermometer that can tell you the precise temperature at any time. That thermometer is "analog" because it has a whole range of possible outputs (anything between the min and max value).

Although "analog" often feels older than "digital" to our ears, it's important to think of these terms in an engineering context when talking about remote temperature monitoring.

As technology has advanced, we've gotten to the point where the incremental cost of an analog vs. digital temperature sensor is really only a few dollars. That makes it silly to pinch pennies for almost any application, and certainly for any corporate, government, or public-safety project.

Real-time reporting is absolutely critical in any scenario that you remotely monitor temperature

What good does it do for you to have the best temperature sensor in the world if you don't know when the temperature reading becomes a problem?

If you're going to monitor temperature at unmanned locations, your system must necessarily involve the reporting of data from your multiple locations to your central monitoring center.

This can take a few forms. Your temperature monitoring system should have a web interface. More advanced, it can have an API for custom integrations with other systems.

One of the best alerts for small and medium projects are simple SMS (text message) or email alerts. These are simple notification types that almost everyone understands already and monitors religiously.

If you're in a very large network (ex. a power utility spanning multiple states), a protocol output like SNMP is a great way to integrate temperature and humidity monitoring into your overall remote management setup. When you have hundreds or thousands of sites, you usually want your notifications to be managed by your central monitor system and not your individual temperature monitoring devices.

Your temperature monitoring system should also allow you to set temperature thresholds and receive alerts when those temperature thresholds are exceeded. This is especially important if your temperature data is critical to safety or operations (like for a telecom hut or data center).

Humidity sensors are commonly included, but not always important

As you shop for different temperature sensors, you'll see that many also include humidity sensing. My clients have traditionally been split about this. Some value the extra visibility. Others admit that they don't really care about humidity because other types of alarms would alert them first anyway.

You'll probably want to think about your climate here. Some places have so little humidity that it's liable never to be an issue. On the other hand, I had a client in the Bahamas who was able to precisely monitor a site during hurricane Irma using a combination of humidity and water-level sensors.

Call me to discuss and find the best temperature monitoring system for you

Let's have a 15-minute discussion about your monitoring goals. I'll listen to what you're trying to accomplish, then help you make judgements using my 16 years in this industry.

Just call 1-800-693-0351 or email me at sales@dpstele.com

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Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson is an Application Engineer at DPS Telecom, a manufacturer of semi-custom remote alarm monitoring systems based in Fresno, California. Andrew brings more than 16 years of experience building site monitoring solutions, developing intuitive user interfaces and documentation, and opt...

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