Sensor Data Acquisition

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Traditionally, environmental sensor data from remote field sites were manually acquired during infrequent site visits. However, with today's technology, these data can now be acquired in real-time. Indeed, there are several methods of automating data acquisition from remote sites, but there is insufficient knowledge among the environmental sensor community about their availability and functionality. Moreover, there are several factors that should be taken into consideration when choosing a remote data acquisition method, including how immediately the data are needed, bandwidth, hardware and network protocols, line-of-sight, power consumption, security, reliability and redundancy, expertise, and budget. Here, we provide an overview of these methods and recommend best practices for their implementation.



Here, we provide an overview of important considerations when choosing a remote data acquisition method.. also see site & platform selection...



can be an important consideration, particularly when high frequency data are being collected. Will cameras be utilized at the site? Where is broadband point of presence (POP) located? Does equipment work with required bandwidth? collection/access interval


IP: private vs public networks Serial: Many field instrumentation only comes with serial ports, therefore a Serial-to-Ethernet (e.g. Campbell Scientific NLxxx series) converter is required to interface with transmission instrumentation, which often comes with ethernet port.


Evaluation of environment, topography, and vegetation. Can be initially determined using LOS calculators, which use DEM models, but must be ground truthed. Often requires a repeater infrastructure. Choosing repeater locations involves many of the same considerations for choosing site selection. Distance to repeater is a factor.


How important is real-time accessibility? (e.g., what is desired collection frequency?). What are the transmission type power requirements, onsite buffer size. Redundancy is preferred, especially in very remote sites. If power is disrupted, will system resume operations?


Physical Security

see Sensor, Site, and Platform Selection

Network Security

Encryption keys, VPN

Reliability and Redundancy

of transmission mode and of equipment


Plug-n-play vs.


Costs of implementing a data acquisition and transmission method depend on existing infrastructure, initial setup costs including personnel, personnel costs, specifically technician maintenance, and recurring costs, such as monthly recurring costs with cellular transmission.


There are three main categories of remote data acquisition methods: manual, unidirectional telemetry, and bidirectional telemetry. Each has advantages and disadvantages in terms of infrastructure, cost, reliability, required expertise, and power consumption.


This method involves scheduled visits to the site by a field technician, who uses a serial-to-computer connection and/or flash memory transfer of environmental sensor data to their laptop or similar device. Upon returning from the field, the technician is responsible for manually uploading these data to a server. This acquisition method is simple and may be the only option when site instrumentation generates large data files. However, this method provides no real-time data access and therefore, no knowledge of instrumentation failures. Moreover, the reliability of this method is completely dependent on the technician.



Best Practices

Case Studies