Introduction to Wireless Measurement Applications

Publish Date: Jan 25, 2016 | 2 Ratings | 2.50 out of 5 |  PDF


From monitoring water, soil, and climate readings to the structural integrity of bridges and civil infrastructure, wireless measurement systems provide an opportunity to reduce installation and system costs, increase flexibility, simplify system deployments, and address a new set of applications that were previously challenging or even impossible with a wired solution.

Table of Contents

Environmental Monitoring             

Environmental monitoring ranges from examining the integrity of soil, water, and air to regulating the temperature and humidity associated with the indoor storage of critical assets such as servers or perishables.  Outdoor environmental monitoring is important in industries such as agriculture, utilities, and meteorology.  Indoor monitoring applications include home or building automation, as well as retail or health care.  Environmental monitoring also includes the detection of hazardous gases, which can be important in industrial facilities or mining applications.  Wireless technology expands these applications by allowing you to make measurements outdoors or across a large geographical area. 

The Center for Embedded Networked Sensing (CENS) is leading a project to collect environmental data from the rain forest, where eliminating wire not only reduced costs but also simplified installation challenges. Instead of running power lines and then hauling wire, networking infrastructure, and measurement systems deep into the rain forest, CENS scientists installed a National Instruments wireless sensor node, batteries, solar panels, and a cellular modem to collect data over the Internet.  They use Google Maps to map node location and document deployment locations.

Learn more about wireless environmental monitoring

Energy Monitoring

In today’s global market, monitoring resource production and utilization is of paramount importance.  To reduce our environmental footprint and make more efficient usage of our natural resources, we must first collect accurate data which we can analyze to make decisions and improvements.  Wireless technology is well suited for these types of applications because they are easily distributed and can provide the data that is necessary to adequately manage these large systems.

For example, a wireless measurement system can be used to create a distributed monitoring solution for a power grid, measuring power consumption, detecting outages, and evaluating the integrity of the signal.  Wireless is also well suited for renewable energy industries – such as monitoring power input/output and environmental conditions in a distributed solar or wind farm.  Wireless technology can also be used in residential, commercial, and industrial buildings to accurately monitor energy consumption and provide this data to the utility company or end users so that they can reduce their utilization.

Building Monitoring

Home and building automation is a growing industry that is also well suited for wireless technology.  Building automation systems are meant to provide information about indoor environmental conditions, protect assets, reduce emissions, and control HVAC equipment or other systems within the building.  Many building automation integrators require a solution that can be easily installed in existing buildings to reduce the need for costly infrastructure changes, making wireless technology an attractive alternative versus a wired implementation.  In new construction, wireless measurement and monitoring solutions can be used to help achieve LEED certification. 

Machine Condition Monitoring

In a competitive marketplace, reliability, uptime, and operational cost of equipment can significantly impact the competitive posture of any facility. To optimize predictive maintenance of machinery and therefore the machine’s reliability and utilization, monitoring health indicators such as mechanical, vibration, and power factor is a widely accepted practice. With the use of wireless vibration and power monitoring devices, reliability engineers are able to overcome historic cost barriers.  Wireless measurements also provide an advantage for machines that have large surface areas or moving parts. 

Structural Health Monitoring

Engineers and scientists are using the latest sensing and measurement techniques to enable a more intelligent and safer civil infrastructure around the world. Wireless technology expands these measurement techniques by allowing engineers to make measurements that were previously difficult or impossible. Through a combination of modular, commercial off-the-shelf wireless hardware and flexible NI LabVIEW graphical programming software, engineers can make simple, secure, wireless measurements to improve the safety of the world’s structures.

The University of Texas Ferguson Structural Engineering Laboratory is addressing the problem of monitoring and assessing the condition of bridges. In the case of bridge monitoring, the ability to deploy a wireless system without the overhead of wiring installation allows researchers to reuse hardware from bridge to bridge, which reduces the total hardware costs for measuring bridges that taxpayers fund. The removal of wires also addresses the challenge of vandalism where wires are intentionally cut.

Distributed Temperature Monitoring

Distributed temperature monitoring is an application that spans several industries.  Food and beverage suppliers must keep perishables at a regulated temperature throughout the cold chain.  Pharmacies, hospitals, and other health care–related facilities must monitor and control temperatures of blood, medicine, and equipment.  Retail stores and supermarkets must keep perishables regulated in transit, inventory, and on the shelf.  Materials manufacturers also need to regulate temperatures in their production facilities.  NI wireless systems provide high-accuracy temperature measurements and can be combined with powerful data management software such as DIAdem to document these temperatures as required by regulatory agencies. 


Increasing populations, especially in metropolitan areas, has led to increased interest in the monitoring and management of parking and transportation. To draw conclusions and create more efficient transportation systems, you must first collect and analyze data from the existing systems.  Wireless measurement and monitoring solutions can be employed to track pedestrians, vehicles, trains, and subways, and NI software can be used to visualize and analyze the data.  These types of monitoring systems usually cover a very large geographical area, and are typically outdoors, making wireless technology an attractive solution. 

A wireless measurement system is an ideal way to direct traffic towards open parking spaces.  To this effect, a team of engineers at UCLA were able to deploy a parking lot occupancy monitoring system based on the NI wireless sensor network (WSN) platform to monitor entrance and exit events that occur in parking structures, wirelessly transmit the data back to an NI CompactRIO base station to process the information, and send it to a Web-accessible database.

Industrial Monitoring

Industrial monitoring involves monitoring and controlling different plant, factory, or manufacturing conditions while logging data to enterprise systems. Production competitiveness continuously pushes the speeds of such equipment, placing an ever-increasing emphasis on machine and automation efficiency, as well as performance and quality control. Wireless technology can help you improve your processes by adding new measurements to your systems. With centralized, real-time equipment health data collection and an email or SMS alert system, a wireless monitoring system can drastically improve plant uptime and equipment reliability, changing the market for equipment manufacturers.

Health Care

Wireless solutions can be used to perform asset or temperature monitoring in hospitals, as well as temperature monitoring for bloodbanks or pharmaceutical companies.  But in addition to these building and temperature monitoring applications, wireless technology is well suited to perform patient monitoring or alert health care professionals when life threatening situations arise.  A wireless system may be employed to monitor patients in the comfort of their own home, or in an ambulance on the way to a hospital, transmitting vital information to doctors that are standing by.

Learn More about NI Wireless Measurement Devices

Wireless technology holds several advantages over wired solutions, including reduced installation costs, increased flexibility, and the ability to take measurements in new and previously challenging places.  These benefits are helping engineers and scientists forge new measurement applications that provide a smarter infrastructure and deliver ample amounts of previously un-attainable. 

To learn more about the wireless measurement options from National Instruments, read the wireless measurements product guide.

To learn more about wireless sensor network technology, read theInstrumentation Newsletter article.

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