In the last product review on the Protimeter MMS2 I set out a challenge for the Protimeter BLE to find out whether it could be the perfect accompanying device to bolster the MMS2 in the area of data logging. I set out two main areas where I had hoped for the BLE meter would excel in, these areas were having a simplistic user friendly operating software and solid data analysis and reporting functionality. In this blog I will be finding out whether this device can live up to this challenge.
The Protimeter Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) Environmental Logger can be ordered as individual units. The device comes in a simple plastic package with two screws for affixing it to the surface being monitored. Unlike other data loggers that only measure humidity and temperature, the BLE meter can measure moisture content of wood and WME in other materials using the screw points as the pins. When using data loggers, information is king so the addition of the extra moisture readings will be for most, a welcome one.
Setting up the loggers
After removing the battery tab and tightening the screws you will be ready to set up the loggers using the free app. The set up process is very fast and you can set up multiple loggers in under 5 minutes. The set up process will go as follows:
- Add a location where the loggers are going to be used
- Add an access security code (optional)
- Add and name each sensor
- Set the reading intervals on the sensors
- Fit the sensors to the respective areas within the proeprty
Each sensor has a sticker on the bottom with a unique code which allows you to identify the sensor on the app but the app also has a ‘identify sensor’ option which creates a flashing red light in the sensor which is a great practical feature.
The iOS app is very clear, responsive and well set out. Having been an iPhone user for many years the app felt almost second nature to me to navigate. When fitting the meters to their destination it is quite important to tighten the screws slowly, this is so that you do not damage the screw head and not to heat up the screw so that it does not potentially throw off the results.
The batteries within the unit are a CR2450 3V which are readily available online to purchase. It would have been nice for this to have been made clear on the packaging just to make it more simple to order extras.
Obtaining the data
Once you have left the loggers in-situ for your specified time you can then remove them and gather the data. I removed the three meters I had and then went into the app. I had all three of the loggers affixed by the screws into plasterboard, one in the bathroom, kitchen and bedroom. I had them all set at taking readings at 5 minute intervals and they were left for a week generating 1466 readings which is interesting as Protimeter claim they only hold up to 1000 readings.
You go into each sensor and tap the little paper button and it downloads the results and presents them as a list on the app. The results it gives you are as follows:
- Sensor ID
- Sensor Name
- Row number
You might be thinking where the dew point temperature results are, I certainly did. The dew-point temperature can be easily calculated from the relative humidity and temperature so it seems like a missed opportunity not to include this.
You can then email yourself a CSV file of the results from the individual sensors which can take up to a minute. If you go into the ‘manage job’ section you can generate the full report which is just the long list of all the results of all the loggers.
At this point I need to mention a minor issue with the meters. None of the loggers picked up the WME results from the plasterboard I had them affixed to. I naively presumed that this would kick in soon after fitting which would have lead to a disappointing survey if it was a real example.
I re-tested all of the meters in both plasterboard and wood and managed to get them to show WME results by pressing the refresh button a couple of times after fitting. Although when I checked the results after leaving them for an hour none of the meters continued taking the WME results. This feature needs more work to ensure consistent readings are taken.
The screw protrudes through the logger 30mm which I feel is longer than they need to be to get a reading and a good fix. It would be beneficial to get information on what type of screws are compatible with the Protimeter BLE so that if they are worn from use or you need smaller ones you will know what to replace them with.
A missed opportunity presents itself when looking at the analysis of the results. I think the iOS app would benefit from showing a graph view of the results as I find this to be the best way of viewing humidity results. When you export the CSV you can create a graph in excel but it is clunky, if Protimeter developed a separate software suite to view and compare the data on a PC this would take the analysis side to the next level.
Another data logger I have used frequently is Lascar Electronics ‘EL-USB-2+ Temp. & Humidity Data Logger’. They come in at similar price point with Lascars logger coming in slightly cheaper. You can set up the EL-USB-2+ with a computer or separate data pad but this will set you back around £180. This extra cost could get you an additional two BLE meters which uses a free iOS / Android app for setting up the meters.
The BLE meter is a better looking device as it looks allot less conspicuous, this is a big advantage in the social housing environment. It has a similar aesthetic to the likes of a CO meter with no digital display or buttons for it to be tampered with. This is a good thing for a data logger as you want it to be left alone and more importantly you do not want to be alarming the tenants by them obsessing over the display results.
Another distinctive advantage is the addition of the MC / WME readings that can be obtained, this extra feature might be reflected in the lower battery life. In saying this, I have used Lascar Electronics logger for over three years and can confirm for me the battery life has not lasted as long as three years. The advantage of having a pinned moisture comes with the downside of some damage to the tenants décor. This could be mitigated by finding a more discreet place to fit the meter or by bypassing this feature and using the likes of a double sided sticky tab.
The EL-USB-2+ Temp. & Humidity Data Logger can store up to 16,000 results compared to the BLE meters 1000 results which is a fairly substantial difference. The EL-USB-2+ also has EasyLog USB software to interperet the results which is invaluable when checking various results against each other.
The Protimeter BLE data logger is a great looking bit of kit with aesthetics that suit the social housing sector very well. The ability of this meter to take moisture content and wood moisture equivalent readings is great on paper but this impressive feature failed to materialise in practice.
The accompanying app is brilliant for setting up the devices but falls short when interpreting the results. There is certainly a basis to work from here but there is also room for improvement.
At the start of the review I set out two challenges for this device, which was a simplistic user friendly operating software and solid data analysis and reporting functionality. The Protimeter BLE succeeded in the first challenge but fell short in achieving the second.