Tank monitoring devices have opened up a world of possibilities and cost savings for companies in all industries. From fuels to grains to gasses, tanks are used to store vital resources and valuable end products. The ability to monitor changes and fill levels from anywhere accurately adds a completely new dimension to business data.
When it comes to tank monitoring devices, three main technologies compete: Wi-Fi-based, Satellite-based and Cellular-based. All three have vastly different functionalities and applications and can provide vastly different results depending on your specific situation.
This article will provide an overview of each technology, their key benefits and downsides, and a few key points to consider when evaluating your needs.
What Are Tank Monitors?
A tank monitor is a device used to determine the fill level of a tank and track any variations or fluctuations. They are used for a variety of applications and can monitor solids, liquids and gasses. Tank monitors have existed for a long time, but recent advancements have allowed them to offer remote and real-time monitoring.
This evolution brought tank monitors from simple on-site gadgets to crucial data-gathering tools that are often fully integrated in the planning and development of businesses.
Wi-Fi-based Tank Monitors
Wi-Fi-based tank monitors rely on a Wi-Fi network connection to the Internet in order to transmit data. These devices are often easy to install and can be quite cost-efficient in situations where network strength is strong and reliable.
Unfortunately, Wi-Fi networks are notoriously finicky, affected by the distance between router and device, the materials the signal must pass through, electricity, and a variety of other factors known to fluctuate greatly.
While these devices can be used properly if all those factors are controlled, this limits Wi-Fi-based tank monitors to extremely specific applications that don’t meet the requirements of most businesses that would need to rely on such a tool.
Cellular-based Tank Monitors
Cellular-based tank monitors are equipped with SIM cards that allow them to remain connected to the Internet without having to rely on a typical connection through a router. This type of device can be used in any location covered by a cell tower, greatly increasing its potential usability and reliability.
While cellular internet coverage is far more reliable than a Wi-Fi connection, it can also be subject to interruptions and disconnections for a variety of reasons.
This is why Otodata’s tank monitors are equipped with a revolutionary double SIM card that allows the tank monitor to automatically switch to a different cellular provider in the event of disconnection or outage to restore connectivity.
Satellite-based Tank Monitors
Satellite-based tank monitors are the only solution for certain extremely remote applications. If the location of the tank isn’t covered by cell towers or has unreliable service, some tank monitors can transmit data using satellite connectivity.
Satellite-based tank monitors are generally reliable. However, they tend to face latency issues, and transmission tends to be slower than other methods. Likewise, satellite-based monitors are often more expensive than other options on the market.
The most affordable choice is to opt for a cellular-based tank monitor equipped with an additional satellite gateway. Otodata’s dual-SIM covers most of North America already, but for very remote areas, this add-on can be a worthwhile investment. Once a tank no longer needs satellite communication (due to expanding cellular network coverage), you can simply remove the gateway device and use the less-costly cellular monitor already installed.
When to Use Each Technology
When considering a solution consider the remoteness of the tank, overall environmental conditions, and how critical the data is. For example, some industries can handle frequent disruption in data transmission and opt for a cheaper, less reliable technology. Others simply cannot afford the data-loss and require real-time accurate readings for their daily operations.
As previously mentioned, Wi-Fi-based tank monitors tend to be cheaper but highly unreliable because of their reliance on a local Wi-Fi network to transmit data, but in non-critical situations, this can be a suitable solution.
Residential propane tank monitors can often work fine over Wi-Fi as long as the home is in a major city with reliable Internet service. Generally, the rule of thumb with Wi-Fi is to ensure it's deployed in a major city and that the substance being monitored isn’t critical or relied upon day-to-day.
There are no two ways about it; cellular-based tank monitors are the most reliable and versatile type of device in this category. They work great in cities and can be used in almost any rural location as well.
Cellular-based tank monitors can also withstand harsh environmental conditions and maintain service, especially if using Otodata’s dual-SIM technology which automatically swaps between cellular providers if one becomes unavailable.
Industries like oil and gas, agriculture, construction and mining that simply cannot run out of fuel and other crucial substances can rely on cellular-based tank monitors over other technologies as these industries greatly benefit from having real-time, uninterrupted data in order to plan and forecast their operations.
In this case, the industries are similar to the ones mentioned in the cellular-based section but are limited to remote sites that aren’t covered by any cellular network. In these rare cases, satellite transmission is a necessary in order to obtain real-time readings.
Otodata’s partnership with AT&T further reduces the need for satellite-based transmission since the telecom giant holds the contract for the First Responder Network being rolled out across the United States. As this government-mandated network expansion develops, more and more satellite-based devices will be phased out in favour of dual-SIM equipped tank monitors.
In the meantime, if you’re unsure whether or not a remote area will require a satellite monitor, please reach out to us. AT&T’s Engineering division can run tests to determine whether a satellite monitor is needed or a cellular monitor would suffice.
What is the Right Tank Monitor for You?
While all three technologies have pros and cons, cellular-based tank monitors are the clear winner due to their sheer versatility and ease of use. They can be deployed in almost any situation and allows companies to easily scale their operations by giving them better live data.
Contact us today to test Otodata monitors on your tanks today.